Sunday, August 15, 2010

Action News

So I think I promised to followup my post from last week about the modern reading experience, but good god, I think we can get by another week without me spouting about e-books again. Instead I'd like to talk about the piss poor state of the modern action movie.

My dad and I went to see THE EXPENDABLES this afternoon and prior to that I was watching the original LETHAL WEAPON. Last night I was working on an action-oriented short story for the Kung Fu issue of CRIME FACTORY. So I'm in a bit of an action mood.

Watching LETHAL WEAPON then going to see the Old Timers Game that is THE EXPENDABLES got me thinking about how lacking we are for decent action films on a steady basis. Yeah, every once in a while we get something good like THE TRANSPORTER and the last Die Hard movie was good fun and I enjoyed THE A TEAM quite a bit, but man, back in the 80s and 90s we had two or three good action movies a month. Even schlock like CON AIR or THE ROCK was good fun. But lately, nada. I don't really care to speculate on why this is, but, like I said, I'm in an action kind of mood.

We don;t really have a lot of action novels either. Sure, we've got a lot of thrillers with chases and stuff in them, but not a lot of gun fights and hand-to-hand combat and car chases and shit. I'd like to see more of that. That was one of the things I liked best about Dennis Lehane's Patrick Kenzie novels. Sure there was all of the literary crap he did so well, but man, did those suckers move. There were gun fights in cool locations, car chases off of bridges, and lost of hand-to-hand fighting. Lee child does some good work with his Jack Reacher series, but again, other than that...

So what are your thoughts dear readers? Why the dearth of fun action? Have we become too serious? Too thriller oriented? And what of the actions scenes you do write (or read). I hate writing them because I think I suck at them. But I'm writing more and might possible be getting better. I still find myself glossing over them in books if they go on more than a page or so. Hollaback to a blogger.

4 comments:

John McFetridge said...

Interesting question. I'd never really thought about why I don't write action scenes but now that I am, I'd have to say it's because my characters - the criminals - want to remain hidden and never want to do anything that will attract attention.

So now I'm thinking that maybe in the era of TMZ and video phones and up-to-the-second tweets the big action scene could be updated in a very cool way.

Jay Stringer said...

Interesting question, but not one i've given enough thought to to suggest any answers.

I've often shied away from writing action, but at the same time- as John said- the characters i write and the situations i write them in dont really lead to action scenes. Violence is going to be fast, painful and scary.

I think it takes great skill to make action scenes work on the page, and i can't think of that many writers who manage it to be honest. In crime novels i tend to find action has to be forced in, because its not really a world that would have elaborate set pieces.

As for films....cans open...worms.....

The action needs to have a reason to be. And increasingly over my lifeteime, cinema has been more about throwing in meaningless action instead of earning it. The chase scene in THE FRENCH CONNECTION has a reason to be, and has aged better then almost any action scene of the past 30 years, even though its not an action film.

Every action moment in DIE HARD is earned, and has reason to be there. By the time we got LIVE FREE OR WHATEVER, he was jumping onto fighter planes in the middle of a highway...which is exactly what a 50-something NewYork cop should be doing, i guess...

Jarrett said...

I've been writing more action lately. I submitted something to the Kung Fu Factory guys that's built around a couple of fist fights. Hope they like it, still waiting to hear back.

But writing that short story got me writing more action-oriented stuff, mostly because it's fun. About 3/4 of the way through a novella now that is almost all action. There is a plot, but there is also action galore. It starts with a fist fight. There is a gun fight about 4,000 words later and we are about to get to explosions at the docks. Good times. And I agree, there needs to be more of those kinds of things in fiction.

David Cranmer said...

With the westerns I write, action is a must and I'm getting better. Not quite there yet, but learning.