14. Irreversible (Gaspar Noe, 2002)
But now violence undergoes descent, frequently driving into un-enjoyable and monstrously unfriendly madness, as of the 21st century. Irreversible mightn’t contain nearly as much violence or gore in running time, but what material it does present falters under the wrong side of unforgettable.
Imagine the cinematic equivalent to an ideally vibrant, exciting night in the city of love, Paris, undergo the treatment of its writer adamant with exploring the scenario’s worst possible outcome. Do this, whilst genuinely grounding it in our gritty, unapologetic reality, and you get one of the definitive cinematic nightmares.
Two highly infamous and heavily discussed moments in Irreversible constitute the extent of its graphic, uneasy content, and challenge any advocate for original, fresh cinema (that Noe has made himself notable for) to sit through and shower with adoration.
Firstly we have a violent scuffle originating, for reasons frightfully unknown to us, within a gay bar, at the hands of two aggressive young men. One thing leads to another and an individual’s face is brutally caved in with the flat end of a fire extinguisher. The second mortifying sequence serves an elongated, disgusting rape sequences, which posits arguably the most uncomfortable challenge in recent cinema history.
A terrific picture, by all means, Gaspar Noe crafted one of the most structurally innovative, exciting, and emotionally catalytic of the 2000s.
Unlike other films of its kind, investigations and experiments into repulsive content, Irreversible commands a tone and purpose wherein its frankness and consideration in regard to those more heart-wrenching nights of our existence might be complimented through but two scenes of graphic madness to convince one toward the utter repulsion and revile general acts of sadistic, cruel behaviour truly entail in reality, rather than the stylish, cartoonish fervour that is often the focus of a gore flick’s artistic motivation.
15. Oldboy (Park-Chan Wook, 2003)
One of the most widely seen and prolifically acclaimed of all eastern titles of the 21st century thus far, Wook’s Oldboy was the major instigator in demanding western acknowledgment and attention toward a contemporary wave of excellence within South Korean cinema.
Oldboy follows a notable characteristic trend of Park Chan Wook’s filmography, to present movie violence to his viewers, on paper, as any other filmmaker would, to be committed at points in the film wherein the immorality of our narrative’s antagonists must be affirmed, or when their just desserts are in thorough order.
Instead of the stylish fervour, sleekness and (generally) glorious unauthenticity (that which initially permits us to enjoy graphic violence at the cinema), Wook showers his moments of violence under a heavy coat of repugnant brutality, faux-realism and throbbing, pulsating pain.
This sets Oldboy as a unique counterpart to its similarly great predecessor Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance. The latter is comparable, stylistically, to Irreversible, a blunt, gut-sawing attempt at violent realism, taking place in a time and place wherein God has drawn all the worst cards for humanity. Oldboy, on the other hand, transplants the sickening openness and catastrophic madness Park-Chan Wook had just mastered, implanting it within a manga-originated revenge narrative. Or so it would seem.
In the end, Wook shatters the delusion that a, supposedly justified, tale of bloody revenge (as the cinema has been highly known to glorify) is any less a collection of physical rejection of others’ rights (and human laws), the film winding down to a conclusion wherein a viewer deems none of the atrocities committed by its players found any kind of major justification, reason to exist, or significant separation from what one might find in a movie more upfront about its depiction of violence (a la Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance or Irreversible).
16. Sin City (Robert Rodriguez, 2005)
Frank Miller’s steroid neo-noir is one of the finest pieces of comic entertainment ever penned. Robert Rodriguez’s is less an adaptation, and more like an outright translation, taking with it all the bloody, precise and uber satisfying carnage that so celebrated the fulfilling of primal urges (particularly during one’s adolescent years).
Beset with excellent, memorable characters, a gratuitous and relentless visual style, a dream-like quality to its sequencing, and a universe penultimate toward all envisioning crafting a fictional universe devoted entirely to permitting acts of sordid entertainment: if you find yourself sold by Sin City’s promise of fantastical craziness and non-chronological sweeping grittiness, you’ll find yourself revisiting it time and again.
Does Sin City offer any kind of intelligent treatise on violent acts? Absolutely not. Rather, it gifts us with a 101 on how to make stylish bloodiness work to a tee, without taking it for granted or coming off as bland or uniform with other faux-provocative, edgy filmmakers.
17. Tokyo Gore Police (Yoshihiro Nishimura, 2008)
Many of the films placed here upon this intricate listing share something in common regarding their impact upon me personally: both pushed the boundaries over what was capable of accomplishing on celluloid.
Nishimura’s 2008 bombastic, explosive farce, combining the most bizarre traits of Tetsuo, Braindead and Battle Royale to craft gore-hound pornography: ecstasy for those whom adore the exploration of a red imagination’s limitations.
One of the most satisfying, vainglorious savage farces one is capable of encountering, Tokyo Gore Police exists entirely for one subset of cinephiles, who are bound to revere it.
18. Watchmen (Zach Snyder, 2009)
As of the 21st century, one might expect most mainstream cinematic ventures into ultra-violent territory to have originated as graphic novels, a medium with which the celebration of edgy, unfriendly content has become a wide norm.
