Shane Black is the wittiest of the creators of action-comedy. His creation of this new kind of hero depends on dialogue to such an extent, that the plot becomes a secondary concern, such that his stories have not proved memorable.
Black resembles the comic poet most, though, & has done more than anyone else to create characters that show off his shamelessness & his cleverness. At the same time, he seems to be much more pleased than any other poet to make fun of the tragic inclination of heroes & the necessary ignorance of low things…
1987 Lethal Weapon. This was the first of a genre & established the new comic hero for action movies. The later films in the series are derivative, but the characters are still compelling.
1991 The Last Boy Scout
1992 Lethal Weapon 3
1998 Lethal Weapon 4
2005 Kiss kiss bang bang
2016 Nice guys
James Cameron is surprisingly both the most popular & the longest-lived of the poets of manliness. He is celebrated both for great innovations in technology & for an ability to please the greatest public that will last him his entire life.
It is strange to note that he began his career as both a writer & a director, because nobody applauds his plots. Still, his stories show the most serious reflection on the problem & the promises of manliness in face of the technological future that can gain public favor.
His movies are worth seeing more today than when they emerged, because there is less enthusiasm for the astounding technology & the familiar look of the movies helps the viewer to become troubled by the dangers that drive the plots of his movies to relentless destruction.
John McTiernan is the most interesting of the directors of action movies. He excels both in the range of the stories he tells & in his discretion, which is crucial to the emergence of the action hero. The dramatic stories & the comedic stories together do a great job of shedding light on the problem of manliness, with due respect to the opinions that are popular or dominant today. As for the range, the number of movies which are not action-comedies offer not only an interesting comparison, but a chance to remember what stories about manliness were before the democratic age or outside the home of democracy, the big American city – of which the action-comedy is the typical expression.
McTiernan is neither the longest lived nor the most celebrated of the poets of manliness, but his movies are the most pleasing.
John Woo is the least celebrated of the directors of action movies, but the only one who has been praised by the critics for his artistry. In a sense, he does not belong with the others, because his stories show quite foreign opinions about heroism, but he has proved astonishingly capable to understand what Americans believe about heroes & why they are inclined to delude themselves. So that in these stories alone do we see very attractive evildoers, devils as corrupt as sophisticated. This does even more to showcase the connection between the love of justice, the punitive practical consequences of moral virtues, & the attachment to democracy of the action hero.
He is also the only foreigner to have mastered the art of action-comedy & so displays a unique combination of witty remarks & martial prowess. So that his movies are so beautiful that the viewer takes very seriously the tragic inclination inherent in heroism, the thought that war is good & just.
Sylvester Stallone is one of the actors who preceded the establishment of action movies. Action comedy was his mainstay for a long time, but it is not the cause of his fame or the best work he did. Action movies are at least in part a rejection of the treatment of heroes in films like the ones that made Stallone famous. They depend therefore on this previous establishment of heroic movies.
1976 Rocky, as well as part 2, part 3, & part 4.
1982 Rambo, as well as part 2, part 3, & part 4.
2010 The Expendables, as well as part 2, part 3, & part 4.
2012 The Expendables II, as well as part 2, & part 3.
The Expendables III & part 2.