The Best Bond Henchwomen: Ranking the Lethal Ladies of the 007 Saga

A look at our top picks for the most iconic female villains to match wits with James Bond.

The Craig era is now over, and while it gave us many cool characters, memorable henchmen have not been very present in the past few Bond films. Actually, neither have their female counterparts! As a fan of 007 villains, this does make me sad: evil ladies often have an amazing aura, and make for some of the best antagonists in the entire saga. Luckily, there are still plenty of henchwomen who opposed 007, and here are the most ultimate:

7) Rosa Klebb: From Russia with Love (1963)

Beware old ladies in action films: stern SPECTRE agent Rosa Klebb is no exception. The hidden poisonous blade in her shoe made history, and the henchwoman is the definition of an excellent villain. Klebb doesn’t joke about her job, and is very good at it: she manipulates Tatiana Romanova into getting the Lektor, a powerful decoding device. Klebb is not only a nasty piece of work – and therefore, an interesting henchwoman – but also one of the few female baddies who are known for their intelligence. Her devious and cunning nature proves that Blofeld knows how to choose his No. 3.  

6) Irma Bunt: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) – Massive Spoilers below!

Another effective henchwoman of Blofeld – who clearly knows how to pick the right underlings – is Irma Bunt. She too is a humourless, professional woman, who rules Blofled’s unique Alpine “clinic” with an iron fist. But of course, what everyone remembers Bunt for is her terrifying victory: she gets the last laugh as she shoots James Bond’s wife Tracy straight into the head – on her wedding day, no less! The sequence still haunts many viewers, and we can “thank” Bunt for it.

5) May Day: A View to a Kill (1985)

In life, there are simple pleasures, and seeing the amazing Grace Jones in a Bond film is one of them. May Day is the right-hand woman of the insane Max Zorin, and can kill her way through anyone – even holding her own in front of Bond. A menacing force throughout the film (once Grace Jones stares at you, it’s over), it is her redemption arc which sets May Day apart from other characters on this list. We rarely see antagonists turning good in Bond films, hence why her change of heart after the betrayal of her boss feels so memorable. It instantly adds depth to her character, and while she sacrificed herself to save James, May Day lives in the heart of A View to a Kill’s fans.

4) Miranda Frost: Die Another Day (2002)

Sometimes, great villains help to make a good film even better. Other times, a great henchwoman can help to save an over-the-top mess. I might make enemies here, but Miranda Frost is the true villainess of Die Another Day: its mastermind Gustav Graves is both hammy and forgettable, and while Zao’s diamonds make for a great look, there is little depth to his character. It is Miranda Frost who really stands out among the chaos, thanks to the talent of Rosamund Pike. She was only 22 when shooting the film, yet Pike is fully believable as MI6’s cold-hearted little prodigy. Add fencing to the mix, and you get a memorable traitor who gives proper stakes to a tone-deaf movie. A little bonus – the character was supposed to be named Gala Brand, as an homage to the book version of Moonraker… but the screenwriters instead decided to highlight Frost’s cold nature!

3) Fiona Volpe: Thunderball (1965)

The OG of Bond femmes fatales – if one doesn’t count Pussy Galore – Fiona Volpe is a magnificent proper villain. What I mean by this is that she doesn’t need any sad excuse or tragic background story to justify her villainy: Volpe is evil to the core, point blank. Through her character, Thunderball shows us that women can also pose a real threat. Fiona and James have a brief fling, but despite Bond’s best efforts, nothing can get the motor-riding assassin to give up her job at SPECTRE – which she very much enjoys. Her death, during a lethal waltz, feels like a suitably glamorous and brutal end for this memorable femme fatale.

2) Fatima Blush: Never Say Never Again (1983)

I know Never say Never again has its fans – but to me, this unofficial and kitsch remake of Thunderball remains hard to watch. Its best quality is undeniably Fatima Blush, the film’s unhinged version of Fiona Volpe: Barbara Carrera chews up the scenery in the best way possible and manages to give Blush a distinct personality. SPECTRE’s Number 12 is unafraid of killing but wants her victims to know that she is the best lover before they pass away. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the character provided inspiration for Xenia Onatopp: Fatima Blush is the perfect reinvention of Volpe, and a modern take on the femme fatale. Her presence alone makes Never Say Never Again worth a watch!

1) Xenia Onatopp: GoldenEye (1995)

This first place won’t be a surprise for anyone, but Xenia Onatopp remains the most iconic henchwoman of the franchise – and is even a strong contender for the best villain! This insane former Soviet pilot has a knack for killing enemies with her thighs, and Famke Janssen’s over-the-top performance is perfect for the role. She is quite literally insanely believable as the most lethal henchwoman of the entire saga. Xenia’s aggressive behaviour and her love of thrills also make her an evil counterpart to Bond himself – who for once, regrets trying to seduce a woman. Onatopp is one of the best predators in the history of 007, and her lethality coupled with her killing method made the character a standout. To this day, she remains a fan favourite, and I’m willing to bet that not a single person who has seen GoldenEye has forgotten Xenia!

Battle Royale: The Classic Japanese Horror Film for Action Fans

It doesn’t get much more violent, or awesome, than the original Battle Royale (2000).

More than a year after recommending You’re Next to members of the Ultimate Action Movie Club, I’m back with another horror film which is perfect for action fans. Today isn’t Halloween, but every day is a good day to look at Kinji Fukasaku’s classic Battle Royale.

Released in 2000, the film is based on the eponymous novel and manga, and follows a classroom of unruly middle schoolers who are abducted by the State and forced to fight to the death in cruel game. In this dystopian universe, the Japanese government has chosen to fight fire with fire. Every year, the Battle Royale programme forces delinquent students to compete with each other on a remote island until only one of them is left standing – all of it under the eyes of the media, of course.

While many just see Battle Royale as the inspiration for the Hunger Games saga, action fans will be glad to know that there is more to the film than meets the eye, and it can be enjoyed for its reckless fighting and gruesome kills.

UAMC Reviews ‘Battle Royale’ (2000)

As you can guess from its last-man-standing plot, Battle Royale’s pace picks up very quickly, and the carnage never stops – side note, but owing to the film’s sensitive content (we are talking about teens killing each other after all), it is best reserved to mature audiences. In the movie, teenagers are assigned weapons at random – which means that a pot lid or an automatic gun could end up in your bag.

As expected, things go downhill quickly and awesome fighting ensues, as students have to choose between killing or being killed. Seeing Takako Chigusa (Chiaki Kuriyama) brutally dispatch a boy who harasses her with a switchblade strike to the crotch convinced Quentin Tarantino to cast her as the mythic Gogo Yubari in Kill Bill four years later! The film has an ensemble cast, but mostly follows the kind-hearted Shuya Nanahara (Tatsuya Fujiwara), who tries to protect his wounded crush, the shy, cookie-baking Noriko Nakagawa (Aki Maeda). They get some help from Shogo Kawada (Taro Yamamoto) – a transfer student who has already been through the games once, and falls into the “badass with a bandana” category.

The trio faces constant threats, ranging from small – a maths wiz – all the way to extremely serious – the machine-gun wielding Kazuo Kiriyama (Masanobu Ando), whose actor gives his best impression of the mix between a soulless psychopath and Johnny Rotten. Being a fan of women who fight, I obviously have a soft spot for class-murderer Mitsuko Souma (Ko Shibasaki), who does not hesitate to turn on her classmates the second she gets the chance, and puts her sickle to good use! 

