The Terse, Explosive Drug War Is Nearly As Hard As Hard Boiled Itself

The Hong Kong shoot-'em-up is a venerated cinematic genre, one that blew a whole lot of minds and changed the way all movies look, but it really had a pretty short shelf life. The halcyon era really only lasted about seven years: From 1986, when John Woo made the groundbreaking gangster flick A Better Tomorrow, to… » 1/29/15 2:49pm Today 2:49pm

RoboCop Is The Best Movie Ever Made

In fourth grade, I went to school every day with a RoboCop lunchbox. In retrospect, this seems insane. RoboCop is arguably the bleakest, most violent, most nihilistic movie ever made by an American studio. Every scene seems to drip with malice even when nothing especially dramatic is happening. It's a masterpiece of… » 1/23/15 11:35am 1/23/15 11:35am

Pretty Hurts: Why The Steely Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Holds Up

There is a lot of fighting in 2000's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but almost none of the blows look like they hurt. The one really painful attack here—the one where you sort of recoil from the screen—is when one woman tells another woman that they're not friends anymore, that they could never be sisters. That's… » 1/16/15 12:48pm 1/16/15 12:48pm

Peaky Blinders Is The Brutal British Gangster Saga For You

Right now, my wife is making it through both seasons of Peaky Blinders, the British TV show about warring 1920s gangs, for the second time. The big difference: This time, she's watching it with the subtitles on. She swears she'd missed entire plot threads the first time just through the sheer, distracting work of… » 1/09/15 1:45pm 1/09/15 1:45pm

Blood and Bone Treats Michael Jai White Like The Badass Miracle He Is

America has failed as a society in many ways, and one of them is this: Michael Jai White is not a titanic movie star. There is no reason why Michael Jai White is not a titanic movie star. He can act. He has a calm, still, intimidating presence. He's handsome enough to play the love interest in a Nicki Minaj video. He… » 1/08/15 1:55pm 1/08/15 1:55pm

Keanu Reeves, B-Movie Auteur: The Badass Excellence Of Man Of Tai Chi 

Neo is more interesting than you realized. Last year, Keanu Reeves, once one of the world's biggest movie stars, released Man of Tai Chi, his directorial debut. It's a hard, unpretentious, generally frill-free martial-arts movie about an underground fighting ring, and it was released direct-to-VOD in America. And this… » 12/19/14 11:58am 12/19/14 11:58am

Bloodsport Is The Citizen Kane Of Pit-Fighting Movies 

It's essentially impossible to make an Underground Pit-Fighting Tournament Movie that's not worth watching. The genre can support so many different interpretations, from beautifully shot middlebrow Hollywood striver story (Fighting) to all-flash juiced-up exploitation (Never Back Down) to foreign Oscar bait (Rust and… » 12/11/14 2:46pm 12/11/14 2:46pm

Battle Royale's Wincing Nastiness Can Never Be Duplicated

Once upon a time, seeking out a way to see Battle Royale, the 2000 Japanese movie about little kids killing each other on an island, felt like finding a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook or something. This movie was never banned in the U.S. the way it was (and still is) in Germany. But even though it qualified as a huge… » 12/04/14 1:32pm 12/04/14 1:32pm

Total Recall Was Fucking Awesome

During the first scene of the original 1990 Total Recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger's head explodes. It's just a dream sequence, and the camera cuts away before his face actually pops open. But the fact remains: One of the biggest summer blockbusters of its era opens by forcing you to contemplate the most bankable movie… » 11/21/14 10:37am 11/21/14 10:37am

Django Unchained Gave Us The Quentin Tarantino Gunfight Of Our Dreams

Quentin Tarantino loves action movies in all their forms: ritualistic Hong Kong martial-arts epics, '70s car-chase odysseys, terse and meditative Japanese gangster flicks. He hires the stars of those old movies, and he peppers his own films with references in just about every way he can manage. But he's not an action… » 11/13/14 4:38pm 11/13/14 4:38pm

