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Extraction has everything a big Hollywood blockbuster needs for success: a charismatic leading man, a plot that tugs at the heartstrings, and some of the best stunt work this side of John Wick. There’s nothing else out there quite like it.
As such, you’ll probably need something to fill that Tyler Rake-shaped void in your life. Well, look no further. These movies, which include big-budget slugfests, taut indie thrillers, and almost everything in between should be more than enough to get the job done. Extraction mines a lot of excitement from action scenes that unfold in confined or limited spaces. The whole film is about Rake and Ovi trying to escape the city of Dhaka, which is surrounded by four rivers. Its climactic action scene takes place on a single bridge. The knife fight between Rake and Saju unfolds on a narrow city street. Even Extraction’s most technically impressive sequence, the 12-minute chase scene, is shot mostly from the inside of Rake’s car. Kilo Two Bravo is the same, although with the tension ramped way, way up. In Kilo Two Bravo, a group of British soldiers end up stuck in a dried-up riverbed in Afghanistan loaded with old Russian mines, making every step a potentially deadly event. Despite the wide-open desert locale, Kilo Two Bravo is remarkably claustrophobic. It doesn’t shy away from violence, either. When watching Kilo Two Bravo, you’ll feel the impact of every explosion and watch horrified as their bloody aftermath unfolds. Compared to Extraction, Kilo Two Bravo doesn’t provide much escapism, but it’s just as exciting. For director Paul Katis, it’s one heck of a debut.
Like Extraction, The Siege of Jadotville is all about spectacle. Oh, sure, the movie contains a subplot about the political malpractice that landed Irish commandant Pat Quinlan and his brigade in trouble. It’s based on a true story, too. The meat of the film, however, isn’t the backstory or the characters, despite solid performances from Jamie Dornan and Kingsman’s Mark Strong. No, the meat of the film is the siege itself. “They’re coming. Get ready for it!” For close to an hour, The Siege of Jadotville drops you into the middle of a ferocious battle in which our heroes are outmanned, outgunned, and increasingly overwhelmed. The film’s director, Richie Smyth, comes from a music video background, and The Siege of Jadotville, which is his first feature film, is just as slick and stylish as you’d expect. If you watch a lot of war movies, you’ll find several well-trod genre tropes in Jadotville. But when the bullets start flying, you’ll be too enthralled to notice.
What’s better than one charismatic action-star lead? Well, two of ’em, of course. Like its predecessor, Bad Boys II is full of stylish, over-the-top action, but its real draw is the relationship between Will Smith’s Mike Lowrey and Martin Lawrence’s Marcus Burnett, which will likely go down in history as one of the best buddy-cop duos of all time. For Lowrey and Burnett’s second big-screen adventure, the two Miami detectives bring down an international drug ring, fight the KKK, trade wisecracks, and straight-up invade Cuba in their quest for justice. It’s madness. However, the brotherly bond between Mike and Marcus grounds the whole thing. Ultimately, Bad Boys II has the same appeal as a hang session with good friends, albeit one where explosions just happen to be involved. Bad Boys II is a lot sillier than Extraction, but in terms of scale, its madcap action scenes rival anything you saw in the Chris Hemsworth thriller. Look, this is a Michael Bay joint. You know what you’re in for. “Oh, that one puckered up my butthole.” It’s hard not to watch Bad Boys II and wonder if Rake should get a partner in Extraction’s sequel. We know Hemsworth has comedy chops. Give him a partner to riff with and you’re more or less golden.
Director Antoine Fuqua’s record is full of hits. He directed Training Day, which won Denzel Washington an Academy Award and turned The Equalizer into a household name. The guy seriously knows his way around an action movie. That’s evident in Olympus Has Fallen. In this Gerard Butler vehicle, North Korean terrorists attack the White House and take the US president hostage. It’s up to a disgraced Secret Service agent played by Butler to break into the White House, rescue the president and his son, and get everyone to safety. That’s easier said than done, of course, given that the terrorists have a man on the inside and that the White House is one of the most secure buildings on the planet. Olympus Has Fallen is Die Hard with Nakatomi Plaza swapped out for the White House. It’s a loud film without a shred of subtlety. It’s also spectacularly, unrepentantly violent in the best possible way. In other words? It’s an action junkie’s dream come true.