How Ultimate is it?

The movie is a cult classic for a reason: some death scenes will stick with you for a while, such as the insane lighthouse shootout, which sees friends becoming paranoid and taking each other out. The frontier between gore and absurd has rarely been so thin! The violence of Battle Royale is totally over-the-top, but it is never meaningless: the film is one big metaphor, which denounces extreme competitiveness in the Japanese school system, the generational divide, and what the country does to its children. Twenty years later, it has not aged a day and still feels painfully relevant.

When it comes to editing and scenery, Battle Royale also offers some beautiful shots, making the most of its natural environment (though finding a good quality copy can prove a little tough). Kinji Fukasaku’s genius is most palpable when it comes to storytelling: we have all seen an action film filled with NPCs who got dispatched one after the other, with each seeming more bland and disposable than the next.

Battle Royale avoids this trap by developing the personality of a few core students and managing to keep its editing clear and seamless: somehow, we never feel lost in the island – or in the action. Most teenagers are still given some form of characterisation, and while some death scenes are nothing short of grotesque, others feel much more dramatic and melancholic. Controversial since its release, Battle Royale remains a brilliant exploration of violence and horror. Action fans will no doubt enjoy its iconic fight scenes, and the suitable amount of blood spurting out at every turn!

The Russian Specialist: Dolph Lundgren’s Highlight of His DTV Era

Dolph Lundgren chops it up in front of and behind the screen in ‘The Russian Specialist’ (2005).

After his respectable directorial debut The Defender, Dolph Lundgren swiftly followed up with the sophomore The Russian Specialist (aka The Mechanik) in 2005. By working simultaneously in front of and behind the camera, and also co-authoring the script, he exerted a big share of creative control on the production. The result was a gripping and intense DTV actioner, so let’s have a look!

Ex-Spetznaz operative Nikolai lives a secluded life in the US. He is asked to free a millionaire’s daughter from the captivity of Russian mafia boss Sasha, who killed his wife and child many years ago. Nikolai joins up with mercenary Burton (Ben Cross) to carry out the mission and get his revenge.

Lundgren serves us a classic revenge story à la The Punisher. There is a simple elegance to the plot with three distinct acts: a crunchy exposition, a rescue operation turning into a bloodbath, and the escape to the Finnish border which culminates in a massive shootout.

“Men know how to kill, Women how to survive”

Starting in the 1990s, production company NuImage embraced Bulgaria and shot many fine and cost-efficient action movies there. And its Eastern European vibe is sufficient for us ignorant Westerners to emulate Russia for this film. Lundgren convincingly confirms the impression everyone had of Russia in the early 2000s with rundown city blocks, filthy alleys, and spartan rural villages. It’s a country in disarray, and the somber mood is completed by the fatalistic characters and dark premise of the plot.

Occasionally depression gives way to its more pleasant cousin melancholy, and we can indulge in an atmospheric journey through the city at night, and a somber road trip through the barren countryside. The calmer moments of the film provide a sense of normalcy for our characters, showing us that these hardened killers are genuine human beings after all.

Dolph plays his favorite character, the stoic and melancholic loner, but that’s what exactly what is needed for a bad-ass revenge flick! His Nikolai is a tormented soul who has accepted that he is powerless to change things for the better. He is complemented by Ben Cross, who gives a portrayal of an equally pessimistic but more talkative character, and together they are the perfect tragic action buddy duo. Lundgren’s direction is efficient, with grainy visuals, simple montages and calm takes outside of the action sequences. It all looks a lot better than your average 2000s B-actioner.

A hard-boiled action thriller and melancholic road trip

In this cruel world, violence starts abruptly. There’s plenty of bloody and intense shootouts with a choreography that is more than serviceable for a DTV actioner. The action does not come in big set pieces, but Lundgren convincingly builds up the tension in this deadly cat and mouse game through back alleys, barns and grain fields. 

For the big finale a Russian rural village turns into a turn into an Old West main street, and Lundgren unleashes a relentless bullet inferno. On top of all the shooting, he still knows how to deliver the martial arts goods, and kicks evil goons through windows whenever the opportunity arises.

With The Russian Specialist, Lundgren created a film that is uncomplicated in the best sense, with exciting action sequences and an intense atmosphere. The film is a highlight of his DTV era, and a fine addition to his credentials as a formidable director for ultimate action flicks!

The Worst 10 Action Movie Directors

Ranking the worst (or simply least ultimate) action movie directors of all time.

Our time on this earth is finite, and we can save precious hours of lifetime knowing that when the name of a certain director pops up in the movie description or credits, it may be better to switch the channel. Hopefully we can give you some guidance with our list of the worst 10 action movie directors of all time, unless you want to enter the nether regions of action cinema yourself, but you have been warned!

10) Andy Sidaris

Here at UAMC we have great respect for old-school action movies, so you won’t find many directors from the heydays of the genre on this list, but for Andy Sidaris (and our next entry) we must make an exception. Sidaris supplied the full menu for the lower senses, erotica and action in a tropical paradise, often glued together by a flimsy espionage plot.  

Even though he gave many Playboy and Penthouse models an opportunity to try their luck at acting, the erotic moments were rarely crackling with excitement, and the action scenes were sloppily filmed. Sidaris’ films have become cult flicks, and I can understand the appeal. But for me, they just never delivered the excesses promised by the VHS cover for his target group of adolescent men.

9) Godfrey Ho

In 1988, Godfrey Ho made Fatal Command, Shadow Killers Tiger Force, Ninja Dragon, Clash of the Ninjas, The Ultimate Ninja, Tough Ninja the Shadow Warrior, Ninja the Protector, The Ninja Squad, Ninja Hunt, Ninja Fantasy, Bionic Ninja, Commando Fury, Golden Ninja Warrior, Ninja Champion, Ninja Destroyer, Challenge of the Ninja and – one of his ultimate classics – Ninja Terminator

Ho achieved such an incredible output by quickly shooting a couple of unrelated fight and dialogue scenes, adding footage from other movies (often not his own) and merging it all into one film. Ho took great care to hire fighters with no martial arts skills, capped special effects at a maximum cost of 100 USD, and possibly did the dubbing himself while washing his car. It all adds up to non-stop nonsensical fun, a maelstrom of multiple movies overlapping into 90 minutes of ninja insanity.

8) Roland Emmerich

Roland Emmerich’s films are a fine example of that bigger is not always better. His career had a promising start, giving action fans the ultimate classic Universal Soldier.  It turned out to be a one-off, though, when Emmerich became one of the first directors to fully embrace CGI landscapes and special effects in Independence Day, with everything else (plot, characters, dialogues) taking a back seat to the digital spectacle.

The film was a huge success, and heralded the slow death of practical effects. Emmerich copied his own template for action-packed disaster movies many times, and every single one would be as shallow as the next. And yet almost all of them provide their share of entertainment if you want to put your brain into idle mode for two hours.

7) Paul W.S. Anderson

Anderson had a promising career start with the two bangers Mortal Kombat and Soldier. After that, he fell in love with the Resident Evil franchise. The grim and claustrophobic atmosphere of the games gave way for a glossy look, messy action sequences and bad CGI. Some of the six films had their moments, but as a whole, the movie series was thoroughly irritating, 

Anderson became a master of pulling the teeth of every template. Monster Hunter, Alien Vs. Predator, The Three Musketeers, and Death Race became tame crowd-pleasers. Strangely enough, none of his films are unwatchable, it just seems that almost every one of them is a missed opportunity.

