There are a lot of big action movies coming out in 2017. Between the return of Blade Runner and Logan closing the book on the X-Men movies, 2017 looks absolutely stacked. Surprisingly, one of the movies I am most excited for is a sequel to a movie I haven't thought about in over a decade, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage.
With #VinDiesel seemingly unable to do any wrong, he brought together an amazing cast and crew of talent from all over the world. What could be a forgettable cash-in has one of the best ensembles of the year. Even more impressive is what he gets this cast to do. Like the first xXx, it looks to be a mix of extreme sports and silly action set pieces. Quite frankly, things like the jet ski dirt bikes are the kind of absurdity we just don't get anymore. I have talked about crazy action movies like Hardcore Henry and Shoot'em Up before, but if the new xXx isn’t enough, here are 10 movies that will give you your ridiculous action fix.
1. The High Octane 'Furious 7'
xXx is hardly Vin Diesel's first over-the-top action movie. In fact, his career is seemingly nothing but them, with the craziest also being his most famous — the Fast & Furious franchise. Over a few years, the series went from being about street racing to having Dom and his crew becoming world-hopping super spies. The craziness reached its peak (at least for now) with 2015's Furious 7.
Directed by James Wan (Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring), we see cars airdropped from the sky, Tony Jaa's Kiet fighting Brian (the late Paul Walker) in a moving semi-truck, and The Rock breaking his arm out of a cast through sheer manliness. We've come a long way from Brian's car breaking down in a street race with Dom.
Most Ridiculous Scene: Abu Dhabi Airways
Traveling to Abu Dhabi, Dom and his crew infiltrate a billionaire's party to gain the movie's McGuffin, The God's Eye. Michelle Rodriguez fighting Ronda Rousey, Ludacris knowing martial arts and Vin Diesel (of all people) being inconspicuous sound crazy enough. However, it all peaks when Dom and Brian drive a Lykan Hypersport out of the window, careening through not one, not two, but three buildings before jumping out of the car — all without a scratch on them.
2. The Thai Thriller 'The Protector 2'
In the early 2000's, xXx: Return of Xander Cage star #TonyJaa made a name for himself with Ong Back and The Protector. Hailed as the next Jackie Chan, these Jaa movies were hits due to their lack of special effects and spectacular fight scenes. The Protector 2 has none of that. Instead, it is filled to the brim with bad CG and gigantic chase scenes. Oddly enough, it works. Thanks to some solid action and hammy acting from rapper/actor RZA, it is feels more like a fun throwback to the cheesy '70s kung fu movie.
Most Ridiculous Scene: The Final Fight
As athletic as Jaa is, it is RZA that steals the show. Playing the villainous Mr. LC, no piece of scenery is left untouched throughout the film. Fighting an injured Kham (Tony Jaa), Mr. LC (well, his stunt double) holds his own, delivering a fairly solid fight scene. You almost forget that it is the leader of the Wu-Tang Clan and the man who told you that "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing ta Fuck Wit" beating up Tony Jaa. It is a pretty fun fight scene when an elephant can interfere, giving Kham the upper hand and leading to an explosive conclusion.
3. John Woo's Gonzo US Feature 'Face/Off'
If there were a godfather of ridiculous action it would be Hong Kong director John Woo. Starting in 1968's Dead Knot, he is best known as a founder of the heroic bloodshed subgenre with movies like: A Better Tomorrow, Hard Boiled and The Killer and influenced movies like The Matrix, Desperado and True Romance. Making the leap to American cinema himself, one of Woo's biggest hits is Face/Off.
Perhaps best known for its ludicrous concept of exchanging faces, it gets so much crazier than that. It is filled to the brim with John Woo tropes — doves and bullets fly through the air for two hours of pure adrenaline. The only thing crazier than the action are the performances from John Travolta and Nic Cage. Scenes like the opening — where Cage poses as a pastor — are the reason he has a cult following. Right on his tail is a hammy Travolta, trying his best to impersonate a manic Cage. Whether you love or hate Nicolas Cage, it really is a sight to behold.
