T vs J: Top 10 Action Flicks Of The Last Decade, By Year

The rules for this ‘T vs J’ are simple: Pick your top action films for the years 2000-2009 by year. This by no means reflects the best film for that year, but simply the most enjoyable action flick. Feel free to respond with your picks or any grievances you have with ours. Let the games begin…

T (Trevor)                   vs                    J (Jason)         
– 2000 –         
The last time I remember being excited about the Oscars was 2001, the year that Gladiator won for best picture. This movie has it all, war, revenge and bloodsport. But it also has an amazing score that compliments the drama and vistas of Rome. Being so well received, director Ridley Scott tried again in the sword and sandals genre with the underrated Kingdom Of Heaven in 2005. This is undoubtably the movie that gave Russell Crowe his star power. It’s no wonder Scott chose to work with him again in A Good Year. Yes, I am entertained. And with almost half a billion in ticket sales world wide, so was everyone else.
Honorable Mentions: The 6th Day, Bait, M:I 2, Blood The Last Vampire (anime), The Substitute: Failure Is Not An Option, The Way Of The Gun
Mission Impossible 2
This picture is a blast from the opening sequence to a killer mano-a-mano showdown on the coast of Sydney, Australia. A simple story line is just an excuse to get the characters into 4 or 5 of the best action sequences of the decade. Director John Woo keeps the excitement coming at a break-neck pace. While Tom Cruise & Thandie Newton display great chemistry (something that is lacking with his co-stars in future films). Dougray Scott is enjoyable as the villain and former lover of the Newton character. It’s too bad for Scott that the shooting schedule ran over, forcing him to drop out of the Wolverine role in X-men. Hugh Jackman should send him an expensive bottle of wine every Christmas. Bottom line is MI:2 was just what audiences craved, after the tired James Bond outing The World is not Enough. Coincidentally MI:2 has out grossed every James Bond picture. Ending its theatrical run with $515 Million worldwide, proving that this spy truly was an international man of mystery.
Honorable Mentions: Gladiator, Gone In 60 Seconds
– 2001 –         
Black Hawk Down
Yes, another Ridley Scott film. This time its a true war film, where the battles themselves are the stars. Tom Sizemore gives a great performance, standing in the middle of flying bullets as he shouts out orders and makes sure that his men do their jobs. Once this movie gets started, the action never quits. Without being didactic, this film shows the heroisms and horrors of war. Another accomplishment for Scott, grossing $108 million at the domestic box office.
Honorable Mentions: The Fast And The Furious, Hidden Agenda, Kiss Of The Dragon, Pearl Harbor, Replicant
Pearl Harbor
This film got trampled by major critics upon its release during the summer of 2001. It was compared to Titanic unfavorably, and its $200 million take, when measured to Titanic’s $600 was considered a failure. Had this film been released just a year later, (after the events of 9/11) it would have fared much better. As for the film itself, it stands apart from others by having 45 minutes of the best action since the D-Day invasion of Saving Private Ryan. Even now, nine years later, the CGI effects still astound. Admittedly the love triangle is awkward at times before resting in an all ‘too neat’ resolution. Despite this the script is uncluttered and the pace is brisk for the 180min running time, top notch in every technical department.
Honorable Mentions: The Fast and Furious, Kiss of the Dragon, Swordfish
– 2002 –         
Blade II
This is the movie that made Guillermo del Toro. Truly underrated, this film stands head and shoulders above the rest in the franchise. Its nice to see a sequel that can stand on its own. It’s no wonder why this was the highest grossing of the three Blade films with an $82 million domestic take. Wesley Snipes pulls out a great performance, but its really the supporting cast, especially Kris Kristofferson as Blade’s ‘Q’ and Ron Perlman, that give true depth to this vampiric world. David S. Goyer delivers an incredibly well written script that sets off his career and prepares him for other dark super-hero scripts (Batman Begins/Dark Knight).
Honorable Mentions: Collateral Damage, Dog Soldiers, Equilibrium, Minority Report
In the audacious opening sequence from 2002’s XXX, they kill James Bond (or at least a look-alike). With that, director Rob Cohen lets it be known this wouldn’t be your older brother’s spy film. Vin Diesel embodies Xander Cage, the adrenaline junkie who turns reluctant spy. Taking advantage of the extreme sports craze at the turn of the millennium, and incorporating it into a fresh character with an interesting personal agenda is the pics greatest assets. The action is handled especially well by Cohen and his stuntmen. An early sequence where XXX drives a Corvette off a bridge then parachutes out is a doozy. Only to be topped later by a bike jump over a burning building and an exciting snowboarding chase amidst an avalanche. Diesel is perfectly cast as XXX, a rouge living on the outside of the law, an under-achiever who has no real allegiance to anything or anyone except himself. He represents a generation of angry middle class kids, the kind that existed in the pre 9/11 days of Limp Biskit and napster. The poster looks more like a declaration of war than a coming attractions one-sheet. You have to give credit to the creative team here, judging by the abysmal sequel 2002’s XXX: State of the Union, this wasn’t easy. Mission accomplished.