6) Uwe Boll

Labeled as one of the worst directors in movie history, it is inevitable that Uwe Boll shows up on our list. Boll unleashed some of the most terrible video game adaptations ever created on unsuspecting audiences, in a genre where the quality bar is already low. House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, and Far Cry are completely unwatchable, and yet he still made a profit with them thanks to DVD sales and a tax subsidy for films in his home country Germany.

After the tax loophole was closed, Boll went to on redeem himself and made some actually good films! Postal became one of the best (if most polarizing) video game adaptations of all time, and with a handful of low-budget action thrillers such as Assault on Wall Street he delivered a scathing critique of capitalism.

5) Michael Bay

This entry is for the post-Bad Boys 2 Michael Bay. Bay made big waves in the action genre with hyper-stylized and furiously edited action extravaganzas such as The Rock and the Bad Boys films. All this changed when he embraced sterile CGI and moronic storytelling, and the Transformers Franchise was born. It’s hard to understate how much damage this movie series has done to action cinema, one of the biggest thorns in the side of the genre. 

Each of the films would be a giant snoozefest if there wasn’t so much noise, but they were a huge success and set a dubious standard for blockbuster actioners. In recent years Bay made some attempts to correct his course with the solid Ambulance and 6 Underground, so there may yet be hope for him.

4) McG

An accomplished director of music videos, McG adapted the Charlie’s Angels TV show for the big screen. The two films became archetypal entries of early 2000s action films, with disorienting editing, action sequences that were bad copycats of The Matrix, and a script that insulted the intelligence of the audience. The Charlie’s Angels films created a whole new level of dumbness, but you may also find them deliriously delicious, if can enjoy totally braindead action entertainment.

McG also had the honor of putting the first nail into the coffin of the Terminator franchise with Terminator: Salvation, a soulless CGI fest, and a disappointment of epic proportions. Not all is bad, though, McG seems to have found a home outside the action arena with the fantastic horror comedy The Babysitter and its sequel, The Killer Queen.

3) Andrzej Bartkowiak

Bartkowiak is an esteemed cinematographer of classics such as Speed and Falling Down, but in 2000 made the monumental mistake to take a seat in the director’s chair. With Romeo Must Die, Exit Wounds, and Cradle2Grave he created an infernal trilogy of which can only be called action anti-cinema, characterized by a complete absence of coherence, intelligence and excitement. 

Their editing makes a Prodigy music video look like a meditation session, the film reel used to shoot the action sequences must have been put through a meat grinder and the jarring soundtrack is a health hazard. The video store in the innermost circle of hell carries all films directed by Bartkowiak to give everlasting torment to all accursed souls dwelling there.

2) J.J. Abrams

It took just one man to bring two of the greatest Sci-Fi franchises to their knees, at least on the big screen. Most of the old Star Trek movies always put good storytelling above flashy action sequences. Abrams changed all that with the 2009 reboot Star Trek and its sequel Into Darkness. The films became indistinguishable from all the mediocre Sci-Fi actioners of their time with hectic visuals, pretty people and a disorienting story. 

And for the latest Star Wars trilogy, Abrams may have been an early adopter of movie scripts written by AI: “Create a copy of the original trilogy, but don’t try to be original. Insert some fan service here and there, and make sure every film costs 200 million USD.”

1) Zack Snyder

After the huge success of 300, slow motion became Zack Snyder’s shtick. It’s certainly a cost-effective means of artificially stretching the runtime of films, but in a Snyder movie everything that happens at normal speed also comes to a screeching stand-still. The DC universe got the dubious honor of receiving the Snyder treatment, which resulted in flat CGI landscapes, tedious drama, and sucking all excitement out of the Superman films. 

Justice League was the culmination of Snyder’s vision: a slow-motion nothingness, a mental void of a cosmic scale. Joss Whedon’s version is definitely better, simply because it’s two hours shorter. Snyder’s films are terrifying and depressing for all the wrong reasons, and radiate an almost unbearable cinematic nihilism.

Top 10 Action Movie Directors

Ranking the best action movie directors of all time!

We all love our action heroes, but every action movie is only as good as its director. Passion, imagination and perseverance are the key ingredients to create high-octane action masterpieces. In this top 10, we present the best directors that have shaped the genre, and gave us many ultimate classics!

10) Antoine Fuqua

After earning his first merits as director of music videos, Fuqua went on to make feature films.  Fortunately for us, he quickly rid himself of music clip aesthetics with hectic cuts and other visual fuzz, and took a more grounded approach to action cinema.

His breakthrough was the gritty Oscar-winning cop thriller Training Day. After that, he established himself as specialist for no-nonsense action thrillers of the highest caliber with films like Tears of the Sun, Shooter, and the Equalizer movie series. And Fuqua is far from done, so we’re looking out for more action masterpieces in the future!

9) Chad Stahelski & David Leitch

This explosive duo has not yet not been directing films together, but the two are close collaborators, not least through their joint stunt company 87eleven. Both are esteemed stunt performers and choreographers, and know what it takes for a fight sequence to kick ass.

Stahelski hit bull’s eye with the John Wick saga. Hardly was there ever an action franchise that consistently delivered films of such outstanding quality. Leitch worked as producer alongside Stahelski, and regularly sits in the director’s chair himself, creating ultimate bangers such as Atomic Blonde and Bullet Train. Stahelski and Leitch are at forefront of keeping ultimate action cinema alive, and let’s hope they keep it up in the decades to come!

8) Isaac Florentine

Karate master Florentine left his dojo in Israel and moved to the US where he embarked on a career in the film industry. His talent enabled him to develop a unique style for created some of the most spectacular fight scenes that were ever created in the Western World. 

Florentine managed to turn even the most mundane templates into kick-ass action flicks, by staging each showdown perfectly with an almost uncanny symbiosis between the camera and the actor’s movements. He also brought the best out of many talented martial artists, most prominently Scott Adkins, with whom he created many instant classics, such as the Ninja and Undisputed movie series.

7) Robert Rodriguez

Robert Rodriguez distilled the essence of classic B-movies and waltzed over them with his own vision for adrenaline-charged spectacle. He made some of the most uncompromising action films to ever come out of Hollywood, full of raw energy and impossible action scenes. 

Massive shootouts and explosions, lightly clad women, and cheesy one-liners by the minute have become his trademarks. And I will forever be grateful to him for giving us outrageous spectacles such as Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn and Machete.

6) John Carpenter

One of the greatest horror directors of all time also succeeded in the action arena, and then some! Carpenter’s first take on the genre was Assault on Precinct 13, an insanely claustrophobic action thriller about a besieged police station. After that, he created Snake Plissken, an all-time cinema bad-ass, and Escape from New York became a wild dystopic action masterpiece.

The film is a prime example of Carpenter’s mastery to create a captivating atmosphere, unique visuals and eccentric characters. He would go on to create other masterpieces such as the freaky action comedy Big Trouble in Little China and the cult satire They Live. Imbued with endless creativity, Carpenter gave it all for pretty much every film he made!