Most Ridiculous Scene: Penthouse Shootout
How do you pick a most ridiculous scene when a movie is nothing but? Nic Cage has a tendency to make any scene he is in crazy, but if I have to pick one it is when Castor Troy discovers Sean Archer's location and sends a hit squad after him. A firefight erupts within a penthouse, where it is filmed in slow motion and set to the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." The craziest part — it absolutely works. #JohnWoo captures the carnage beautifully and it is only when you step back do you realize how nuts the whole thing is.
4. Gymnastics And Ninjas Collide In 'Gymkata'
Between Space Jam and Kazaam, the '90s were full of movies trying to make athletes into movie stars. It is easy to forget that Hollywood has tried to make athletes movie stars, the most absurd of which is Gymkata. Olympic gymnast Kurt Thomas plays gymnast Jonathan Cobat. He is approached by the Special Intelligence Agency (SIA) to enter "The Game," a Last Walk-esque race where the winner gets a wish. A mix of James Bond and Hunger Games, it is an odd B-movie that only the cocaine-fueled '80s could create.
Most Ridiculous Scene: Village of the Crazies
For the most part, Gymkata is a pretty typical '80s action movie. Then, for no reason, it becomes Resident Evil 4. Entering a small, vaguely Spanish town, Jonathan is stalked by gang of attackers. Just like Los Illuminados from Resident Evil 4, they chase him around the village. It is an odd shift in tone that comes out of nowhere. Then, just as fast as it happened, the movie goes right back to being a Hunger Games-style adventure.
5. The Not-Quite-Disney-Approved 'Punisher: War Zone'
One of the biggest complaints about modern superhero movies are how rote they can feel. Standing out from the pack is Lexi Alexander's adaption of #ThePunisher. Taking cues from 2000's Punisher, it features the kind of ultraviolence the comic writer Garth Ennis is known for. While the titular antihero is the stoic figure we have seen before, he is placed in a gonzo world where Frank Castle will punch through a thug's face with ease, thugs can be motivated by patriotic speeches and enough gore to make Jigsaw cringe. Mixing black comedy and extreme violence it is a fun palette cleanser from the sanitized superhero movies of today.
Most Ridiculous Scene: The Punisher Hates Parkour
In 2008, the French sport of parkour had gained popularity thanks to appearances in movies like District B13 and Casino Royale. Early on in Punisher: War Zone, a group of parkour practicing street thugs are introduced. Punk band Rise Against plays as they leap from building to building. As the last one takes his leap of faith, an RPG soars across the night sky before blowing up the poor guy. Behind the missile launcher, Frank Castle. It's silly, gory and a perfect display of the absurd world Punisher: War Zone exists in.
6. The Best 'Die Hard' Knockoff, 'White House Down'
A lot of movies try the Die Hard in (insert setting) formula. Heck, that's roughly half of the movies from WWE Studios. One of the best to do it was White House Down. What makes it so great is how pre-9/11 it feels. The terrorists are never really a massive threat nor is some big, important political point trying to be made. Instead, what we get is an old-school buddy cop movie featuring Magic Mike and Barrack Obama that is as silly as that sounds.
Most Ridiculous Scene: I Choose The Pen
Jamie Foxx is a caricature of Barrack Obama named President Sawyer taken hostage in the Oval Office by the Head of the Secret Service. We get a classic villain speech about how the sword is now mightier than the pen. After this extensive monologue, Sawyer — as cool under pressure as the real Obama can be — declares that he chooses the pen before stabbing the bad guy with a pen to escape. The whole thing is so old school and corny that you can't help but have a smile on your face.
7. Arnold's Magnum Opus, 'Commando'
#ArnoldSchwarzenegger is the epitome of '80s action — and for good reason. Whether it is the piles of dead henchmen or the corny one-liners, these tropes are all considered a part of '80s action because of Arnold movies. This is most evident in the cheesiest of Arnold movies, Commando. Directed by Mark L. Lester, it mixes typical Schwarzenegger action with the kind of bizarro violence you would expect from the director of Class of 1984. Bodies fly and puns are made as John Matrix (Schwarzenegger) tries to save his daughter. It's a classic '80s plot for a classic '80s action movie.