Look, if you think trying to smuggle a child out of a foreign city swarming with enemies is tough, try fighting for your life in a submarine more than a mile underwater. That’s what Jude Law’s Captain Robinson, an underwater salvage expert, has to do in the Black Sea. After getting laid off from his long-time job, Robinson hires a crew and rents an old sub in hopes of retrieving a multi-million-dollar supply of gold from a Russian submarine off the coast of Georgia. With such a large amount of money at stake, it’s only a matter of time before everything goes to hell. Thankfully, the Black Sea doesn’t rush getting there. This is the rare kind of action film that makes you care about its characters before putting them into danger. Besides all that, submarines are the perfect vehicle for an action film. The tight quarters and fragile environments mean there’s no room for error, and it’s hard to imagine a more dangerous situation than fighting in a glorified tin can with the entire weight of the ocean pressing down on you. The Black Sea plays with sub movie conventions even while nodding towards the movies that inspired it. Ultimately, it ends up being quite the film-nerd-friendly experience.
So, maybe you think The Foreigner is going to resemble a James Bond movie. After all, it was directed by Martin Campbell, who helmed both GoldenEye and Casino Royale, and it co-stars Pierce Brosnan, the fifth big-screen 007. Or, maybe you think it’s going to be a comedic stunt-fest since the movie stars Jackie Chan. He’s certainly known for that kind of thing. Surprisingly, you would be wrong on both counts. “You will change your mind.” There’s no doubt about it, The Foreigner is an action movie through and through, but with both Chan and Brosnan bringing their A-game. No quips. No slapstick. Just pure, unadulterated action. As Ngoc Minh Quan, a Vietnam vet who’s out to bring down the IRA splinter group that killed his daughter, Chan brings an intensity to The Foreigner that we’ve rarely seen from him before. Brosnan’s character, an Irish politician and former IRA member who reluctantly helps Quan hunt the bombers is even more complicated, letting Brosnan show off a range that his super-spy days only hinted at. It’s Chan’s half of the story that’ll remind viewers most of the Extraction. Like Tyler Rake, Quan is a man on a mission in a foreign locale. And also, like Tyler Rake, he kicks an unholy amount of butt. Still, it’s just as fun watching Brosnan unravel the conspiracy around him as it is to see Quan take the fight to terrorists. While the Foreigner himself may get top billing, this is a two-man show. It’s all the better for it.
Before directing high-budget blockbusters like Suicide Squad and Bright, director David Ayer cut his teeth on low-budget crime movies. While some of Ayer’s early movies are full of corrupt cops, End of Watch’s two heroes, played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena, are as straight as they come. It’s a refreshing subversion for a genre that’s overflowing with antiheroes and law-flouting vigilantes. End of Watch is carried by the relationship between the two honourable police officers. Not that there aren’t bad guys, of course. Throughout the movie, Gyllenhall and Peña’s LAPD officers run afoul of the real-life Sinaloa Cartel, leading to bouts of explosive violence that are just as thrilling as they are horrific. End of Watch is a gritty and grounded depiction of the urban police experience, thanks to its focus on everyday police life and its innovative camera work many shots were captured using the body and dashboard cams, and Gyllenhaal filmed some of the footage himself while acting. If you’ve been watching a lot of big-budget action movie spectaculars, End of Watch is a nice change of pace.
Extraction’s most impressive sequence is arguably its 12-minute chase scene, which director Sam Hargrave cleverly staged so that it looks like it’s unfolding in one long, unbroken take. Nothing in Burn Out is anywhere close to as impressive technically, but if you’re yearning for the same sense of speed, this little French thriller might just scratch that itch. Burn Out’s story centres on Tony, a forklift driver who dreams of becoming a professional motorcycle racer. He quickly adds a third job to his resume, too: drug runner. See, Tony’s ex-wife owes a local gangster a considerable sum of money. To work off her debt, Tony begins working as a courier who must race against the clock while delivering narcotics all around the city. Not only is the direction smooth and stylish, but the movie itself moves at a breakneck pace. There isn’t time to get bored by any of the tropes you’ve seen in other movies. The motorcycle chases are what you’re here for, and on that front, Burn Out delivers.
Forget the helicopters, the explosions, the car crashes, and the death-defying stunts. When it comes down to it, the best action movies are about conflicts between people. That’s why The Decline works. The lean Quebec thriller strips away most of the trappings of big-budget action movies, as most of the film takes place in a remote mountain compound. Then it pits two teams of survivalists against each other in a brutal fight where there will only be one winner. Initially, Alain simply wants to teach his band of ex-soldiers, hunters, survivalists, and paramilitary enthusiasts how to survive the apocalypse he knows is coming. However, when a body drops, Alain becomes worried that he’ll lose his training camp and get sent to prison. His solution? Kill anyone who wants to tattle, and figure out the rest later. What follows is a bloody game of cat-and-mouse out in the Quebec wilderness, in which one side will do anything they can to escape, and the other will pay any cost to keep them quiet. It’s a sparse movie, but an awfully exciting one.