5) John McTiernan

Die Hard is considered by many the greatest action movie of all time, and we can thank John McTiernan for it and for modernizing action cinema in the late 1980s. John McClane’s battle against a group of terrorists in a sealed-off skyscraper marked that start of a new generation of action films, with immaculate cinematography, elaborately staged set pieces and a masterful blend of suspense and action to create a deep sense of immersion.

But this was not McTiernan’s only classic, he also started the Predator franchise which is another contender for best action movie of all time. After gracing us with two of the most intense action films of their decade, he would follow up with other masterpieces such as Hunt for Red October and Die Hard with a Vengeance, leaving us a truly ultimate legacy!

4) James Cameron

This entry is for the pre-Titanic James Cameron, who shaped action blockbuster cinema in a way few other did. He established the cyborg as a bad-ass killing machine in Terminator, a visually and atmospherically groundbreaking action spectacle. With the film, Cameron supercharged Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career, and even managed to top the first installment with the legendary Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

He also evolved the Alien franchise with the second entry Aliens, an action horror inferno that became a timeless classic. Always eager to implement the newest technology, Cameron pushed the envelope far for what could be achieved with practical effects, so let’s remember and honor his legacy to action cinema.

3) Walter Hill

Walter Hill entered the action arena in the late 1970s with the masterpieces The Warriors and The Driver, and never let up in the following two decades with classic after classic piling up. His signature style of ultraviolent shootouts and intense car action is embodied by fantastic films such as 48 Hrs. and Extreme Prejudice.

His films are dense with atmosphere, and often feature ambiguous male characters who are triggering a cascade of violence because of their macho attitudes. Hill’s influence in developing the style of classic action cinema cannot be overstated, and his filmography has become an ultimate monument to the genre!

2) George Miller

George Miller only made four actioners in his long career as a director, but the Mad Max films defined the post-apocalyptic action genre as we know it today. Miller created a unique microcosm for his anti-hero Max Rockatansky, who roams the wasteland that is inhabited savage characters and their murderous vehicles. 

Miller’s creative energy knew no boundaries with fantastic world-building, quirky characters, and the best car action sequences ever created. With insane stunts, crazy-looking vehicles, and an unbelievable level of detail, Miller took car action to a completely new level. All four Mad Max films are ultimate masterpieces, and the saga became one of the best action franchises of all time!

1) John Woo

Woo is a poet who writes with thick strokes of blood. Hailed for creating the Heroic Bloodshed genre, he reinvented shootouts in action films. His slow-mo bullet storms, that were often filmed on an astonishing scale and with an incredible level of detail, became the most intense action sequences in the history of cinema.

In ultimate classics like The Killer and Hard Boiled, Woo also cranked the pathos to the absolute maximum with brooding characters, atmospheric images and a pervasive melancholy. His films are a force of nature, and have become the very essence of action cinema.

How ‘Chappie” Still Manages to Deliver Action with Intelligence

A look back at this under-appreciated, yet full-carnaged, sci-fi action thriller.

OpenAI and its peers are making big waves as of this writing, and 2015’s action-packed treatise of artificial consciousness, Chappie, has never been more relevant. The film was director Neil Blomkamp’s closure of his informal Sci-Fi actioner trilogy, and until he creates his next masterpiece, we always have Chappie and its predecessors, so let’s have a look!

Arms corporation Tetravaal builds and operates the Scouts, a squad of police droids deployed to combat crime in Johannesburg. Tetravaal engineer Deon (Dev Patel) develops an artificial intelligence and tests it on a decommissioned Scout unit. The droid (named Chappie) is stolen by gangster Ninja who seeks to exploit Chappie’s superhuman combat skills for a heist. To make things worse, Deon’s jealous co-worker Vincent (Hugh Jackman) sets a sinister plan in motion to push his own product line of assault mechs.

We’ll Turn That Robot Into The Illest Gangster On The Block

Once again Blomkamp immerses us into a world of cruelty and injustice, with arms corporations being the biggest profiteers of rampant crime and poverty. This setup echoes Robocop, and there are more similarities with it, not least the question whether human consciousness can be embedded into a droid body. Chappie is far from being a copycat of genre classics, though, but is overflowing with ideas of its own.

A central part of the film is a re-visitation of the nature vs. nurture debate, exemplified by Chappie with his malleable child-like mind and basic programming as a violent police robot. Blomkamp succeeds in creating a robot character that we genuinely care for, who moves us to tears and for whom we sincerely hope everything will turn out fine in the end. But maybe it wouldn’t work so well without Sharlto Copley’s fantastic voice acting who breathes life into this droid like probably no one else could.

Gritty and Colorful, Absurd and Thoughtful

Chappie’s animation is perfect, even by today’s standards. It’s seamlessly integrated into the real world, and is a great example for a case where good use is made of CGI. Immersion is conserved when a small part of the image is artificial and the majority is real, and not the other way around, as is too often the case in modern action cinema, unfortunately.

Ninja and Yolandi Visser of the South African band Die Antwoord in their first acting roles are pretty much playing themselves as Chappie’s foster parents. It’s a bold move but it works out beautifully, both bring a refreshingly anarchic style to their scenes. On the other side Dev Patel impresses as well-meaning modern Frankenstein, who tries to be empathetic and reflective about his work as can be when you’re working for a weapons corporation. The dark side of the company is personified by Hugh Jackman’s fun take on an aggressive engineer (with a five-dollar haircut) who is hellbent on climbing the career ladder no matter the collateral damage.

Our Own Indestructible Robot Gangster Number One, Boom!

The slums of Johannesburg are not a pretty place yet it’s what our characters call home. The cinematography is top notch, and captures this gritty and violent world in atmospheric images,  supported by banging soundtrack. Blomkamp juggles social commentary, the nature of consciousness and throws in some kick-ass action when it’s time to stop thinking too hard and enjoy some good old mayhem. He demonstrates once more why he is a master of crafting gripping and exciting action sequences. Each one has a small story to tell, and never becomes self-indulgent.

Carnage lovers will also not be disappointed. Gangsters and killer robots clash in bloody shootouts, people are ripped apart and carjackings spiral out of control, with Chappie causing a good deal of mostly unintentional havoc on his own. With Chappie, Blomkamp holds a mirror to us, when – just like as in District 9 – a non-human embodies what the best traits of humanity should be. This film is  an emotional roller-coaster ride that delivers action-packed and intelligent storytelling at its best!

Martial Law 2: Undercover — An Easygoing Actioner That Hits All the Ultimate Buttons

A look back at Martial Law II starring  Jeff Wincott and Cynthia Rothrock!

Welcome to a parallel universe where cops and criminals alike are all martial arts experts, and no one needs firearms to win a fight. This is the world of Martial Law II: Undercover. The first Martial Law film was solid DTV fare, but a bit of a slow burn with fight sequences of only modest quality. This all changed with the second installment when the two legends of DTV martial arts action Cynthia Rothrock and Jeff Wincott teamed up, so let’s have a look!

Police detective Sean (Wincott) joins a new unit, and shortly after an old friend and colleague is found dead. Sean asks his former partner Billie (Rothrock) to help with the investigation, and she starts working undercover as a bartender in a shady night club. Soon enough they are fighting against an entire crime syndicate.

“You’re on thin ice.” “Good thing I know how to skate.”