Most Ridiculous Scene: Arnold goes HAM
Every '80s action parody owes a debt to this scene. Swimming to an island owned by the villainous Arius, he proceeds to gun his way through every henchman in sight. With an arsenal that would make John Woo jealous, he uses everything from handguns and shotguns to rocket launchers and buzz saws. It's a cacophony of chaos as Schwarzenegger blows up everything. As far as I am concerned, action cinema owes a debt to Commando's cinematic insanity.
8. When JCVD Met The Bad Guy In 'Double Team'
While Stallone was often considered Schwarzenegger’s rival, the closest may have actually been Jean Claude Van Damme. Like the future Governor of California, Van Damme's fare tended to be fairly generic plots with ridiculous gimmicks or settings. Unlike Schwarzenegger, this pattern didn't end in the '80s and went well into the '90s.
Double Team seems like a simple movie on its surface. Government agent Van Damme has to save his pregnant wife from an evil Mickey Rourke. What we get is an outrageous adventure featuring hacker monks, secret islands, Van Damme kicking a tiger and Dennis Rodman. It's an absolute '90s cheese fest that you have to see.
Most Ridiculous Scene: Air Ball
As you can see, there are a lot of contenders for most ridiculous scene, but if I had to choose one, it would be the sky diving scene. Having to return home, Quinn (Van Damme) enlists Yaz (Rodman) to help him. Needing to skydive, it looks like they will fall to their death unitl Yaz pulls a rip cord and they and engulfed by a basketball-shaped parachute. They don't crash into the ground or bounce off it, they just land — and nobody mentions it again. It is so goofy, but aside from a basketball pun Yaz acts like it is totally normal.
9. Peak Michael Bay In 'Bad Boys II'
#MichaelBay is a much maligned figure among film fans and it is easy to see why. To be polite, Bay's filmography isn't quite the same as Richard Linklater or Martin Scorsese. With that said, the director knows his way around an action scene, and some of his best are in Bad Boys II. Gaining a bit of a following since Hot Fuzz, the excess of Miami is on full display as chases and shootouts are stylishly shot around the city. All the while, charismatic performances from Will Smith and Martin Lawrence provide enough one-liners to make Schwarzenegger proud.
Most Ridiculous Scene: Cuban Catastrophe
As mentioned, the film mostly takes place in Miami. After Mike and Marcus (Smith and Lawrence, respectively) raid the mansion of drug dealer Tapia, the two learn that Marcus's sister Syd (Gabrielle Union) has been kidnapped and taken to Cuba. Suddenly, this buddy-cop movie becomes a black ops mission with more explosions, espionage and gunfire than the rest of the film combined. It's such an abrupt shift that you can't help but laugh. Even crazier — it totally works.
10. Jet Li's Sole Sci-Fi Effort 'The One'
The late '90s and early 2000s were a good time for martial arts movie fans. Not only was Jackie Chan's brand of physical action big, but it opened up the door for Jet Li. Starring in several US films, the best (or, at least, the most 2000s) of them was The One. Set in the near future, policeman Gabriel Law (Jet Li) has to face off with an alternate universe version of himself that is after his life force, all set to timeless music like Papa Roach, Drowning Pool and Godsmack. As a kung fu movie purist, I see all the flaws and how silly it is, but can anybody hate a movie where we get to see Jet Li in dreadlocks?
Most Ridiculous Scene: There Can Be Only One
Like Face/Off, this movie is pretty much nothing but crazy scenes. The ending in particular sees Jet Li fighting an endless amount of enemies atop a pyramid. As good as that is, I believe that Jet Li finally facing off against his doppelgänger has it beat. Or, should I say, his body double (they don't do much to hide this fact). The two trade blows in a warehouse as the machine explodes behind them in slow motion and Papa Roach plays. Somehow, some way, it is objectively a good scene. Choreographed by Corey Yuen (The Man with the Iron Fists, Romeo Must Die), the martial arts is top notch. It may not feature the best Jet Li fighting, but it certainly holds up compared to more modern martial arts movies; things like plot, effects and music — not so much.
As you can see, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage is the latest in a long line of ridiculous action movies; a subgenre that includes everyone from random athletes to Academy Award winners. Here's hoping we can add the latest xXx to the list in the future.
What movies did I miss? Would you have picked different scenes? Hit up the comments section and let me know.