I am an intensely nonviolent person. I dislike interpersonal confrontations. If a wasp or spider finds its way into my house, I do my best to capture it and release it outside rather than kill it. One of the reasons we found a new home for our python was that I could no longer bear to feed the snake live rats. I am extremely anti-war; I can’t imagine killing a person, and I don’t understand why and how people choose killing as a means to solve problems or express disagreement. I have no desire to ever touch a gun, let alone shoot one; even seeing a pistol close up on a police officer makes me nervous.
And yet… action/adventure movies are far and away my favorite genre. Give me Daniel Craig as James Bond or Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, and you’ve made my day. Big, cool-looking, high-caliber weaponry; good guys who can’t miss; car chases zig-zagging through major cities; some excellent hand-to-hand combat thrown in for good measure: these are things my favorite films are made of. If it’s possible to throw in some semblance of plot and a female character who demonstrates intelligence and the ability to take care of herself, so much the better.
I started thinking about this strange divergence in my personality yesterday afternoon after seeing Shoot ‘Em Up — an awesome example of everything I love about action movies. It has:
- Two of my favorite actors: Clive Owen doing handsome, invincible, mysterious good guy; and Paul Giamatti chewing the scenery as the over-the-top bad guy
- A woman who is sexy but also helpful and able to take care of herself
- Lots and lots of wonderfully choreographed gun battles that have some but not too much blood
- An awesome soundtrack
- A plot that is somewhat convoluted but able to be understood
- A happy ending
It was wonderful. A copy will find its way to my shelf as soon as it comes out on DVD.
My limitations lie in the amount of graphic bloodshed and suffering. I prefer the bad guys to be faceless and nameless and to die immediately. A little blood spatter is OK, as is the occasional humorous use of dismembered body parts (such as Clive Owen using a severed hand to work the fingerprint ID on a pistol). But I do not deal well with torture scenes and intense, in-your-face, realistic carnage; I learned what to watch out for many years ago when I saw Robocop and almost got sick.
I also expect a happy ending for whoever has braved all this mayhem — as I’ve said many times, I don’t sit through 2 hours of a movie just to be shocked or depressed by the ending. If I’m not sure how things will turn out in a given movie, I’ll wait and hear about it or read it online, to be sure I’ll be satisfied. Casino Royale is tough for me: I adore the entire film except Vesper’s death, which I consider inexplicable and eminently avoidable. My son and I have agreed that when we watch the movie, we’ll always skip that entire scene. (And consider Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, although it’s of a different sort of genre. We’ve watched Will and Elizabeth’s relationship through three movies, and the best the film-makers can give us at the end is for this gorgeous, finally married couple to see each other once every 10 years? What is that? They lost me at Davy Jones. As with the Matrix films, I’ll only ever watch the original film of the trilogy again, preferring to pretend that the other two highly inferior films were never made.)
Maybe I’m living out my adventurous fantasies by spending time in fictional worlds that I will never (and wouldn’t want to) inhabit. Whatever the reason, I love action movies, with their shooting and running and driving and thumping music, and the occasional rapatious sex. (In Shoot ‘Em Up, coitus interruptus occurs in the form of lots of guys with guns. She’s on top at that moment, so he just scoops her up and carries her as he dispatches one enemy after the other; it appears that her pleasure continues unabated throughout.)
Following is a list of my favorite summer movie fare. If you’re in the mood for something loud, driving, and intense (and sex isn’t an option at the moment…), then give one of these a try:
- Shoot ‘Em Up — Clive, Paul, Monica, a baby, and lots and lots of bad guys in black leather jackets
- The Bourne Ultimatum — Matt Damon (I used to think that he could kick anyone’s ass, including James Bond’s. However, I now think that Clive Owen’s Mr. Smith could give Jason a hard time.)
- Live Free or Die Hard — Bruuuuuuuuce!
- Transformers — Giant robots with big guns
- Shooter — Mark Wahlberg doing the loner-vengeance thing
- Hott Fuzz — British guys with guns, plus satire and black humor