In general, 2017 has been a great year, cinematically speaking, with lots of great blockbuster and artistic films. For us action movie fans, this year has been a satisfactory one when we watch at the catalogue of the entire action spectacle.
Sometimes it’s difficult to tag a film with the action seal, due to its content and style. Nearly all of the blockbusters may be action films, because they are all filed with action and a whole lot of spectacle and pyrotechnics; but sometimes those films are more a Science Fiction film or a Fantasy one for example. Or even they are tagged as a “superhero” film on his whole, as it seems that superhero films have become a genre in and of itself.
On this list, we are going to focus mainly on pure action cinema, where action is the most important thing (or one of the most important aspects of it) and the conductive thread of the movie. Whereas “Wonder Woman,” “Thor: Ragnarok” or any other blockbuster may be a great action film, there are many other things apart from the action that make those films special, though they are not catalogued as pure action films in general. There is only one good example on this list that enters in that blockbuster category, but we may talk about it later.
Having said that, let’s go with the 10 best pure action films from the year 2017.
10. Wolf Warrior 2
Wu Jing’s “Wolf Warrior 2” has been a true box office smash hit in China, grossing more than $800 million domestic only, making it the highest grossing film ever in China with those outstanding numbers.
Wu plays one of the best soldiers of the Chinese Special Forces and decides to lead a quiet life, but when mercenaries begin to cause a stir, he will have to leave that tranquility to restore order. Also co-starring Frank Grillo playing the villain role of the flick, “Wolf Warrior 2” is a pure action fest without any pretensions. It is action for the sake of action, with some of the patriotic propaganda that characterized 70’s and 80’s action films.
“Wolf Warrior 2” is definitely better than its predecessor, though it could have benefited with better CGI, but overall, this is not going to defraud action aficionados, because they will clearly get what they were looking for and even more. It is entertaining and worth watching. Wu Jing crowns himself as the king of Chinese box office and as one of the best action heroes of 2017.
9. Free Fire
“Free Fire” is directed by versatile director Ben Wheatley, who is able to adapt to any genre he wants. On this occasion, he enters the action genre with a more than just a good result. The influence of filmmaker likes Tarantino is evident from the beginning of the film, supported mainly in the dialogues.
Boston, 1978. The leader of a band that deals with weapons is making a sale to a couple of Irishmen in an abandoned warehouse. However, the exchange begins to complicate to unsuspected extremes and it will not be long before a shoot-out begins.
It stars the always brilliant Cillian Murphy in what may seem like the character with the most protagonism; Brie Larson portraying the only woman in the cast, proving that she can be equally or more badass than her companions; Armie Hammer in a somehow unrecognizable role for him, playing the douchey sarcastic guy; and Sharlto Copley as the funny eccentric guy.
Another merit is that it gives the same importance and time to all the characters, which means that a high degree of attention is maintained for what may happen. This is almost a free for all. “Free Fire” is a good tribute to this type of cinema from the 70’s.
8. Baby Driver
Written and directed by Edgar Wright, who was responsible for such special films like the Cornetto trilogy (“Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz,” “The World’s End”), and the great “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” this film is quite similar to the latter in that the music makes the rhythm; it is actually the main character of this whole story.
Baby (Ansel Elgort), a young and talented driver who specializes in escapes, depends on the rhythm of his personal soundtrack to be the best in his own – at driving. When he meets his dream girl (Lily James), Baby sees an opportunity to abandon his criminal life and make a clean escape. But after being forced to work for a criminal gang boss (Kevin Spacey), he must show his face when an ill-fated blow threatens his life, his love and his freedom.
But “Baby Driver” not only has action and skids in abundance, a spectacular soundtrack, and everything that is asked of a good action movie, but it also has space for a love story. There comes the candor of James, whom we see in “Downton Abbey,” and who is the oasis in the desert of all that craziness in which Baby takes part. Obviously, the film has conventional moments; the first scene is brilliant and full of adrenaline, but at no time does the pacing fall, and that’s thanks to Elgort and Jamie Foxx, giving without a doubt the most interesting performances in a cast that is generally up to the task.
7. The Brink
Another (and not the last) Chinese action spectacle on this list, this film is a pure Hong Kong action film directed by Jonathan Li and starring Zhang Jin, Gordon Lam and Shawn Yue, among others.
Detective Tung is determined to catch the smuggler Shing at all costs. The chase takes him to a casino cruise, where internal power struggles between the criminals will put both the police and the criminal to the test.
Something that makes this film different from others is the way it is shot. The cinematography by Kenny Tse is really gorgeous to look at, also showing perfectly the action within the frame. That is something that should be a unbreakable rule – showing the action – but it is a common technique to sometimes shake the camera around or to use fast cut action all over, making the experience a bit painful to watch or not knowing what the hell is happening. This is not the case here.
Simple and already into the action, just at the starting scene we get an intriguing action fight which is very well shot. “The Brink” flows like a river, with interesting characters and situations that makes you care about the experience.
6. Blade of the Immortal
“Blade of the Immortal” is the latest film by Takashi Miike. Of his extensive filmography, this is his 100th film – or maybe 99th or 102nd, who knows. A year in which he also directed “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure,” Miike triumphantly returns to the samurai film genre. Without being as spectacular as “13 Assassins,” “Blade of the Immortal” offers a very good dose of entertainment.
Manji sees his little sister is murdered in front of him, and then initiates his revenge. A mysterious woman will appear before Manji, granting him eternal youth and immortality. Then, the parents of Rin Asano will be killed by a group of swordsmen called Itto-ryu, being the fencing studio their parents destroyed. To avenge him, she will ask for help from Manji, and they will both fight against the Itto-ryu.
Technically, the movie is really good. At the beginning, it begins with a very marked black-and-white brutal action sequence, where Manji fights about 100 opponents, leaving none alive. After having defeated them all and becoming immortal, the film switches to color. That is a great detail of the film, where you can contemplate the enormous work by cinematographer Nobuyasu Kita. The fights are spectacular, accompanied by some camera movements that are appropriate to the action. Miike rarely disappoints.