While it would be complete & utter folly to hold up my Death Proof series as examples of great (or even, having just reread them, marginally acceptable) pieces of writing up on this site – they were most certainly the most fun to do. By a long shot.
(They also rack up some of the most hits of any posts here – though Jasper’s Robocop piece is still the most popular thing in the site’s history… goddammit)
The idea there was, simply enough: celebrate stuntmen & stuntwomen. That’s it.
And while the three posts I did write covered a fair amount of ground – there’s still more singing owed these unsung heroes.
Most notably… I never did write about Evel Knievel.
Here we are – last in the series, folks. If you’re still tuning in to read me ramble about this stuff, God love you for it. And if you really enjoyed it, check out the next series the Desk will be putting up in which Yaz and myself critically dissect our favorite action flicks. Sort of a sister piece to this series but of a much different tone – the idea being to comment upon the merits (non-ironic use of the word there) of the films themselves as films. And I’m really excited for that. Yaz will likely contribute to the first post in the series, being that he’s apparently got one in the chamber and I’m too busy watching Long Way Round this week.
So that’s just around the bend. But before we get there, here’s the final post in the Death Proof series. In the first, Yaz and me talked about the faces of our franchises: the Action Star. Then, I compared the spectacular, revolutionary car chases in Bullitt and the Italian Job. But let’s break it down a bit further and end praising a few legendary individuals from the field.
Ah, the car chase. A fundamental building block of the action genre, a good car chase is easy to take for granted nowadays – and for good reason.
It’s not a reflection on the stuntmen themselves – the drivers have not gotten worse. It’s just few and far between that a film highlights the inherent skill involved in coordinating a car chase. Instead, it’s glossed over with CGI, lightning-quick cuts, and more often than not, a Christ-awful Modern Rock soundtrack. You can put a guy in a flame retardant suit and have him roll his Chevy Nova through the air between two skyscrapers and I will be rendered incapable of caring if you make me listen to Nickleback at the same time.
Popular taste has almost neutered the car chase. People have attention spans that can only be measured in nanoseconds. As much as I love the patently retarded Fast & Furious series (because it sorta gets that it’s patently retarded) it’s far more indicative of what people want to see nowadays. But here, let’s chalk up another post in the Death Proof series and applaud the totally fucking rad car chases of times gone by as we compare two classics: The Italian Job and Bullitt.
I’ve garnered an immense amount of respect for the action film genre in my life, even holding onto the dream for a few years when I was a kid that one day I’d be a stuntman and get paid to jump-kick off of walls with a Beretta in one hand and another fucking Beretta in the other. I vividly recall moments from my childhood that began with me and/or my cousins (usually “and”) daring each other to do something ridiculously dangerous, ultimately and inevitably ending with something being caught on fire. When my dad gave me a video camera one summer, we realized how tame our ideas had always been – with the advent of cinema into the equation, the flood gates of stupid opened up and we busily went about trying to out-do ourselves.
My wrist still clicks like a motherfucker after the go-kart went too wide and I flew off my skateboard and broke it (my wrist, not my skateboard). No fires that day, but I guarantee we would have gotten to it if I hadn’t had to be a little bitch and go to the hospital.
The stunts are, obviously, what make any action movie worth watching. It damn sure isn’t the plot I liked about The Transporter. Without these men, women and their impressive brass balls, some of my favorite cinematic experiences would never have happened. I personally don’t want to think of a world without Lethal Weapon. Somewhere out there is an alternate reality in which Jean Claude Van Damme is an accountant and it is just wrong to even think about.
And so, Hollywood Stunt Association, today I salute you and the brilliant work you’ve done by starting what’s going to be an on-again/off-again series – a celebration of the action film genre.
Today, the faces of franchises – the action stars. Guys who, at a certain point, said This is what I will do now. Not to break out into “serious” acting, not just for the paycheck – but the guys who legitimately made the genre their life’s work, pouring their damn hearts into it.
Read on for my (and Yaz‘s) personal favorites. Continue reading