Honorable Mentions: Blade II, Undisputed, Collateral Damage
– 2003 –         
Kill Bill Vol. 1
Hate on Quentin Tarantino all you want (and I wouldn’t blame you after Death Proof), but the first installment in the Kill Bill films is one of the most dazzling revenge flicks to hit the silver screen. With over the top martial arts, and fancy b-movie special effects, Tarantino pulls out all the stops to create a world reminiscent of 70’s karate and revenge films. With low production costs, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 together raked in $330 million worldwide making this a huge hit for Tarantino and Miramax. Once again Tarantino uses his non-linear style of story telling to great effect. The film builds with suspense until unfolding into a huge fight sequence with enough blood, guts and a body count that would make an Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick jealous. Sonny Chiba as Hattori Hanzo gives the best performance of his long career. With a cast including Uma Thurman, Lucy Lui, Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hanna, Michael Madsen and David Carradine how could you go wrong?
Honorable Mentions: Bad Boys II, Coronado, Dark Blue, In Hell, A Man Apart, The Rundown
Bad Boys II
In essence the longest episode of ‘Miami Vice’ ever, and an action epic that just won’t quit. Michael Bay tops everything about the first film. The sequel is funnier, better looking, longer at 2 ½ hrs, with possibly the greatest single action sequence of the decade. It begins with a freeway chase / shoot-out, like 100’s of films previously. Then it begins to raise the stakes, the villain starts unleashing cars from a cargo hitch. The cops in pursuit have to dodge traffic and automobiles being launched at them. When one car gets caught on a loose chain, the fleeing villains use the vehicle as a whip to side swipe pursuing police cars. Most films would stop there, but not Bay’s movie. Next the car bursts into flames and becomes a burning mace. Yes it’s ridiculous, but it also has to be seen (top notch CGI effects from Brooks Institute alumni Robert Legato) to be believed, while this is happening the interplay between Smith and Lawrence is hysterical. They inhabit these characters with swagger and charm, both seeming to be totally at ease, and in return creating great chemistry. Lawrence is allowed an extended comedic sequence in which the character accidentally ingests ecstasy. Those ten minutes are funnier than anything in so called ‘comedies’ of 2003. Audiences eat it up as well with a gross north of $130 million, significantly improving on its predecessor’s $65 million back in 1995. As recently as Nov. 2009 rumors have swirled that Bay, Smith, and Lawrence would return to a 3rd film. As much as I welcome the reunion of the team, it will be a challenge to top this outing for thrills and laughs.
Honorable Mentions: The Rundown, Terminator 3, The Italian Job
– 2004 –         
Man On Fire
Franticly shot and edited this film takes Ridley Scott’s filmmaking style to a new high. Denzel Washington is believable as Creasy, a hardened killing machine, but its his relationship with Dakota Fanning’s Pita that really sells this movie. Christopher Walken gives one of his best speeches ever, “A man can be an artist… in anything, food, whatever. It depends on how good he is at it. Creasy’s art is death. He’s about to paint his masterpiece.” The second half of this picture lives up to this quote as Creasy cuts a large swath through Mexico City’s underbelly. He kills without thought, driven only by his enraged desire for revenge. This changes in the final few scenes of the film as he is given a second chance to make the wrongs of his past right. The score only adds to the high octane action and drama. This is a rare re-make that is much better than it’s predecessor. A domestic take of $78 million might not sound impressive, but when compared to other films in the action/revenge genre it comes in on par.
Honorable Mentions: Collateral, I, Robot, Kill Bill Vol. 2, Out Of Reach, Walking Tall
Man On Fire