Alan Moore’s Watchmen, which kicked off the intense critical attention summarily devoted to the bracket, introduced a morbid alternative twentieth century wherein the existence of superheroes was not a benefit, but rather a curse that, ironically perhaps, overly-prospered the United States toward a descent into near Cold War dystopia.
Like El Topo was to the western, or Oldboy to the revenge narrative, Watchmen turned the superhero genre on its head, demonstrating a more harrowing depiction of the violence such privileged, or psychologically damaged as Moore envisions them, individuals would inspire throughout their crime-fighting exploits.
Dr. Manhattan has the ability to upset the molecular structure of his enemies, and why should this result in his power doing anything but morbidly, bloodily, tearing their physical self asunder? How else might Rorschach treat a child molester he captures and holds potential victim to his whim, than to hack at his skull with a meat cleaver? Speaking of Rorschach, what happens when you dump him in a prison surrounded by all those whom are in there under his unofficial jurisdiction?
Zach Snyder’s adaptation remains one of the most polarising films of the 21st century, some deducing it to be an ideal, stylistically fervent work transcribing the written, and accompanying visual, excellence to digital celluloid, and others an utter mess, which transposes the finer intricacies and nuances of its source material in favour of meagre attempts at blockbuster fare.
19. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)
One integral segment toward the finale of Inglourious Basterds is one of the key depictions, and analysis’, of violence ever employed by any cinematic artist. This is, of course, referring to the Nazi screening of their sniper propaganda epic, and their absolute fixation upon its meticulous carnage.
This, therefore, serves to mirror our own, face value, reaction to when the same Nazis are slaughtered through the combination of a young Jews burning familial vengeance and a fierce torrent of American machine guns: utter satisfaction, adolescent appeal, and terrific entertainment.
But aside from this, it is probably apparent to any seasoned viewer as to how every film revolving around the topic of the Second World War is inevitably disposed to be a violent one. Hell, even more so when it is presented through the manic lens of Quentin Tarantino (the referential film geek equivalent to Sam Peckinpah, in some respects).
Boasting the claim of being Quentin’s most violent title is besetting upon fans a whole barrage of expectation, but ones that are ultimately exceeded, and often times without the gratuitous pools of blood that defined Django Unchained, but instead through moments that reaffirm the inhumanity of the conflict’s more heartless patrons.
Surely, for instance, Colonel Hans Landa’s treatment of strangulation as a form of art quashes any moralists’ claim toward Tarantino’s ability to portray violent activities as anything but trivial, kinetic fun.
Meanwhile, even when the violence is dabbled with touches of (a sadists’) humour, such as an intense underground bar’s furious claustrophobic gunfight conceiving with Hugo Stigliz’ bullets burying themselves into a Gestapo’s testicles, Tarantino does not sugar coat the intense ramifications of such an immense onset of death, as the immediate aftermath of the scene is one of rough brutality, trauma, desperation and madness.
One would be a fool to deduce such scenes to be a one way a means of making violence synonymous with simple cinematic entertainment: Tarantino merely utilizes violence as it is represented as a cinema staple, not because of any real-world endorsement of such actions or any status of dedicatory tribute.
20. Kingsman: The Secret Service (Matthew Vaughn, 2014)
We end our venture through blood, bullets, brutality and, often, boisterous banality with the most mainstream encapsulation of the stylish values contained within this lists’ films. If Joss Whedon’s The Avengers summarized the reasons one read comic books as a child, Vaughn’s sickly spy spoof is representative of the mature titles you uncovered as a teen that not only reaffirmed your interest in comic books, but also thoroughly increased it.
If one enjoys watching good guys slaughter bad guys, Kingsman is like the finest buffet in Paris. Taking cues from Tarantino’s focus on sleek badass depiction-defines-content is integral for Vaughn’s means of perfecting absurd, comic concepts, whilst engaging in the kind of over-the-top gore to make one yearn positively for a re-discovery of Raimi and Jackson’s early underground, gorily catastrophic masterworks.
An impressive cast includes some of Colin Firth’s funniest, honest, and believable work (yes), the assured rampant watch-ability commanded by Mark Strong’s presence in any film he graces, and one of the best roles gifted to the oft-typecast Sam Jackson is several recent years.
Criticized by some due to its frankness, de-sensitivity and lack of subtlety, one might forget one very important argument in determining Kingsman’s utter success: very clearly, this is exactly the vainglorious wet dream spectacular Matthew Vaughn was adamant that this be.
There is a canon of spectacularly graphic, yet artistically commendable, often assisted to its mastery of film violence, which Matthew Vaughn desired to extend, expand, with a work of his own. He desired to demonstrate a hybrid with the contemporary comic action blockbuster and the gore-fests that surround themselves with intense cult enthusiasm.
Author Bio: Charles Barnes graduated highschool determined to leave the world of faux-intellectuals behind him, absorbing himself into an excessive gorging of cinema, determined to develop an individual, distinctive, voice in the world of film analysis and criticism. Working at a video shop, watching and writing about film in his spare time, the Australian teen is determined to put his name firmly in the history of Australian film criticism and theory.