Before director Wilson Yip and action star Donnie Yen wowed audiences with their “Ip Man” films, their 2005 crime film featured some of the most violent, visceral action sequences for a standard Hong-Kong thriller. Actor Jason Statham in the mid-2000s felt like the decades answer to the big action stars from the 90s. Playing a hitman who needs to keep his heart rate up to prevent death, Statham embodies and compliments the manic energy in the filmmaking by the directing pair. The stunts in both films are both insane and amazing, with stories from the production that just seem crazy. Stunt people were injured (automatically making it into the film) and consumer cameras were rigged and destroyed from the crazy production.
While the first entry is a bit more coherent, the sequel is a masterpiece of absolute chaos and insanity that many critics at the time were somewhat right in comparing it to the open-world madness popularized in video games. The car chase is intense and energetic, while Bourne himself is swift, but effective killing machine. However, “The Bourne Identity” (and the sequels) became the go-to template for staging and shooting modern action sequences. If you’re is watching a Hong-Kong, martial-arts film in which the action director is done by Yuen Woo-Ping, then expect some amazing fight sequences by one of the best action choreographers alive. At the time, “Fearless” was reportedly Li’s final foray into the “Wuxia” sub-genre, so fans were expecting for the man to go out on a high note.
But what makes “Fearless” stand out aside from the stellar action sequences is the story and arc of Li’s character, Huo Yuanjia. As a result, there’s an emotional weight come time for the grand finale, a tournament that pits Huo Yuanjia against an international cast of varying styles and techniques that should get any fan of the sub-genre giddy with joy.
The film not only features the star of the original film, but includes the stars of all the following sequels. The action sequences are loud and explosive, taking the vehicular mayhem to a level that’s ridiculous in all the right ways.
It’s far from perfect, and the fight scene between Diesel and Johnson was admittedly sort of a letdown, but there’s a lot to enjoy with the stellar cast and the creative set pieces. While Donnie Yen and Wilson Yip delivered some solid action films prior to the “Ip Man” films (e.g. The table-top sequence that pits Ip Man against the other masters is the film’s highlight, superbly choreographed while excellently shot. While the “Ip Man” films are nowhere near as culturally impactful in the west as something like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” or “Hero,” the action and talent on screen has made this film an immediate recommendation for those wanting to see something a bit more recent and available. What’s marvelous about that battle is that Miike keeps the long event interesting, coherent, and crazy violent.
A bloodbath with absolute investment and chaos, “13 Assassins” can be considered one of the better “modern” samurai films when compared to the nation’s absolute classics. As for Drive, that’s more of an arthouse film with some great action, rather than a pure action film. If you haven’t seen it, you should check out Bodyguards and Assassins (2009), a bit overlooked by action fans, probably because of its slow build up (which I consider to be its strength).
It was not until a few years after I finished my study that I learned of an even more recent and very bold new entry.
Megan Abbott: You write that the study of noir, or even popular conception of it, has been too focused on the individualist tradition of the hard-boiled tough guy who restores order. The private-eye narrative is also a very flexible vehicle for noir themes, moods, and attitudes. Parker is a more sympathetic figure than, say, some of the coldly psychopathic protagonists created in Jim Thompson’s first-person narratives.
If a novelist doesn’t imagine his psychopathic killer as suffering from intense inner turmoil, then he is probably creating emotional impact by pitting a cold antagonist against a suffering, vulnerable central character.


