Recommended Smaller, Overlooked, or Underrated Action Movies in the Redbox Kiosks
There’s no shortage of big blockbuster action films to escape into–current enjoyable fare includes Fast Five, Captain America, X-Men: First Class, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Thor, and Sucker Punch.
But once you’ve seen those a few times, you might be ready for something off the beaten (and blown up) path. Here are five recent worthwhile movies that come at the action a little differently.
Action fans, sci-fi fans, monster-movie fans, and devotees of Edgar Wright’s “Blood & Ice Cream” flicks (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), do not miss this one. Working with Wright’s production team, first-time writer-director Joe Cornish has created a low-budget, space-invasion funhouse full of street-sass attitude. (Also on hand is Wright all-star Nick Frost.) If Super 8 is an ode to Spielbergian alien movies, Attack the Block is 100% John Carpenter, right down to the retro-cool techno soundtrack and the mix of anti-authority weed humor and gory horror. Here tough South London youths fight off a horde of toothy fur-balls with a reckless, headlong energy, but the film’s dynamicism never turns spastic or chaotic. Instead Cornish puts his young, likably rough-around-the-edges characters (led by the terrific John Boyega’s Moses) into a well-told, nicely plotted pulp tale that should remain a beloved cult classic for a long time.
Director Joe Wright’s best known for his period dramas (Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, the upcoming Anna Karenina). But while the hyper-kinetic and often brutal action of Hanna is outside his usual wheelhouse, Wright still brings a pleasingly chilly formality to the film’s techno-beat mayhem. His Atonement star Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones) is the eponymous character, a young girl raised in Arctic isolation by her ex-CIA father (Eric Bana) and trained to be a ruthless killer. Hanna sets out to learn the secrets of her past, a quest that quickly turns dark fairy tale, with Cate Blanchett as the Wicked Queen, a CIA director hot on the girl’s trail. The film pulses with visceral physicality as Ronan provides a strong, compelling center to all the gritty “teen Jane Bond” action. Meanwhile, Blanchett chews plenty of scenery and manages to swallow it all, but best is bottle-blond Tom Hollander, giving the usual cold Euro-hitman role a cruel, whistling jaunt.
After the jumpiness of Attack the Block and Hanna, let’s slow things down with this pleasing Western miniseries. Made for TV in 2006, Broken Trail won Emmys for Best Miniseries and for its co-stars Robert Duvall and Thomas Haden Church. They play a couple of cowboys whose northwestern horse drive picks up several Chinese women who’ve escaped from enslaved prostitution. If that sounds similar to 1989R42;s Lonesome Dove (which also starred Duvall), fair enough. But while director Walter Hill (The Long Riders, 48 Hours) keeps the proceedings an easy-going PG-13, there are definitely traces of Deadwood’s cynical edge and Unforgiven’s revisionism in the mix. Of course the big draw here is Duvall, full as always of good-hearted, folksy grit and weary, dusty wisdom.
In Millennium Dragon–an animated tale of Japanese history and mythology–an unwitting modern-day boy is transported back 1200 years to the Heian Period, where he learns he’s the waited-for savior who can ride the legendary Orochi dragon and end a fight with the “evil” oni (demons). While all is not as it seems with the oni, the film’s story still doesn’t break much new ground, and the characters and dialogue are geared for younger viewers. However, the hand-drawn animation is often gorgeous, the battles are dazzling, and the designs of the dragon, oni, and various other elemental creatures are darkly beautiful.
You’ve probably lain awake many a night wondering, “What would it look like if Moulin Rouge‘s Baz Luhrmann directed a samurai-spaghetti Western?” You can rest easy now–Luhrmann didn’t direct The Warrior’s Way, but this operatic New Zealand epic’s cross-genre mash-up of swords and six shooters sure feels like a Luhrmann carnival of stylistic excess. (Literally: There’s an actual carnival on hand.) Not everything fits together perfectly, but as a Chinese assassin hiding out in an Old West town, South Korea’s Dong-gun Jang makes a charmingly stoic hero against the dust and blood-red skies. Likewise, a (nose-less!) Danny Huston and smirking Geoffrey Rush are having a ball amid all the Tarantiono-esque bullets and blades. Topped off with a whirling climax that lets fly with Gatling-gun abandon, this guilty pleasure is a rootin’, tootin’, chop-socky hoot.–