The plot has no surprises, except that we may wonder how little story actually happens between the fights. There’s banter between cops, banter between criminals and standard police investigation tropes. Despite this mundanity, it all flows reasonably well with some entertaining moments. The film is a good-looking production with effective direction, atmospheric takes, and a swinging synth score. The calm cinematography and soft-spoken dialogues give the film an almost relaxing vibe between the fights.

The actors also give it all according to their abilities. Rothrock is charming and a bad-ass when needed, ready to take out a room full of bad guys in the blink of an eye. Wincott embodies the rare combination of being a good actor and a good martial artist, creating a believable character that kicks serious ass. His olive-colored trench coat with rolled-up sleeves is an astonishing piece of fashion history that wouldn’t look good on anyone except him.

The film also marked the start for 90s B-actioner villain Evan Lurie who impresses with ripped abs, an oversized suit, and a long mane. Together with Paul Johannson he forms a goofy bad team. Both look incredibly cool, but talk incredibly awkward and slow, it’s hard to take them serious even for a single second as competent criminals.

This DTV Martial Arts Classic Delivers Clean and Simple Fun

Rothrock and Wincott make a good team, and when it hits the fan police protocol requires them to deliver a kick to the face first and ask questions later. Both deliver impressive moves, and the fight scenes avoid cheap cuts in favor of a tight choreography. There’s lots of crunchy fights, people get hit quickly and when they go down, they stay down. It’s all great to watch, even though there are no jaw-dropping moments, just plenty of good beatdowns.

Martial Law II: Undercover is a film where nothing really stands out, and yet it hits all the right buttons to become an easygoing actioner that delivers clean and simple fun.

An Ultimate Interview with Ben Combes about the Upcoming ‘Commando Ninja 2’

A chat with filmmaker Ben Combes about his UAMC-approved action sequel.

Filming of Commando Ninja 2 has recently wrapped, so we thought it might be a good idea to have a chat with creative mastermind Ben Combes on all things Commando Ninja 2 and action films in general!

Cover photo taken by Ludvig Oblin.

UAMC: Hi Ben, thanks a lot for taking the time to do an interview with us. It’s been five years since you made Commando Ninja, and I think it’s not an understatement to say it has become a classic of indie action cinema.

Ben Combes: Thanks, I actually still don’t know the audience or how many people we reached. It has been seen 7 million times in 12 languages on youtube, and I hope you are right, because it was a true love letter we wrote for other fans of the 80’s blockbusters like us, and we didn’t even try to sell it or make money with it.

UAMC: Those are impressive numbers indeed! When did you decide to make a sequel, and when did you start working on it? 

Ben Combes: After the first film, French producers (I’m French) approached me to direct TV shows and stuff. I turned it down because I moved to Canada (Vancouver BC) the morning after the French premiere. I swore to myself to never do a movie alone and without money again, it’s really, really hard, it chews you and your family up. The producers also told me it was cool one time, but don’t do another one like that.

Unfortunately, nobody wanted to produce a sequel (or at least I don’t have the contacts), Covid happened, and everybody wanted one! I was working for Sega, work was slow, we went home for remote work. So in November 2020 I decided to launch a Kickstarter for the sequel, as crazy as it sounded, secretly hoping it wouldn’t work. It worked (if you can say making a 2h20 action adventure movie with 30 characters and sets for 50K works), and we started production in July 2021!

UAMC: It’s great to hear that the Kickstarter campaign was successful. Will we see characters from the first part return? Are the stories connected? And another important question: Will we see the raptors again?

Ben Combes: Yes! Most of them will return, and the stories are connected, I hope fans will appreciate that. There will be a lot of new characters. We only had to change one actress from the first movie. The Dinosaurs will be back, imagine Commando Ninja was Alien 1. This is Alien 2.

UAMC: The first part was chock-full of awesome references and homages to our beloved action classics, can you give us a teaser of what we can expect in Commando Ninja 2 in that regard?

Ben Combes: Yes, Commando Ninja was my love letter to the 80s, with Commando Ninja 2 I focused more on the 90s! I’d say, you are going to dive into a Rambo 2 mission, set inside a Jurassic Park, following an Apocalypse Now river, jumping to Indiana Jones, Die Hard, Hard Boiled, Dawn of the Dead, James Bond. Also it will be inspired by modern adventure movies: Suicide Squad 2, Guardians of the Galaxy, Kong: Skull Island.

UAMC: That sounds like a totally wild cross-over, and a lot of fun! Did you work with the same crew as for the first film?

Ben Combes: I never really had any crew, so my best friend came back to help, then he had to move and I was fortunate enough to meet someone who replaced him. Three different make up/SFX artists helped. Then a stuntman friend created a little stunt team, that followed us during production for the action scenes to play all the villains. The big change is that we had a studio, used for filming interior scenes, meetings, and a HQ for the movie props, workshop, and team.

UAMC: Can you tell us a bit more about the filming process for Commando Ninja 2? And what did you enjoy the most, and what the least?

Ben Combes: So again it was a DIY/Guerilla movie. 50K for what you are about to see was a very, very microscopic low budget. Everybody worked on their free time, either for free, or for the smallest rate possible. We ate BBQ’s and McDonalds. We shot during 3 full summers, 2021 to 2023. Each time I had to come back from Canada, it was really really hard psychologically for me. But it worked, and when I look at it now, I don’t understand how we achieved this.
Then during the fall and winters, I was editing/doing VFX, so when production wrapped last September, the movie was already all edited.

What I enjoyed the most was this third and last year of filming, it involved a loot of practical SFX, masks, prosthesis, and I love this shit. Two really good SFX artists came to the studio and it was a blast seeing all those creatures alive. We also spent all summer together, working out, shooting, eating BBQ’s, surrounded by guns and dinosaurs. It was kind of a surreal life for 6 months. Also, it’s the first “real” feature film I wrote, and I had a great pleasure seeing my characters develop and organically evolve through the actors during those 3 years, it was crazy, I hope you will enjoy the interaction between the 5 main characters. 

What I enjoyed the least, is that doing a project like that creates tensions, even if you would be the nicest (or richest) person in the world. At some point some people left the project. I totally understand, and after 15 years of career I realize it’s not money that will make a difference. Projects need to be short for people to keep motivated.

UAMC: That’s sounds a wild rollercoaster ride you experienced in the last three years, and it’s admirable that you pulled through all the way to the end! What got you into making movies, and where do you draw your inspiration from? Are there film-makers and actors that you hold in high esteem?

Ben Combes: I grew up with movies, my dad had a collection of thousands VHS (only action, adventure, sci fi and horror). At 14 I started making movies with a little camera and some friends. It was the start of home made movies thanks to miniDV cassettes and Adobe Premiere. One of the major french TV channel held a DIY movie week each year, and that really got us into making more and more, until my youtube channel and Commando Ninja.

I started making a video games related fan films youtube channel at the same time as FreddieWong and CorridorDigital in L.A., so watching their stuff was keeping me motivated, one of my shorts even ended up in a festival with them in LA. 

In terms of filmmakers and actors, of course I religiously admire Spielberg, Mc Tiernan, Cameron, Verhoeven, Arnold, Sly, Demi Moore, Sandra Bullock, Sigourney Weaver, Nic Cage, Keanu Reeves, Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe. Big up for France with Luc Besson and Jean Reno! 

