The Typical Action Man

The Typical Action Man

I've got nothing against action movies; in fact, some of my favorite movies are fast-paced action flicks (Matrix, LoTR, Pitch Black come to mind). But you know what I find annoying about most movies in this genre? Irrespective of whether it is well-directed or offers a brilliant storyline, it almost always the same type of character as the male lead. You know, the gun-slinging, swearing-when-not-silent man who saves the day? Admittedly, not all flicks opt for this but a large percentage of them are certainly guilty of using this mold. You know what I'm talking about. Check out this list:

Typically, this character will not talk much. Nah, dialog is a bit much for him. It dents his macho image. Someone somewhere in the movie-making process decided that the strong silent type is the safest bet for such a character. Should he ramble on? No, what if he turns out to be wrong? Or has to apologize? Macho men don't do that! Ever notice that there is a handy nerdy side character nearby when the story is in need of extensive dialog? And the action guy will finish off that explanation with 'Let's do this!'. Much as I love Pitch Black, I must say that Riddick did this quite a bit. Actually, that is pretty much a given in any Vin Diesel movie.

Well, just when you grumble at his mono-syllabic conversation fillers, the writers will add in a 'Oh no, he didn't' moment. Of course, they don't think anyone would see it that way. They figured everyone would stand up, clap and say 'Awesome!'. I am referring to the action guy's major contributions to the dialog/plot, those little tidbits that guarantee that he is not mistaken as part of the furniture – the crappy one-liners and weird cryptic warnings. You know what I mean. Imagine two of the side characters fighting it out. Their dialog contains some or more of the lines: 'We can't do this ... millions may be in danger ... you don't care about the folks, you care about the money … the dilithium crystals cannot handle that kind of pressure ….” Now, Mr. Action guy will pipe up with something worthy of a facepalm-worthy … like “Question is, can you do this?” or “I'm ready … are you?” Riddick was even more economical than most folks when he adopted this tactic; the man kept throwing back phrases others had used on him earlier on in the flick and then pausing for effect. And if you want a cryptic warning example, think of any Nicholas Cage movie. Better yet, watch National Treasure.

Ever notice that an action guy's character is centered around such silly traits and props? For instance, such folks almost always own a muscle car or hectic motor bike. You don't have to add layers to his personality or work on fleshing out his character. Give him the 'right' props and it does your job for you. Again, a number of Vin Diesel and Nicholas Cage flicks come to mind. Then there is Keanu Reeves in his heyday (Speed anyone?).

And why do these action folk have the same gestures and mannerisms? The arrogant strut, the overconfident nod (think Cage in most of his flicks) and puzzled head tilt that they do when they want to appear cool and yet inquisitive. I think there was only one person who could pull this off and do it really well -  Major Alan Schaefer! He didn't faff about with such nonsense. He bulldozed his way through foliage. And he'll hack his way through the bushes, none of this 'listen and do the puzzled face' pretenses. Point is, his character stayed true to a personality that was, let's face it, a caricature of a military personality. A character that was more realist (and did justice to such a characterization) was Jack O-Neill from the Stargate series. Sure, he displayed most of the above traits. But the stories also revealed how, sometimes, these traits could be shortcomings, how rushing in like a crazy action figure would not solve a problem. Of course there were times when we needed Jack to come in and kick alien butt.

So, have I missed anything? What other traits can you think of?