The action sequences were choreographed by Yen and Hung (uncredited), and they’re pretty spectacular.
Throwing some MMA into the into the classical chopsocky style not only keeps things interesting, but adds a bit of credibility to the moves performed by both men. With a background quite similar to Jet Li, Wu Jing is the definite highlight of the film, playing the top enforcer for Hung’s villain.
While “The Transporter” was his big break into action (not counting his supporting roles prior) his best work in the genre are arguably with both “The Crank” films. Shot in Los Angeles, the “Crank” films revel in violence, destruction and depravity with absolute glee that one can’t help but to simply enjoy the ride.
I don’t know of any other production in which one of the directors would rollerblade and film the action in such close proximity, or hang-off the side of a helicopter with their lead as it’s taking off. On the one hand, it gave the United States their own cinematic spy that felt on par with the iconic British agent, James Bond. Reportedly a mix of Kali and Jeet Kune Do, the fighting had been unseen and felt fresh for mainstream audiences.
Thematically, it felt appropriate with that character and that particular film, yet the convoluted, fast-editing style has made it’s way into plenty of modern action films, most notably the “Taken” franchise. Audiences get a pretty solid redemption tale about a man who finally finds purpose greater than pride and glory as a fighter. Yuen Woo-Ping does something similar with 2010 “True Legend,” but that film has structural problems that drags it down near the finale (while having some solid action).
While the “Furious 7” broke records, I feel that many who latched onto the franchise later on, did so with the film’s fifth installment. Whack continuity aside (taking place before “The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift”), “Fast Five” treats the gang like a group of thieves reminiscent of Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s” films, just a more high-octane and non-serious. The finale is absolute insanity that pretty much gives the finger to Rio and physics, opting instead to give audiences a memorable ride. There’s a pre-Japanese invasion that does all the character work (while teasing his abilities), and once they arrive, Yen and company unleash the lightning-fast punches that are associated with Wing Chun. The Wing Chun in these films are exaggerated, but that doesn’t make it all the less exciting to see onscreen. If I had to extend the list by a few more picks, it would’ve definitely been in there.
The action is well done in both films, but the Bond series as a whole is notorious for taking elements of action in other successful films without really adding anything new other than a bit of scale.
I don’t think anyone has been able to replicate his style and tone as successfully as he does (Edgar Wright is like a spiritual successor imo).
While the short action bits are great, I personally love the quieter moments with the characters. During my first Bouchercon convention in Chicago, I had the great fortune to meet editor and crime novelist Allan Guthrie, and in our very first conversation, he told me I had to read The Noir Thriller (2001), by British scholar Lee Horsley. The Noir Thriller expands our conception of noir, both its influences and its influence, permitting us to see links to Joseph Conrad (whom you call protonoir) and T.S. He can be traumatized in so many different ways--drink, failed relationships, dead friends, sexual betrayal, official injustice, exclusion, penury, persecution. But I don’t think that this kind of ruthlessness would drive a narrative without emotion--either on the part of the killer or the victim.
Serial-killer films and novels often, of course, have it both ways--alternately plumbing the emotional depths of the twisted killer and making us share the terrors of the victims he threatens. His fight with Yen was reportedly improvised, relying on their training and quick thinking to best the other performer during the take. The cat-and-mouse shootout between Clive Owen’s rival spy has it’s own tension in the calm, atmospheric silence.


That’s why the recent “John Wick” earned so much praise, since that film pulled the camera back and let the action unfold in absolute clarity.
I have no problem against that, since “Fast Five” is probably the best entry in the entire franchise, action-packed without taking itself too seriously.
Joining the carnage is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and fans have responded heavily to his inclusion in the series, even leading to talks regarding the character’s own spinoff.
It’s a great film with a lot of heart (and nationalism, if you’re into that sort of thing).
Instead, Miike is able to make a huge film regarding a pretty straightforward premise of a group of assassins hired to execute a villainous lord related to the shogun. He’s such a bastard that the audience and the protagonists throw forgiveness right out the window and desire nothing but a painful demise.
The battle has several exciting bits, with a personal favorite being the moment you realize why all those swords were sticking out the wall. He gave performances so memorable and so inextricably related to the early history of film noir that he’s almost bound to be the iconic figure. His tough sufficiency, tenacity, and ability (most of the time) to restore some kind of order give him an enduring appeal in an individualistic society, but in fact his most recognizable individual characteristics are often his weaknesses.
I think one of my favorite crime-writing stories is about Charles Willeford’s Grimhaven, written when he was unwillingly pressed into producing more Hoke Mosley novels. In the case of the killer, revenge is often a dominant motive: we at least glimpse an intense internal state, an emotional response that involves an extreme sense of grievance at being harmed and an angry resolution to take revenge. The insider, on the other hand, can simultaneously be tortured by feelings of alienation from the system and by a sense of guilty complicity.
The sequel adds the much welcomed presence of Sammo Hung (action director of both films), as he gets to have some fun as well. Then as both parties slowly build and converge during the film’s middle part, the third act is essentially an extended battle sequence that lasts over a half-hour. Why do you think popular conceptions of noir, at least in America, remain in large part so connected to the loner private eye? It is by all accounts a truly noir novel that never saw the light of day, in which Hoke kills his daughters and conceals their corpses in the shower stall of his rundown hotel room. The revenge-seekers we think of as cold and amoral have often been driven to violence by what they see as unforgivable wrongs and injustices. Easy Rawlins, in A Red Death, is an outsider moving towards being an insider, and is made intensely anxious by his compromises with the dominant society--his position as a landlord leading him into a deal with the FBI to act as a spy and informer, the epitome of McCarthyite treachery.
Of course, he brought the same qualities to his portrayal of less assured and more damaged noir protagonists, for example in Dark Passage and In a Lonely Place.
Some of the best-known hard-boiled investigative figures are, like the Continental Op in Red Harvest, only a hair’s breadth from the status of victim or transgressor. I suppose one of the examples that immediately comes to mind here is Richard Stark’s existential loner, Parker, an unstoppable, laconic revenge-seeker who takes on the criminal machine. Of course, by no means all insiders experience a sense of guilty collusion or suffer from the honorable misgivings of Easy Rawlins.
I think the protagonist of Jason Starr’s Cold Caller is a particularly good example of the morally dense insider, alienated but too imperceptive to understand his actions with any subtlety, an ill-adjusted and delusional insider who tries to murder his way to upward mobility. He seems emotionless himself, but the threat posed by Chigurh’s onslaught generates extreme fear, producing a novel that reviewers describe as heated, terrifying, thrilling, harrowing.



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Rubric: Business Emergency Preparedness



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