Set in Mexico City (5 yrs before the violence there would start getting media attention) is the tale of a disgraced bodyguard rescuing the kidnapped daughter of a wealthy businessman. You can practically feel the humidity in the super saturated color pallet director Tony Scott injects into every frame. The particular style Scott first experimented with in small doses on Spy Game is put into frantic overdrive here. It’s cut fast enough to hold the attention of a speed freak with a 3 second attention span. It may not sound like praise, but that’s actually one of the films many strengths. Denzel Washington is excellent as Creasy, rivaling his work in Training Day, usually I’m not fond of children actors but Dakota Fanning is at her cutest, and most convincing as the little girl Washington will do anything for. The film allows adequate running time to let the relationship develop convincingly, which only helps in lending an extra weight to later scenes of action and mayhem, because by then we actually have come to care about these people. When Denzel sets out to get payback, watch out. He plays the character like a man possessed by demons. Washington’s Creasy is a man of action and emotion, but very few words. The beautifully shot film settles down momentarily for a few poetic passages before reaching it’s haunting, inevitable conclusion. Anyone who isn’t excited by the action sequences or moved by Fanning and Washington’s final scene should have their pulse checked.
Honorable Mentions: Kill Bill 2, Walking Tall, The Punisher
– 2005 –         
Batman Begins
Rebooting the franchise after an absence of eight years, this film breaks out of the cheesy dialogue, gimmicks and horrible bat suits that marked the first four films to deliver a remarkable new look at one of the most celebrated costumed heroes. Christian Bale as Batman delivers a strong performance, no doubt he owes a lot to David S. Goyer’s writing and Christopher Nolan’s direction. Not to mention one of the best movie scores of all time by James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer. Its no wonder that the music will be heard in many movie trailers in the years following its release.
Honorable Mentions: Elektra, The Island, Lord Of War, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Sin City, Serenity
Why? Because 2008’s Indiana Jones 4 was so unwatchable that it showed how hard it is to make a good ‘Indy” movie. Sahara is great fun, McConaughey is well cast as hero Dirk Pitt in a role that requires lots of partial nudity and smiling (he acquits himself adequately on both counts). Steve Zhan is a shot of life into many scenes as the funnier, smarter, less glorified partner. While Penelope Cruz is at her sexist even while improbably cast as a UN doctor. Director Breck Eisner does a fine job handling the action while maintaining a light humorous tone, something even Spielberg couldn’t handle with Indy 4 a few summers back. Sure some scenes echo Raiders of the Lost Ark, but in Hollywood that’s called paying homage. I’ll be damned if McConaughey, who when dressed in a desert head wrap, doesn’t resemble a young Harrison Ford. Maybe Lucas should call him if he ever decides on Indy 5, it’s a better idea than The Adventure of Mutt Jones.
Honorable Mentions: Batman Begins, The Island, Mr &Mrs Smith
– 2006 –         
The Marine
Marking John Cena’s move into feature films, this fun romp through 80s and 90s b-movie styles brings back the golden age of action films. Most notably a scene in which a police car is shot to hell and it’s tires are blown out, but when Cena hops in to pursue the bad guys the car is in perfect condition. This is a movie that must be watched with extreme suspension of disbelief. A great running gag – when Cena leaves a building, it explodes! Robert Patrick, too underappreciated in my opinion, is great as the insane leader of the group that kidnapped Cena’s wife. This is possibly the greatest homage to action films ever created.
Honorable Mentions: Fast And Furious: Tokyo Drift, The Guardian, Running Scared, Underworld: Evolution
Casino Royale
The James Bond comeback film and the smashing debut of Daniel Craig in the title role. Martin Campbell returns to the director’s chair for the first time since Goldeneye back in 1995, which was subsequently Pierce Brosnan’s debut. This time though, Bond and the film are smarter and brawnier. An impressive foot chase starts the pic out on the …right foot? Craig is a brute crashing and clearing a path in juxtaposition to Sebastien Foucan’s parkour and free running skills. A fantastic score by David Arnold sets an appropriate mood without ever resorting to using the classic theme for excitement. Daniel Craig is pumped up and looks as if he could kill with his bare hands. He is brooding (a trait that became monotonous in 2008’s Quantum of Solace) and doesn’t play the role for laughs. Neither does Campbell who knows the Bond formula but also realizes this is a very broken man. The best action film of 2006 and the best Bond film since 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies.
Honorable Mentions: Miami Vice, The Marine, MI:3 
– 2007 –         
Planet Terror
When perfection is imperfection its no wonder that someone with Robert Rodriguez’s background is required to pull it off. In comparison to Tarantino’s attempt with ‘Death Proof’ it is easy to see what works and what doesn’t. Fantastically over the top action sequences really bring this movie back to the days of grind house cinema. Complete with missing reels and scratched up prints this movie allows everyone to have the experience of going to a second run theater in the 80s. Great writing and fun gags (beware: extreme gore) make this movie one to revisit every once in awhile.