El Mariachi Is A Feast Of Bloody Micro-Budget Silliness

There's a moment early in El Mariachi, the micro-budget 1992 movie that introduced Robert Rodriguez to the world, where our hero, an unnamed wandering musician, asks a bartender if he can work there, singing for tips. The asshole bartender laughs in his face and says that he'd never pay one guy when he already has a… » 11/06/14 2:00pm 11/06/14 2:00pm

The Rad '90s Western Tombstone Is Val Kilmer's Finest Hour

Since I started writing this column, I've been wondering what to do with westerns. They aren't quite action movies, but they're action-adjacent. It feels a bit ridiculous to discuss Once Upon a Time in the West in the same space I'm using for stuff like Dredd and Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning. Gunfights are… » 10/30/14 2:06pm 10/30/14 2:06pm

Jet Li, Ass-Kicking Jerk: The Amazing Absurdity Of Fearless

There are early scenes in the 2006 martial-arts epic Fearless that require Jet Li to play an asshole. These are some pretty funny scenes. Assholism isn't, generally speaking, his thing—pained nobility is his thing. He is a legitimately world-renown ass-kicker, of course: Before he made a single movie, he was a… » 10/23/14 12:00pm 10/23/14 12:00pm

Red Dawn Is Delusional Right-Wing Porn In The Best Possible Way

The best scenes in the original 1978 Dawn of the Dead aren't the early bursts of urban confusion or the biker-zombie rumbles. They're the scenes where the four isolated survivors giddily run through an abandoned shopping mall, balling out with the artifacts of a just-dead culture. They use mannequins as target… » 10/16/14 3:31pm 10/16/14 3:31pm

Blue Ruin Is A Great Revenge Thriller About How Dumb Revenge Is

Every revenge movie eventually has to address the idea that, hey, maybe revenge is a really bad idea, that maybe you shouldn't organize your entire life around killing the person who wronged you. Usually, this notion is rejected immediately: A supporting character will say something like, "Wait, you aren't really… » 10/10/14 2:25pm 10/10/14 2:25pm

The Man From Nowhere Is The Fucked-Up South Korean Blockbuster For You

The villains of the 2010 South Korean movie The Man From Nowhere are bad, bad people. How bad? They kidnap unwanted kids for use as drug-lab slave labor. When one passes out in the smack sweatshop, a heavy rolls his eyes and says, "Kids are so dramatic." Then he barks at the rest of 'em to get back to work. » 10/02/14 2:57pm 10/02/14 2:57pm

Face/Off Is Even Weirder And Radder Than You Remember

The great Hong Kong action director John Woo got to make a handful of English-language movies during his '90s Hollywood period. But he only ever got to make one true John Woo Movie here. That'd be 1997's Face/Off, an absolute nutball mega-budget pileup of all his favorite images (guys flying through the air in… » 9/25/14 2:23pm 9/25/14 2:23pm

You Need More Bruce Lee In Your Life; Start With The Chinese Connection

The most iconic moment in 1972's Bruce Lee vehicle The Chinese Connection, and maybe of his entire career, comes when he walks into a Japanese dojo with a sign that the Japanese, as an insult, left at his teacher's funeral. He says he'll take on anyone in the dojo, and when one guy steps up, Lee spends about a… » 9/18/14 1:58pm 9/18/14 1:58pm

Watch This Bonkers Universal Soldier Sequel, But Skip The First Scene

Universal Soldier, you may remember, was a blast of pure 1992 cheese in which Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren play reanimated Vietnam super-soldiers who fight each other. It was pretty good! It was, in fact, the only pretty good movie ever made by German director Roland Emmerich, and its success is, in some… » 9/11/14 2:29pm 9/11/14 2:29pm

The Gonzo District B13 Proves That Parkour Was Good For Something

Right now, someone, somewhere, is trying to turn Ice Bucket Challenge: The Movie into a thing. That's how it works: These little movements bubble up from nowhere, briefly seize the collective imagination, and then disappear in a ball of smoke before some asshole figures out a way to monetize the thing. But some… » 9/04/14 1:50pm 9/04/14 1:50pm