Movies are many different things to many different peoples. A film may tug at your heart strings, tickle your funny bone, or change the way you look at the world. But sometimes all you want from a movie is an adrenaline shot straight to the heart, a testosterone booster right to the balls, or whatever the female equivalent of getting really hyped up over an action film is.
2012 didn’t see the apocalypse, but it did see a bunch of cinematic ass-kickery, the best of which is counted down here for your pleasure.
12. Dredd 3D
A comic book fixture for several decades, Judge Dredd returns to the big screen in a more accurate portrayal than he was originally given by Sylvester Stallone. Karl Urban actually drew a line in the sand to make sure his character never removed his helmet, like his namesake from the popular comics. Sure, there’s a core similarity shared with The Raid in that Dredd and his rookie partner Anderson must, more or less, fight their way to the top of a high rise in Mega City 1, but the difference here is Dredd is far more reliant on his Lawgiver sidearm but just as likely to break someone’s skull.
There is little mercy and few relaxed moments in the film, which puts the pedal to the metal right from the start and never lets up.
Jason Statham does what Jason Statham does in Safe, where he plays Luke Wright, a good guy cop on the outs with bad guy cops and two different mafias. When he steps in to do the right thing and protect a young girl, all hell breaks loose around him and all sorts of bones break too. With a good mix of action and a clever, immersive gunfight/car chase, Safe satisfies without rewriting the book or challenging Statham in anyway.
10. Wrath of the Titans
Wrath of the Titans does everything right that its predecessor got wrong – namely in having Perseus kick all sorts of ass, from regular grunts to massive beasts, all without shortchanging the battles. The sequel easily outdoes the first in action, excitement, and pacing, never rushing the monster fights and showing us how cool a God of War film will eventually be.
9. Red Dawn
A remake of the classic and personal favorite 1980s Cold War fear film, this slick update features a handsome cast in much cleaner clothes utilizing much newer weapons. Gone is a lot of the dramatic heaviness of the original, but so is much of the melodrama. The film definitely feels whittled down (a director’s or extended cut is definitely warranted), but this update packs in a lot of excitement and a bunch of bullets. And did I mention the handsome cast?
Director Steven Soderbergh continues his risky casting decisions, moving away from unknowns and hardcore porn stars to Mixed Martial Arts sensation and beautiful bombshell Gina Carano. A bit more grounded in reality than many of the other films on the list, this film embraces a lot of the tropes and cliches of the typical spy film, but is ultimately entertaining and thrilling thanks to the face-crushing performance of Carano and a deep pool of co-starring talent.
7. The Expendables 2
Improving upon the original, Sylvester Stallone‘s love letter to the 80s packs a bigger punch, a bigger budget, a bigger cast, and a bigger death toll. With expanded roles for Schwarzenegger and Willis and the introduction of the Lone Wolf himself, Chuck Norris, The Expendables 2 is essentially more of the same done better. Jean Claude Van Damme turns in an excellent performance as the films antagonist and the constant stream of blood and exploding bad guys is enough to satisfy anyone’s blood lust.
6. Total Recall
Another remake that is inferior to the original but enjoyable in its own ways. Len Wiseman does his best to reinterpret the source material in a new way, abandoning Mars and the Muscles, replacing it with a slicker, shinier future full of really, really, super hot women in Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel. With fantastic production design from superstar designer and sometimes director Patrick Tatopoulos and a few imaginative fight sequences, Total Recall spreads the mayhem on thick.
James Bond’s most recent outing garnered a ton of critical acclaim and was a hit with audiences worldwide, firmly establishing Daniel Craig as one of the best Bonds in history. Thanks to great cinematography and an entertaining villain, Skyfall fires on all cylinders, perfectly marrying old school Bond charm (komodo dragons!) in a slick, modern setting. While Pierce Brosnan may have killed the most of any Bond thus far, Craig does it with style and unparalleled brutality.
4. Jack Reacher
When the diminutive Tom Cruise was cast as the massive man monster Jack Reacher, fans of the books were incredulous – at least until they saw the movie. Fortunately, Cruise does have the physical presence of the novel character, he does manage to kick a lot of ass and drive a car like a madman. While much of the film is Reacher working to solve a mystery, when the action happens, it makes you feel oh so good.
What if Guy Pearce played an amalgamation of Snake Plissken and Han Solo tasked with rescuing a very important and very attractive woman from a floating space prison?
You’d end up with an ass kicking good time called Lockout, that’s what. This fast-paced film from producer Luc Besson and directed by James Mather & Stephen St. Leger is unfiltered adrenaline with a side of comic gold and a dynamite performance by Guy Pearce.
2. The Raid: Redemption
This Indonesian actioner garnered perhaps the most praise of any action film this year and with good reason – it’s intense. Chock full of relentless action and little in the way of plot other than “Fight your way to the top,” the film starts off with lots of bangs and great gun fights before transitioning to brutal hand to hand and sharp object combat. While I found it slightly repetitive after awhile, the action and stunt work is still some of the absolute best of the year.
1. The Avengers
The Avengers blew the bar away and set it rather high for all future fun comic book movies – as opposed to the grim darkness of the recent Batman flicks. With several great action scenes and the best climax of any Marvel film to date, this superhero team up earns the top spot for being both exciting and completely satisfying on virtually every level. The action manages to be alternately fierce, fun and dramatic. All in all, a totally enjoyable action-oriented flick.
Animated Honorable Mention: Berserk: The Golden Age – The Egg of the King, the first in a trilogy of adaptations of a popular manga book is a brutal animated feature, something along the lines of a cartoon Ironclad. The flick starts off with an epic battle that culminates with a knight getting his head cleaved in half so hard his eye pops out and the battles just get bloodier from there. The 3D style animation left me cold at a times and the movie slows a bit at the end, but if animation is your thing, you won’t be disappointed with the action in this one.