Today, I have a big, big admiration for Neill Blomkamp, for me he was the new James Cameron of the 2000’s, I’m sad he didn’t continue into Sci-Fi. (crazy thing: I was working in front of his studio in Vancouver and my partner worked with him). I also think Michael Bay is an alien, and Taylor Sheridan’s work blew my mind. But there are so many talented directors, movies or TV, I couldn’t pick one. 

And I love modern actors like Adam Driver, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Mark Wahlberg, Leonardo DiCaprio, Pedro Pascal. In France we have a big ACTION comeback, with actors like Alban Lenoir, movies like Lost Bullet 1&2, AKA. It’s really good, we come from the same town with the director!

Photo taken by Ludvig Oblin.

UAMC: What do you think is the state of action cinema in 2023? What’s good, what’s bad about it? 

Ben Combes: I think it’s been 20 years since the good things, new things are now happening in TV shows. I don’t enjoy remake attempts and superheroes. I don’t like blue screens, all CGI action and sets, it doesn’t move anything inside me when I see it. I don’t like studios washing up IPs until you hate them. 

I also don’t like that movies must be serious and, and that we lost all the humor from the 80s and 90s. I think it’s really representative of today’s society. In terms of action today I don’t like the very realistic fights, I preferred when it was all karate, helicopter kicks and unlimited ammos. But I think practical effects, SFX, really good stuntmen, and real explosions are coming back, I think they understood it was uninteresting otherwise.

UAMC: Let’s hope they do, and I couldn’t agree more with what you said. What were the biggest challenges you faced in your journey as a filmmaker? And do you have any advice for aspiring indie action film makers? 

Ben Combes: It was really all about being able to organize this crazy pharaonic project. It was absolutely huge, and I was alone to prepare everything (from shots to breakdown, to lunch, and finding the right shoelace for a 90’s setting). Keeping people motivated was also hard, it was 50% a creative challenge, and 50% human. 

For aspiring action film makers, I would advise to focus on short action scenes, short films. It’s the best thing, write, shoot, repeat, and it’s actually what I did from 2008 to 2016. Someone very good does that, FilmRiot on youtube, they did crazy short action films.

But for me as a director, I honestly never loved filming action scenes. What I prefer and what I wanted this time was to develop characters, a story and a mood with this project. My dream would have been to have an action director for the shootings and fight scenes, so I could focus on art direction, writing, set dressing, costumes, jokes and actors!

UAMC: Ben, thank you so much for sharing your thought on insights, and for your passion as a filmmaker! There’s just one question left: When will Commando Ninja 2 be released into the universe?

Ben Combes: I would have loved Christmas but it’s impossible. So for now I will have this objective: Big Reveal Trailer for Christmas, and release 2024 first trimester, or summer.

Thanks!!

Are Bruce Willis’ ‘Red’ Movies the Most Ultimate Duology?

A look back at how the Bruce Willis led ‘Red’ (2010) and ‘Red 2’ (2013) action comedies have actually aged quite well.

The recent news of Bruce Willis’ retirement and illness shattered many action fans, but we still have his (massive) filmography to cheer ourselves up. Willis has starred in so many brilliant action movies since the first Die Hard (1988) that there is much to choose from  – though let’s face it, some of his last films in the 2010s were quite low-quality and didn’t do the actor justice. Among them, one duology still stands out as uniquely fun and memorable: Red (2010) and Red 2 (2013) are loving and hilarious nods to the actor’s status as a legend – and Bruce Willis isn’t their only asset.

Bruce Willis in Red

Released in 2010, the first Red movie has a very simple premise: it centres on a team of elite CIA black ops agents who have now retired, and are hunted down by their former agency after its new head feel threatened by their knowledge. Their leader is Frank Moses (Bruce Willis, clearly having fun) a bored and depressed veteran who sees his house attacked by a squad in the middle of the night. Of course, he is able to effortlessly dispatch the assassins, but feels like he needs to gather his old team back together to investigate the matter. Frank enlists the help of his sick mentor Joe (Morgan Freeman), the crazy Marvin (John Malkovich) and even sophisticated MI6 assassin Victoria (Helen Mirren). On the way, he also meets Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), a bored call centre employee who dreams of escaping her daily routine… and gets more than she bargained for when Frank embarks her on a dangerous journey! 

The film is unabashedly fun, and as befits its name – we learn that R.E.D. is an acronym for Retired and Extremely Dangerous – it gives older stars an opportunity to shine. Let’s face it, few action films discuss issues surrounding ageing, and most prefer to sweep it under the rug, pretending that actors (and characters) never change. Sometimes, the illusion works (who could guess Keanu Reeves or Tom Cruise’s real age?) but other instances are less successful – no one can argue that Roger Moore’s performance in A View to a Kill (1985) hasn’t “aged” well.

Showing the New Recruits How it’s Done

Red takes the opposite approach, and deliberately plays with the fact that maybe its main cast isn’t as agile as it used to be… but that doesn’t mean they can’t put up a fight anymore! Instead, the movie highlights how valuable their experience of the field really is. Red is essentially a carefree action comedy, and this message is more of a pretext, but the film does respect its stars and what they have brought to action cinema. Forget the cliché of the elderly spy who needs to be saved by the new generation, here, the retired operatives are the ones who show new recruits how it’s done!

It’s the gallery of colourful characters which helps most of the jokes to land. A wild ride from beginning to end, the film has a straightforward plot and focuses on the rise back to the top of the core team – simple, but very effective. Willis delivers a fun and self-aware performance, but a special mentions goes to the improbable character played by John Malkovich: at the beginning of the film, Marvin Boggs has retired into a swamp, and threatens to kill anyone that dares set foot on his land. It is this explosive craziness which helps to make Marvin a thoroughly memorable character. He has a good excuse, too: as Sarah comes to find out, he was administered daily doses of LSD for years – and came out “relatively” sane! Helen Mirren as distinguished British assassin Victoria is another perfect pick, and all of her scenes are hilarious to watch, as she chatters away while dispatching henchmen.

But How Ultimate are They?

Is Red a perfect action movie? The honest answer is no: some of its action scenes feel a little underwhelming, lacking a grandiose element and proper stakes. But does that prevent it from being an ultimate watch? Definitely not!

The film was a critical and commercial success, surpassing expectations, so it is no surprise that a sequel saw the light of day just three years later. Red 2 was released in 2013, and while it remains a fun watch, it doesn’t live up to its predecessor’s heritage. The characters are still endearing and some good jokes are thrown in the mix, but the film falls into the classic “sequel trap”: it goes bigger in hopes of being better. You can expect more absurd stunts, a Spy-who-loved-me type Russian ex (played by Catherine Zeta-Jones), and some lukewarm car chases. The film remains a fun watch – especially if you enjoyed the first one – but lacks the originality and self-awareness which made Red so enjoyable. Still, having one ultimate film starring Bruce Willis and another “half-ultimate” one is a joy, and I definitely recommend checking Red out if you haven’t already done so!

Top 20 Action Comedy Movies

Ranking the best action comedy movies by their ultimate enjoyability!

Humor and action, can there be a better combination for having a good time at the movies? It’s a great idea but not that easy to achieve a perfect balance between both genres. The films in this list combine high-octane action with endless laughs, so let’s check out the top 20 action comedies of all time!

20) Guns Akimbo (2019)

Watching deadly duels between insane criminals on your phone seems like a natural evolution of our social media habits, and it’s also the premise of Guns Akimbo. Miles (Daniel Radcliffe) becomes an involuntary contestant in the tournament when he is assailed in his apartment and gets two guns bolted to his hands. He is put up against Nix (Samara Weaving), a coke-sniffing, trigger-happy maniac. 

