Load up for ten badass action movies you may have missed…

There’s a well-worn genre that continues to attract the biggest audiences from the big screen right down to streaming. It’s action! From Cowboys to Commandos and everything in between, a good action film sets the pulse racing and provides audiences with a wild rollercoaster ride to ‘splosion town. These days the cineplexes are mostly filled with spandex-wearing superheroes, which continue to attract the bulk of popcorn-munching moviegoers. 

However, when it comes to action badasses, the toughest dawgs out there aren’t going to slip into their lycra onesies. So saddle up and prime your Winchester because it’s time for 10 badass action movies you may have missed.

Sisu

We’ll start with a recent balls-to-the-wall action opus that is still floating just beneath the radar. If there’s an argument to say that the Disney/MCU influence is slowly killing the genre, then worry not because there are plenty of nations outside of America flying the flag and still making genuinely thrilling action movies.

Sisu, a ruthlessly simple Finnish action movie sees retreating Nazi soldiers attempt to steal a cache of gold from a wandering prospecter on their way out of the country. Said prospector happens to be a full-blown badass who’d give John Wick nightmares.  Sisu is masses of fun and it’s as simple as a grizzled, near silent hero eviscerating Nazis for 90 minutes but doing so with a gleeful style and imaginative kills.

Badland Hunters

I’ve recently got into the joys of seeing Korean powerhouse, Don Lee slamming bad guys into the dirt in an array of action fusion films. You’ll more likely be aware of films like The Roundup and Train to Busan but Lee has been prolific. The stoic, yet strangely affable badass doesn’t bound around with a complex array of moves (like an Iko Uwais or Tony Jaa) for example. His choreographed carnage is simpler, but much like Schwarzenegger, enjoyably effective in his powerful displays. 

Badland Hunters hit Netflix this year and if you have not yet, it’s well worth checking out. Lee battles Zombies/mutants once again in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. He of course does ample rag doll throws, power punches and there’s liberal use of a machete too. It’s perfect streaming fare. 

Extreme Prejudice

Walter Hill doesn’t really get the kudos he fully deserves, given he’s made some incredible action movies like The Driver, The Warriors and 48 Hours. This guy just knew how to put together a rock-solid, impeccably crafted action film. Maybe he never quite hit the heights of James Cameron or John McTiernan at their best, but Hill’s output from the 70s to mid-90s was rarely below par. 

One of his most underrated flicks is Extreme Prejudice, a Peckinpah-esque modern western that’s a great ode to The Wild Bunch. A grizzled Texas Ranger (Nick Nolte) has to take down his old buddy turned crime lord (Powers Boothe). A special task force is tracking the nefarious criminal who has a band of mercs and everything inevitably leads to an incredible finale that’s a masterful display of old-school practical FX and stunt work. The action throughout is jaw-dropping and Hill cranks up every blast and impact as bad guys don’t so much fall, but fly through the air. It’s exaggerated mayhem with thunderous sound and boy oh boy, they just don’t make action films like this any more. 

Showdown in Little Tokyo

Hill’s 48 Hours breathed new life into the buddy-up action movie which was further bolstered by the likes of Lethal Weapon. Mismatched partners were all the rage in the 80s and 90s and one such gem was Showdown in Little Tokyo which saw Mark L. Lester (Commando) helm a nonstop rollicking action film with Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee starring. 

Despite being a Warner picture, the film was put out with minimal backing and fanfare, ultimately swallowed up by the all-consuming box office scoffer, Terminator 2. In time, Showdown has built a cult following thanks to how brilliantly ludicrous it is. It’s incredibly lithe, jumping from action scene to action scene as Lee and Lundgren trade barbs and deliver knockouts. Cary Tagawa has always been a great villain and he’s perfectly menacing here. The leading men have great chemistry too, but Lee does steal the show in a further example of the talent that was just rising to a boil when he made The Crow

Full Contact

John Woo was the Hong Kong action director with the most recognition in the West, thanks to how well Hard Boiled travelled before his breakouts, Hard Target and Face/Off. Ringo Lam didn’t quite get the same widespread attention, even if he too was brought over to helm a Van Damme vehicle. Prior to that, Lam was most widely known for City on Fire which was a major source of inspiration for Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. 

