BOOM! KABLAM! POW! Yep that’s right, I love action movies and I’m more than a little pleased to admit it. It’s clear to all and sundry that action movies had their heyday in the eighties when Arnie, Sly and Bruce were at their peak but being born around the same time as most of these movies came out, it’s fair to say that I arrived a little late on the scene.
What we have here then are five great mid to late nineties action movies that I can really credit for getting me into the genre and, by extension, in movies as a whole.
1. The Rock
Back before Michael Bay was the instantly criticised chap he is today, he made some pretty tight movies, my favourite being this. The Rock tells the story of a troop of disenfranchised soldiers who have taken hostages on Alcatraz and threaten the use of chemical weaponry on San Francisco if their demands aren’t met. It’s up to Nic Cage to enlist the help of Connery as the only escapee of Alcatraz, and with his help navigate their way into the prison to avert CITYWIDE KABLAMMO CHEMICAL WEAPON DISASTER!
Whilst the biggest focus of this movie is undoubtedly the portion set on Alcatraz, the real highlight for me is the car chase early on in proceedings which sees Cage bombing down the hilly streets of San Francisco in a bright yellow Lamborghini after Connery who has escaped in a humvee. Amazingly no one is hurt but rest assured there’s plenty of property damage. Absolutely unmissable!
From the moment the movie opens and you see Mel Gibson having bullets roughly removed from his back, you know you’re in for a brutal ride. Porter (Gibson) has been screwed over by his partner and left for dead. He recovers and wants revenge. That’s it. What more do you want? Cue ninety minutes of Gibson strutting around beating the crap out of everyone and having seven shades of sunshine knocked out of him in equal measure. As far as I can recall, this was one of the first proper revenge films I ever saw and it was great to be backing someone who was basically walking round doing the stuff the bad guys usually do. Rest assured Porter’s victims all deserve what’s coming to them.
By all accounts the studio forced cut of director Brian Helgeland’s work left the film pretty unrecognisable after around thirty percent of it was reshot by an uncredited director, but whatever… it’s still brilliant.
3. Air Force One
Listen to the pitch and tell me it’s not a brilliant idea for a movie; Air Force One is hijacked by terrorists led by the ever superb Gary Oldman, who try to hold the president (Harrison Ford) and the rest of the passengers to ransom. Only guess what? The President is a complete bad ass and takes down the terrorists single handedly. Why bother employing Secret Service hey?
Considering the majority of this movie takes place in a very limited location (i.e. on the plane) there’s enough variety to keep from things getting boring and enough explosions to make you wonder what magic space metal Air Force One must be made of to withstand such punishment.
It should go without saying that Oldman is brilliant in this movie, but truly everyone is on top form here, with great support from William H Macy, Glenn Close and Xander Berkeley; but it’s Ford who holds it all together and in my opinion this is the last really entertaining film he was involved in. Well worth whatever pittance you’ll pay for it online. Plus there’s a great rip on it here.
4. Con Air
What could possibly be more ridiculous than having a second plane based film in the list? Why a second Nic Cage one of course! Crazy non? He could easily appear a third time but I’ve already talked about Face/Off before (favourite!). Con Air tells the story of Poe (Cage) getting a flight home to freedom on a prisoner transfer flight, only for the plane to be taken over by the convicts in a desperate bid to escape reincarceration. This film is a tight Bruckheimer explosionfest filled with fist fights, dodgy accents and somehow even dodgier haircuts.
There’s more things in this film that jump out at me instantly than most other films in the list (Cage’s delivery of “put the bunny back in the box”, Buscemi singing “He’s got the whole world in his hands” and a flying convertible to name but three) which after at least five years since I last saw it, can only be a good thing.
5. True Lies
What finer film to round off this list than Cameron’s magnum opus (arf!). Weighing in at a meaty two hours twenty, True Lies tells the story of Harry Tasker (Arnie), loving husband, father and secret agent who lives a double life to spare his family from knowing the danger of his profession. All is well until his wife Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) suspects him of having an affair and (somewhat inevitably) ends up being kidnapped by terrorists.
As much as this sounds like an out and out comedy (which to be fair in some places it borders pretty close to) this movie is a great all out action fest stuffed with epic chases between horses and motorbikes, sexy Jamie Lee dancing, nuclear kisses and great one liners from Arnie. Genuinely entertaining and featuring better realised characters than other Arnie movies whilst also having the “epic” weighting of Cameron behind it, True Lies masterfully treads the lines between comedy, suspense and action. Just go and watch it right now.