This classic Running Man scenario is updated with some scathing commentary on the state of people’s minds in the age of social media where the worst things are just a click away. The many shootouts are filmed with furious editing, and we get lots of laughs out of people dying in incredibly bloody ways. It all adds up to an insane adrenaline rush of brutal action, corny jokes, and traces of food for thought.

19) The A-Team (2019)

Action specialist Joe Carnahan took up the challenge to recast the adventures of the eccentric quartet of rogue mercenaries. The A-Team, a covert US Army Rangers unit is set up during a mission and thrown into a wild chase to prove their innocence and bring the bad guys to justice. Carnahan and his writers showed great respect for the original show and embraced its ridiculousness without ridiculing it.

Liam Neeson as Hannibal and his mates do a fantastic job in bringing their characters to life with dialogues full of funny banter and awesome one-liners. Carnahan cranks the level of mayhem up quite a bit from the TV series with bigger explosions, heavier shootouts, and more cars being demolished. The A-Team is an easygoing and fun actioner that ranks high on the list of TV shows turned into films. 

18) Men in Black (1997)

The alien hype of the 90s gave us classics such as The X-Files, Independence Day and of course Men in Black! Aliens live peacefully and unknown amongst us, and it is up to agents K (Tommy Lee Jones) and J (Will Smith) from the Men in Black that is stays that way. When an evil alien lands on planet earth with a sinister plan for the fate of the galaxy, agent K and J are called in to save the day.

Smith and Jones are cool as liquid nitrogen, and Smith’s sassy attitude perfectly complements Jones’ dry humor. The terrific alien designs come in all sizes and shapes, and the many body morphs are well played for maximum amusement. The action sequences are chock-full with crazy stuff, when tiny guns blast huge holes into everything. Men in Black succeeds in making every moment of its runtime exciting and fresh.

17) Rush Hour (1998)

Rush Hour was the big breakthrough for Jackie Chan on US soil. Hongkong police detective Lee (Chan) is sent to Los Angeles to find the Chinese consul’s kidnapped daughter.  The FBI pairs him up with talkative LAPD detective Carter (Chris Tucker), and after some initial friction, they team up to crack the case.

It’s a classic buddy actioner formula, but it’s executed perfectly. Chris Tucker’s timbre and style of humor may take some time to get used to, but his banter with Chan made me burst out in laughter more than once. Chan is charming as always, and even though he dials the intensity of his fights back a bit compared to his Hongkong classics, he delivers plenty of cool stunts. Rush Hour has a perfect balance between laughs and thrills, and is non-stop fun!

16) The Nice Guys (2016)

In The Nice Guys, writer genius and director Shane Black takes us on an atmospheric and action-packed journey through 1970s Los Angeles. Private investigator March (Ryan Gosling) takes on a job to look into the suicide of an adult movie starlet. His case converges with that of his peer Healey (Russell Crowe). The two team up and enter a maze of confusion and violence.

Crowe and Gosling deliver fantastic portrayals of their slightly broken characters and have fantastic on-screen chemistry bouncing their coolness off each other. Black delivers his trademark style in its most refined form: eccentric characters, a witty script with cool one-liners and frequent outbursts of bloody violence. The action sequences are well embedded into the plot not overblown, and are a joy to watch. The Nice Guys is a fantastic piece of entertainment, and Black’s best work as director to this date.

15) Pineapple Express (2008)

Pineapple Express is testimony to the claim that smoking weed is bad for your health, but not in the way you think! Dale (Seth Rogen) witnesses a murder committed by a drug lord and flees in panic. He drops his joint, which is traced back to Dale’s dealer Saul (James Franco), and a turbulent chase begins. The film takes a stoner comedy template and adds and overdose of ultraviolent slapstick action. 

Seth Rogen gives his familiar take as goofy, well-meaning normie. But James Franco as zoned-out and unshakeable weed dealer is the real treasure of this film. The plot is total chaos, and the action scenes are even more insane with a blind car chase, and a finale with a massive shootout that features plenty of tasteless deaths. Pineapple Express is a relentless barrage of cheerful absurdity!

14) Turbo Kid (2015)

Turbo Kid plunders the treasure troves of B-grade post-apocalyptic cinema and became one of the best indie actioners of all time. When scavenging the ruins of civilization on his BMX bike, the Kid (Munro Chambers) finds the power glove of the mythical soldier Turbo Rider. With his new weapon he takes it up against the ruler of the wasteland Zeus (Michael Ironside) and his army of sadistic killers. 

It’s Mad Max on bicycles! The whole film is a charming homage to the post-apocalyptic classics we all love and throws in a load of references to 1980s pop culture, plus a killer Synthwave soundtrack. 

The action features gory slapstick sequences, with plenty of heads being chopped off and fountains of blood. Turbo Kid also teaches us the ultimate rule for close combat: Eyes! Throat! Genitals!

13) Bad Boys 2 (2003)

In his last true masterpiece, director Michael Bay launched a fireworks of tasteless humor and megalomaniacal action. Miami police detectives Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) are investigating a smuggling operation of Ecstasy. When taking it up against multiple gangs, they leave a trail of mayhem through Miami.

Martin Lawrence and Will Smith are classic action heroes that shoot first and ask questions later. They are also incredibly funny, spouting an endless stream of hilariously offensive jokes. The action sequences go completely over the top leaving whole blocks of Miami in ruins. Bay chains one overlong set piece into another, with a couple of spectacular car action sequences standing out. Bad Boys 2 is as an epic and totally abrasive monument of US action cinema.

12) Dead Heat (1988)

Dead Heat is Trash Cinema at Its Best [The Overlook Motel]

“Remember the good old days when guns killed people?” Re-Animator meets Lethal Weapon in this unique blend of a buddy cop action comedy and a zombie flick. Detectives Roger Mortis (Treat Williams) and Doug Bigelow (Joe Piscopo) investigate a medical facility and are attacked by disfigured humans. Mortis is killed, but a strange machine returns him from the dead. As an undead cop he has an edge in finding the people responsible for his unlife.

In Dead Heat, people get whole magazines emptied into their bodies but are not dying, it really takes a lot of effort to kill anyone in this film. The practical special effects by mastermind Steve Johnson are top notch with melting bodies, burned faces, and a whole butchers’ shop of reanimated animals. The humor is cheesy, the action goes completely over the top, Dead Heat is a great time for every action fan! 

11) Tropic Thunder (2008)

Ben Stiller’s parody of ultraheroic Nam movies and the movie business became an unparalleled spectacle. The production of the Vietnam war film Tropic Thunder is on its way to disaster. The director opts for a radical approach and drops his four stars in the jungle for a guerilla-style shooting. The area is controlled by a local warlord and his gang, and the actors soon realize that the action is real and deadly this time.

Tropic Thunder delivers comedic perfection from the first to the last minute, It may occasionally be a satire on the movie studio system, but there’s just so much fun to be had here. An incredible cast (among them Robert Downey Jr. and Frank Black) are in the form of their life. The action is well-shot and hilarious with pyrotechnic excesses and gory slapstick sequences. Tropic Thunder takes no prisoners!

