Action film is a film genre in which one or more heroes are thrust into a series of challenges that typically include physical feats, extended fight scenes, violence, and frantic chases. Action films tend to feature a resourceful character struggling against incredible odds, which include life-threatening situations, a villain, or a pursuit which generally concludes in victory for the hero.
Advancements in CGI have made it cheaper and easier to create action sequences and other visual effects that required the efforts of professional stunt crews in the past. However, reactions to action films containing significant amounts of CGI have been mixed as films that use computer animations to create unrealistic, highly unbelievable events are often met with criticism. While action has long been a recurring component in films, the "action film" genre began to develop in the 1970s along with the increase of stunts and special effects. The genre is closely associated with the thriller and adventure film genres, and it may also contain elements of spy fiction and espionage.
The long-running success of the James Bond films or series (which dominated the action films of the 1960s) introduced a staple of the modern-day action film: the resourceful hero. Such larger-than-life characters were a veritable “one-man army”; able to dispatch villainous masterminds after cutting through their disposable henchmen in increasingly creative ways. Such heroes are ready with one-liners, puns, and dry quips. The Bond films also used fast cutting, car chases, fist fights, a variety of weapons and gadgets, and elaborate action sequences.
During the 1970s, the Bond films faced competition as gritty detective stories and urban crime dramas began to evolve and fuse themselves with the new "action" style, leading to a string of maverick police officer films, such as Bullitt (1968), The French Connection (1971) and Dirty Harry (1971). Dirty Harry essentially lifted its star, Clint Eastwood, out of his cowboy typecasting, and framed him as the archetypal hero of the urban action film, proving that the modern world offered just as much glamour, excitement, and potential for violence as the Old West. Dirty Harry signaled the end of the prolific "cowboys and Indians" era of Western films. Restrictions on language, adult content, and violence had loosened up, and these elements became more widespread. The cross-breeding of genres (such as spy-films and war movies, or westerns and detective dramas) would become the norm in the 1980s. It should also be noted, however, that the 1970s saw the introduction of martial-arts films to western audiences.
Later, the 1988 film, Die Hard, was particularly influential on the development of the action genre. In the film, Bruce Willis plays a New York police detective who inadvertently becomes embroiled in a terrorist take-over of a Los Angeles office building high-rise. The film set a pattern for a host of imitators, like Under Siege (1992), which used the same formula in a different setting. By the end of the 1980s, the influence of the successful action film could be felt in almost every genre.
Like the Western genre, spy-movies, as well as urban-action films, were starting to parody themselves, and with the growing revolution in CGI (computer generated imagery), the "real-world" settings began to give way to increasingly fantastic environments. This new era of action films often had budgets unlike any in the history of motion pictures. The success of the many Dirty Harry and James Bond sequels had proven that a single successful action film could lead to a continuing action franchise. Thus, the 1980s and 1990s saw a rise in both budgets and the number of sequels a film could generally have. This led to an increasing number of filmmakers to create new technologies that would allow them to beat the competition and take audiences to new heights. The success of Tim Burton's Batman (1989) led to a string of financially successful sequels. Within a single decade, they proved the viability of a novel subgenre of action film: the comic-book movie.
While action films continue to flourish as the medium-budget genre movie, it is remarkable how well it has fused with tent-pole pictures. For example, 2009's Star Trek had several science fiction tropes and concepts like time travel through a black hole. However, most of the film was structured around action sequences, many of them quite conventional (hand-to-hand, shooting). While the original Star Wars featured some of this kind of fighting, there was just as much emphasis on star-ship chases and dog fights in outer space. The newer films featured more light-saber duels, sometimes more intense and acrobatic than the originals. Some fan films also have similar duel scenes like those the prequel trilogy.
It was action with a science fiction twist. The trend with Star Trek and even the grittier Dark Knight Trilogy, is that hand-to-hand fighting and Asian martial-arts techniques are now widely used in science fiction and superhero movies.
As for the 21st century action star, Jason Statham might be the most obvious Western example, though he still has not led a summer tent-pole. His dedication to being an action star is nonetheless notable. The dearth of new action heroes is a popular topic of conversation, so much so that Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables and The Expendables 2 parody the aging crop of 1980s superstars.
Avi Lerner (born 13 October 1947) is a film producer, primarily of American action movies.
Boaz Davidson (Hebrew: בועז דוידזון, born 8 November 1943) is an Israeli film director, producer and screenwriter. He was born in Tel Aviv, Israel and studied film in London.
Bob Weinstein (born October 18, 1954) is an American film producer. He is the founder and head of Dimension Films, former co-chairman of Miramax Films, and current head, with his brother Harvey Weinstein, of The Weinstein Company.
Don Simpson (October 29, 1943 – January 19, 1996) was an American film producer, screenwriter, and actor. Simpson, along with his producing partner Jerry Bruckheimer, produced such hit films as Flashdance (1983), Beverly Hills Cop (1984), Top Gun (1986), and The Rock (1996). Their films would go on to earn $3 billion.
Harvey Weinstein (born March 19, 1952) is an American film producer and film studio executive. He is best known as co-founder of Miramax Films. He and his brother Bob have been co-chairmen of The Weinstein Company, their film production company, since 2005. He won an Academy Award for producing Shakespeare in Love, and garnered seven Tony Awards for producing a variety of winning plays and musicals including The Producers, Billy Elliot the Musical, and August: Osage County.
Jerry Bruckheimer (born September 21, 1945) is an American film and television producer. He is known as the producer with many machine guns in his films and has achieved great success in the genres of action, drama, and science fiction. His best-known television series are CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, Without a Trace, Cold Case, and The Amazing Race. Some of his best-known films include Beverly Hills Cop, Flashdance, Top Gun, The Rock, Con Air, Armageddon, Bad Boys, Enemy of the State, Black Hawk Down, Pearl Harbor, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the National Treasure franchise. He also serves as a Director at ZeniMax Media.
Jerry Weintraub (born September 26, 1937) is an American film producer and former chairman and CEO of United Artists. He now lives in Palm Desert, California.
Joel Silver (born July 14, 1952) is an American film producer, known for action films like Lethal Weapon and Die Hard. He is owner of Silver Pictures and co-founder of Dark Castle Entertainment.
Menahem Golan (born May 31, 1929) (Hebrew: מנחם גולן) is an Israeli director and producer. He has produced movies for stars such as Sean Connery, Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Charles Bronson, and was known for a period as a producer of comic book-style movies like Masters of the Universe, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, Captain America, and his aborted attempt to bring Spider-Man to the silver screen. Using the pen name of Joseph Goldman, Golan has also written and "polished" film scripts. He was co-owner of Golan-Globus with his cousin Yoram Globus. Golan produced about 200 films, directed 44, and won 8 times the Violin David Awards and The Israel Prize in Cinema.
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