However, aficionados will argue his opus was Full Contact in 1992 which were it not for Hard Boiled, would probably have brought Lam to the forefront. It’s just as chaotically carnage filled with stuntmen performing incredible feats among a never-ending barrage of pyrotechnics. It also stars Chow Yun-Fat who headlined several films for Woo and Lam and the charismatic star is as badass as ever here. 

Drive

This HBO classic has magnetised most action-loving viewers who have happened across it over the years (often by accident or word of mouth). Perennially underrated Mark Dacascos stars alongside Kadeem Hardison in a film which did Rush Hour, better than Rush Hour

Steve Wang and the Alpha Stunt team put together a frenetic and near-constant collection of Hong Kong-style action sequences absolutely filled with creative choreography and stunt work. Dacascos’ graceful and balletic movements look great, whilst the chemistry between him and Hardison adds so much in this genuinely funny film. Then you throw in Brittany Murphy as a kooky motel owner to add a whole other firecracker level of charm (and again, she has great chemistry with the guys). With this being treated to a great 4k transfer and looking amazing, there’s no excuse not to find this gem that’s outrageously good fun. 

Nobody

Produced by David Leitch, this one was sold as something in the mould of John Wick. It’s an enjoyable action film with a surprising turn from Bob Odenkirk who subverts his image to play a Wick-esque badass just trying to live a peaceful existence until violence inevitably finds him.

There’s a lot of love for this one by those who actually got around to seeing it but it hasn’t got as wide an audience as it deserves, perhaps with casual action fans unsold on the idea of Odernkirk as an action hero. Though he doesn’t take to it with the same proficiency as Keanu, he’s no slouch and the fight sequences are excellent. There’s a suitable blend of wry comedy between the action and a great supporting cast too. 

Stone Cold

No, not a biopic about Steve Austin’s wrestling career. This is the action film that was supposed to launch Brian Bosworth (aka The Boz) to the heights of Stallone and Schwarzenegger. It didn’t, but Stone Cold is a thunder punch delivery of relentless action and stunts. You’d expect nothing less from a film helmed by Craig R Baxley, the stunt man turned director who helmed Action Jackson and Dark Angel, as well as the mercenary gun battle sequence in Predator

Baxley’s films in the 80s and early 90s were packed with explosions, vehicular mayhem and squibs aplenty. Perhaps no more excessive use of booming squibs and ratchet pulls than in Stone Cold. Bullets hit with the force of an express train and Stone Cold is rambunctiously over the top. 

To Live and Die in LA

Perhaps the slickest most style-driven film that the late great, William Friedkin ever made. In French Connection, his use of handheld gave the film a frenetic, almost docu feel that made it gritty, but this film almost feels like it came from Michael Mann or Tony Scott, showing the range Friedkin had as a stylist. 

To Live and Die in LA still remains criminally unheralded and it’s a real overlooked gem from the 80s action vault. William Peterson’s TV status  outweighs his brief run as a leading man as both this and Manhunter failed at the box office. He’s great here (despite some questionable 80s fashions) and given a perfect antagonist in Willem Defoe. If there’s one thing many discover about this film before even seeing it, it’s the incredible car chase. 

Undisputed 2: Last Man Standing

If you want unheralded then two of the most underrated action heroes of all time, are Michael Jai White and Scott Adkins. Both are absolute physical forces of nature with their own unique on-screen style and presence. White floated on the borderline of hitting it big before starring in Undisputed 2, an unexpected sequel to a Walter Hill film nobody saw (starring Wesley Snipes and Ving Rhames). Focusing once again on prison set brawls, this sees White taking on the role previously played by Rhames and his character Chambers transposed to an East European prison from hell to face the legendary and undefeated, Boyka. 

In a rare case, this straight-to-video sequel is a gazillion times better than the forgettable original. It put Adkins and his gravity-defying kicks on the map and later spawned two more excellent sequels (recasting Boyka as the protagonist). The second, thanks to the combined presence of White and Adkins, is arguably the best. Isaac Florentine, a specialist in low-budget martial arts cinema, does a great job of injecting dynamism into the brilliantly choreographed fights and he never loses visual coherence courtesy of Ross Clarkson’s great camerawork. The cast is rounded out by a couple of great character actors, Ben Cross and Ken Lerner. 

Have you seen any of these? What rarely-seen badass action films do you recommend? Let us know on our social channels @FlickeringMyth or hit me up @JolliffeProductions

 





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