I love schlocky action films. I will always respect a movie that knows what it is and embraces it.
The John Wick films do a pretty respectable job at that. The scripts are laughably formulaic, a computer could have written them. That’s the way schlock is supposed to be: everything is supposed to be up on screen. I love the juxtaposition between violence and every day life. Even the casting of Keanu Reeves is a stroke of genius: he is an extraordinarily limited actor. When you see him, you know you’re not getting anything deep. He’s just there to kick ass and kill. Respect.
Sure, I talked shit about Keanu before. I don’t think I’m being controversial when I say that I don’t find him compelling usually. Not that he has to be. He’s a pretty boy that’s limited to certain roles.
It’s rare to find a true gritty action star, one that’s not necessarily being tongue in cheek, one that’s not a pretty boy, or trying to overly impress you with their physique.
I suppose Daniel Craig is such an actor. Jason Statham could be another. Maybe Bruce Willis at times.
But the best one was Charles Bronson.
For whatever reasons, I’ve been binging the fuck out his movies. Bronson’s stretch through the 70s was the greatest run of any action star. It’s hard to imagine an actor like him succeeding in modern Hollywood.
Contrary to popular perception, Charles Bronson could act. In fact, I’d say he was much more capable of handling emotionally intense scenes than Clint Eastwood, a contemporary of Bronson and an actor of similar caliber. Just watch Breakout or Mr. Majestyk. This is especially true when he’s playing opposite a female costar, specifically the romantic interest. There’s something about his glare that can carry those scenes.
Was Charles Bronson a good looking man?
Seriously, was he?
I like that ambiguity about him: a sex symbol whose appeal is derived from raw power and everyman looks. Daniel Craig, at least as James Bond, has similar appeal.
But, for me, the biggest appeal was that he wasn’t an actor’s actor. He had a workman approach to his craft. He knew exactly what he was creating. And the days of those actors are long LONG gone.
Unpopular opinion, but Bronson’s collaborations with Michael Winner are some of my least favorite, specifically Chato’s Land and The Mechanic. Winner seems to have overestimated his abilities as a director. (Death Wish III is an undeniable classic though) J. Lee Thompson was better suited to Bronson, specifically 10 to Midnight.
But anyway, Charles Bronson was the GOAT.