Honorable Mentions: Live Free Or Die Hard, Shoot ‘Em Up, Shooter, Transformers
Live Free Or Die Hard
Is it the best in the series? Hell no. The first is still the best Die Hard. It’s not even the second or third best. It is however much better than anyone thought it would be, coming 12 yrs after part 3. Willis returns to the role that made him famous and inspired a wave of copy-cat films for years to follow. This time Justin Long is the sidekick and he displays great comedic timing stealing many scenes from the veteran movie star. New to the franchise is director Len Wiseman who brings new blood and a fan’s love to the 19yr old premise. He keeps CGI in check, instead opting to use stunts and physical elements. That’s until a slam-bang finale where McClain out runs a missile shot from an F-16 while driving a big rig on a collapsing freeway. Is it preposterous? Absolutely, it’s also better than any other action film of 2007.
Honorable Mentions: Transformers, Shooter, 300
– 2008 –         
Rhona Mitra has never looked hotter. But that alone is not the reason to see this flick. What other movie can deliver every possible post apocalyptic plot, from a virus, zombies, mad max type baddies, isolation of the infected, even castles and people who have gone back to medieval ways of life. Absolutely tongue in cheek fun with some high octane action. It’s incredible to think that a storyline could go through all this and come out on the other side with only a little bit of tarnish on it. If anything it helps to keep the film fresh and enjoyable throughout.
Honorable Mentions: Cloverfield, Dark Knight, Iron Man, Rambo
Rambo 4
Sylvester Stallone brought John Rambo back to the screen after a 20yr absence. In one of the most brutal films ever made. The opening 7 minutes will have you hooked, after which the film hurls through its brief 90 minute running time. It all climaxes in an extended sequence in which Rambo jumps behind a 50 cal machine gun before out running the blast from an ‘A’ bomb. The story is basically a retread of ‘Part 2’, someone needs saving (this time missionaries) and Rambo is the only one who can do it. It’s far from original, in fact it’s the opposite, it’s formulaic. What sets it apart is the approach Stallone-the director-uses. He isn’t afraid to show the deplorable acts being committed everyday in Burma. The ‘bad guys’ are capable of horrific acts, but then again, so is Rambo. Stallone is still fit as hell, bulky and more than up for the physicality the role requires. This is the film equivalent of being on steroids.
Honorable Mentions: Iron Man, Dark Knight, Wanted
– 2009 –         
A deep look at the abuse of power and those who wield it, Watchmen is an unforgettable super hero movie unlike any other. The film follows several heroes through their day to day lives after having been disbanded by a corrupt government. There is so much going on in this film that it requires multiple viewings to understand it completely. Even after having seen it many times, watching it over again will reveal something unseen before, and only with the knowledge granted by the viewings before will it became apparent. The characters are brought to life in a believable fashion by how they deal with their super human powers. Through these dealings we are giving a glimpse into our own world, and reflect on questions such as “what would you do if you had power and at what cost does a means to an end make sense?”. These questions are brilliantly left up to the audience to answer for themselves, while at the same time delivering a definitive ending to the film.
Honorable Mentions: Fast & Furious, Blood: The Last Vampire, Inglorious Basterds, 12 Rounds, Star Trek, Zombieland
This was on my top ten list of the year. A fellow critic dubbed this strong film, “Karate chops and Bullets” in referenced to the methods used by Liam Nesson to solve any obstacle. Every father’s worst fear comes true in this gripping, fast-paced film from prolific producer Luc Besson. An ex- government agent travels to France in order to rescue his virginal daughter who’s been kidnapped and soon to be sold into a sex slave ring. Liam Nesson is absolutely convincing in the lead, bringing intelligence and strength to a role that may have been played by Steven Seagal 15yrs ago. Famke Janssen is also well cast as his more open-minded ex wife. The film rarely slows down, heading to an especially satisfying conclusion.
Honorable Mentions: Star Trek, Fast & Furious 4, G.I. Joe

One thought on “T vs J: Top 10 Action Flicks Of The Last Decade, By Year

  • February 8, 2010 at 12:54 am

    Well a surprising choice here and there I must say, and daring as well. There are a couple of good movies but in my opinion a lot of them do not end up in teh heighest region son my list; Pearl harbor was simply dreadful and Bad Boys 2 overlong and not an improvement over the first one even though is was more slickly filmed.

    Other movies that (kinda) left a bad taste in my mouth: Mission Impossible 2, Sahara, The Marine (it was fun though)


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