10) Black Dynamite (2009)

An ingenious homage to 1970s Blaxploitation cinema, Black Dynamite blows Tarantino’s Jackie Brown out of the water big time! Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White), war hero and ex-secret agent, is the protector of his neighborhood. When a new drug ravages the community, he takes out the dealers, but soon discovers a larger conspiracy against the African American population. 

Once more, White shows what a talented actor he is, and his Kung Fu is big as always. The sets, the costumes, the music, it’s all arranged perfectly to re-create the often ultra-low budget vibe of exploitation flicks, including continuity errors, and needless fast zooms. Nothing is played for cheap laughs, though, Black Dynamite radiates much respect for and love of the genre.

9) 48 Hrs. (1982)

The film that launched Eddie Murphy’s movie career created an ingenious recipe for buddy action flicks that was copied countless times. San Francisco police detective Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) gets convict Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) out of jail for 48 hours to help him find escaped killer Albert Ganz. Murphy’s charisma and quips find the perfect counterpart in Nolte’s constant aggravation.

The film used the now classic template of two fundamentally opposite characters that are forced to work together, with the resulting tension relieved through coarse humor or outbursts of violence. Director Walter Hill created high-caliber action sequences with the classic suite of fights, shootouts, and car chases, and every single one of them hits like a train. 48 Hrs. is an ultimate classic of action cinema, and every other buddy cop actioner owes its existence to it.

8) Machete (2010)

Robert Rodriguez built a monument to Danny Trejo’s bad-assery that secured him everlasting cult status among action movie fans. Mexican Federal agent Machete is betrayed during an operation and left for dead. Some years later, he is hired to kill a Texas State Senator. Things go terribly wrong, and Machete needs to free himself from the web that his enemies are spinning around him.

Rodriguez topped his previous classics with even more absurd humor, ultraviolet slapstick action sequences, and manic characters.  Machete is a charming bad-ass that calmly eats a burrito while crushing an opponent in a fistfight, and is also pretty good at escaping through windows using his opponents intestines as a rope. He cuts everyone to pieces who gets in his way and makes love to every woman he comes across. Machete is a riot of a movie: cool, sexy and funny!

7) Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

Stephen Chow held the banner high for Hong Kong action cinema in the 2000s with Kung Fu Hustle. The Axe gang terrorizes the people of Shanghai, and small-time gangster Sing (Chow) wants to be a part of it. He is completely untalented, but after taking a massive beating, Sing is transformed into a Kung Fu luminary for the forces of good.

Slapstick humor that always hits its mark is combined with action sequences that mix classic Wuxia with Looney Toon physics. And on the top of all the Kung fu madness, Chow creates an immersive setting and an engaging story with charming characters. Almost every line will make you smile or laugh, and the fights are jaw-dropping in their intensity and ridiculousness. Kung Fu Hustle is a splendid action comedy and a piece of art.

6) The Other Guys (2010)

Director and writer Adam McKay brought together the unlikely couple of Will Farrell and Mark Wahlberg, and they turned out to be a dream team! After New York’s two finest cops die in action, sidelined detectives Gamble (Farrell) and Hoitz (Wahlberg) believe they are called for bigger things. Their investigation of a scaffolding permit violation turns into a turbulent chase for Wall Street’s white-collar criminals.

Gamble and Hoitz tumble from one absurd situation into another and pile up joke after joke with the social commentary being almost buried under all the laughs. Farrell and Wahlberg deliver a fantastic parody of your typical action movie cop duo. The film moves at breakneck speed, which is also due to the many awesome action set pieces that are seamlessly integrated into the story. The Other Guys goes completely over the top and is an absolute blast to watch!

5) Army of Darkness (1992)

With the third part of his Evil Dead trilogy, director Sam Raimi went all in and created an ultimate masterpiece, a fantasy horror slapstick actioner for the ages.  After being sucked into a maelstrom by the evil book Necronomicon, Ash (Bruce Campbell) finds him in a medieval world haunted by Deadites. He tries to retrieve the book so that he can return to his time and rid the world of its curse, but he messes up the ritual and unearths an army of evil. 

Bruce Campbell shines again as arrogant and clumsy Ash, a human punching bag who always fights back, though, and who takes it up against bloodthirsty demons, ravenous books and a skeleton army. Raimi lets his imagination run wild and delivers non-stop action and laughs, it’s a terrific homage to classic swashbuckling and monster movies, combined with Evil Dead-style jump scares. Hail to the King, Baby!

4) True Lies (1994)

Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron joined up for another successful collaboration with True Lies, an ingenious blend of relentless action and a spy comedy. Harry (Schwarzenegger) is a secret government agent but for his family he poses as a sales manager. His wife is bored with her life and gets involved with a fake spy. When Henry finds out, he inadvertently takes her on a dangerous mission to catch a group of terrorists who got their hands on nuclear weapons.

Cameron creates a respectful parody of the genre whereas Schwarzenegger delivers a great parody of his own action hero persona. The film features lots of unique and cool set pieces that become more megalomaniacal with every minute. The action is all about chases from horses to fighter jets, and we witness many creative kills. True Lies is as perfect as an action comedy gets, and an ultimate 90s blockbuster classic!

3) Hot Fuzz (2007)

After reviving the zombie genre with Shawn of the Dead, director Edgar Wright and his two partners in crime Simon Pegg and Nick Frost took on cop thrillers. High-performing London police detective Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is transferred to the small town of Sandford, and shocked by the laid-back work attitude of the local police. He becomes friends with fellow officer Danny (Frost), and when a series of mysterious murders shakes up the community, Angel can put his investigative and combat skills to good use.

Wright impresses with a clever script that has many surprises. Along the way he pays homage to lots of films, with special attention given to Bad Boys 2 and Point Break. The movie starts as a rural detective thriller – with comically gruesome killings that pay homage to classic slasher movies – and escalates into an outrageous action inferno. Hot Fuzz is a charming, intelligent, and roaringly funny flick!

2) Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Eddie Murphy’s big breakthrough has become a timeless classic of action cinema. Detroit police detective Axel Foley (Murphy) travels to Los Angeles to solve the murder of his friend. His numerous violations of police protocol get him into trouble with the Beverly Hills police department, but after booking progress with the investigation, he teams up with the local cops to bring the killers to justice and dismantle a large crime operation.

Thanks to a lean plot and sharp direction, each scene is set up to maximize Murphy’s mesmerizing screen presence. His Axel is witty, charming and a genuinely kind human being. The jokes land perfectly, the action sequences are loads of fun, and the iconic soundtrack kicks ass. Beverly Hills Cop is pure fun from first to last minute, it’s mandatory watching for every action fan!

1) Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

John Carpenter’s and Kurt Russell worked their 1980s movie magic to create an incredible action adventure. The film takes us on the quest of truck driver Jack Burton (Russell) and his friends to defeat ancient evil sorcerer Lo Pan. San Francisco’s Chinatown becomes the gateway to a mystical world, as we follow our heroes sneaking and fighting through alleyways, sewers, and hidden tunnels.

Russell is great as tough talker and clumsy wannabe action hero, who never gets anything done right but, in the end, still gets the girl. The film is sparkling with imagination and creativity, and the action rocks with magic attacks, kung fu and fistfights. Fantastic special effects, an enchanting atmosphere and, a banging soundtrack composed by Carpenter himself, all contribute to make Big Trouble in Little China one of the best action-adventures to ever see the light of day!