The mathematical equation for the physical function of “action” involves measuring an integral along the path between two points in time… plus, something called a Lagrangian (according to a half-asleep perusing of Wikipedia). While that particular piece of information has almost no use in modern society, the mathematical equation for the physical function of “action movie” is bound to come in handy.
See, the action movie is a complex ordeal, warranting, among other things, a great central hero. A bona fide action hero isn’t just some no-nonsense fighting machine with a penchant for spouting well-timed puns at the expense of nameless victims. He or she needs to meld the farcical world of surplus flammability with enough humanity to keep audiences invested… but not too much to make them start thinking about feelings, of course.
The upcoming action medley The Expendables 2 is, for all intents and purposes, the union of the greatest action stars in Hollywood. It’s got the old school street brawn of Sylvester Stallone. The half-man, half-machine superhumanity of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The fast-talking, gun-cocking pizzazz of Jason Statham. The gameful hunger of Liam Hemsworth.
But which of these stars lays claim to the title of top dog? Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and their Expendable peers all have some pretty unforgettable action flicks on their respective résumés, but who among them has the right to call himself the most vivacious benefactor of property damage and impressive one-liners? While physics is more or less a lost cause, this is a scientific query worth exploring: which member of The Expendables 2 is the greatest action hero?
Here are the candidates, and each of their strongest feature film cases…
Best Action Movie: First Blood. I know, I know, but Rocky is more accurately categorized as a sports movie… take it up with the AFI. The first John Rambo movie — world’s apart in so many ways from all that came thereafter — sets established cinematic warrior Stallone in the heat of a corrupt post-‘Nam American city, fending against not only bullets, but the torments of his time on the battlefield.
Best Action Movie: Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The rarity of the phenomenon that is a sequel outshining the film from which it was spawned makes T2 all the more of an impressive feat for star Schwarzenegger, ensconced right in the middle of the days of Twins, Kindergarten Cop, and Junior. Plus, “Come with me if you want to live,” is pretty much the most definitively self-assured thing you can say to another human being.
Best Action Movie: Snatch. Maybe The Transporter and Crank flicks are more adrenal and action-infused, but nobody can say they top Snatch. in all around quality. Leading a cast of wry degenerates, Statham enjoys his career-high performance in Guy Ritchie’s comical crime story. The levity and the thrills come in equal supply.
Best Action Movie: The Hunger Games... only by default. Young Hemsworth is still a greenhorn to the acting game, and only has a couple of romances and a horror to his name — although he’s not directly involved with The Hunger Games’ battle royale, he’s at least… near it.
Best Action Movie: Die Hard. Willis is probably the most versatile actor in the cast of The Expendables 2, and certainly has a lot of great action-heavy entries on his IMDb page: Pulp Fiction, Lucky Number Slevin, The Fifth Element. But it would be plain wrong to deny Die Hard the ranking of Willis’ greatest action movie.
Best Action Movie: Hero — although, to be fair, this might be the toughest distinction to make — Li’s onscreen heroism, thanks to his mastery of martial arts, tops just about every other actor’s. Hero is just a favorite example of his onscreen capabilities, although so much of the star’s thirty-year career has exhibited dynamic action heroism.
Best Action Movie: Rocky IV. I know, I know… I said the original Rocky wasn’t enough of an action movie to outrank First Blood. But come on! Everything he hits, HE DESTROYS!
Best Action Movie: His actual life. Randy Couture hasn’t had a great deal of feature film roles, but as a professional Ultimate Fighting Championship competitor and mixed martial artist, the dude is essentially a non-fiction action hero. This alone earns him enough points to outrank some of his Expendable peers.
Best Action Movie: The Longest Yard, maybe? Former NFL defensive end Crews has a long line of comedies to his name: films like Bridesmaids, Get Smart, Idiocracy, White Chicks, Friday After Next… but despite a build that would suggest a right-at-home fit in the genre, he doesn’t have a great deal of action flicks on record, other than the original The Expendables of course. I guess Starsky and Hutch had its share of thrills…
Best Action Movie: Kickboxer. Why? Here’s why:
So which of these action heroes do you think tops the list? John Rambo? The Terminator? John McClain? Dancing Van Damme? Let us know in the comments section, and catch The Expendables 2 in theaters on August 17.