Not only have digital effects had a detrimental effect on action movies, but screenwriters have taken to using technology as a means of allowing characters to cheat death. “Cheat” is the operative word here: when a character survives being shot at point blank range courtesy of "genetically engineered sub-dermal body armour”, how can you not want to roll your eyes?
That’s exactly what happens in Hitman: Agent 47, whose makers were apparently unwilling to pay for stunts and instead resorted to digital trickery during the action sequences, which look more like video game footage. Then again, the film was adapted from a video game series developed by IO Interactive, so maybe that was the point.
In modern action cinema, the name of the game appears to be to do everything on a grander scale at ten times the cost. Never mind the law of diminishing returns, just look at the effect on running times: of 2016’s biggest action movies so far, only Deadpool clocks in at under 2 hours.
Action is only exciting when it's cut back to the bone and served up in a 90 minute portion without the trimmings. It doesn’t require huge budgets, elaborate effects or swollen running times. Here are 10 films that prove it.
It’s worth noting that in 1985 Arnold Schwarzenegger hadn’t yet transformed himself into the world’s #1 action star and was still appearing in glorified exploitation movies. Mounted on a budget low enough to give it a B-movie feel, Commando gets everything said and done (and exploded and sent flying through a window) in 90 minutes without extraneous subplots or “dramatic” scenes where Arnold attempts to add “depth” to his character.
In fact, all Arnie does over the course of the movie is kill people and make jokes. He snaps one guy’s neck, rearranges the body so it looks like he’s sleeping and says, “He’s dead tired.” When the main villain is speared by a length of piping that gushes forth steam, Arnie says, “Let off some steam.” Repeat ad nauseum.
None of which does justice to just how much fun this piece of no-think escapism is once it gets going. Some cartoon villains kidnap Arnie’s daughter so he kills them one after the other, which eventually leads to an assault on the bad guys’ lair where everything explodes in impressive fireballs. As throwaway filmmaking goes, Commando is some sort of masterpiece.