Kicking Ass and Receiving Social Security – 5 Old Man Action Movies
Ramblings of a Pop Culture Junkie
With Liam Neeson’s new movie, The Commuter, out I thought it would be a good time to delve into one of my favorite pseudo-action movie subgenres I like to call the Old Man Action Movie. This is where our main character, or at least one of our main characters, is a little older than your average bear, but still has no issues drop-kicking some terrorists in the face when needed. These characters come in many forms. They could be a soon-to-be-retired cop or an already-retired cop. Or in the case of The Commuter, an ex-cop turned insurance salesman who gets caught up in the middle of a widespread political conspiracy that results in some train car throat-chopping. Liam Neeson has, in fact, quite excelled at these types of films in the past decade (Taken 1-3, Unknown, Non-Stop, Run All Night, The Grey, and A Walk Among the Tombstones). With this in mind, I’ve removed Liam Neeson films from my below list, but highly recommend you see all of the ones I’ve mentioned, including The Commuter, which is a ton of fun even if it does fall apart in the last thirty minutes. Also, trying to stay away from the obvious ones, with one possible exception, so, although they’re great, there are no Fugitive or Mission: Impossible films.
Without further ado, here are 5 Old Man Action Movies that deserve another look:
1. Lethal Weapon (1987) – Old Man in Question – Roger Murtaugh - Danny Glover (age at the time of release: 41) – Glover was only 41 at the time of the first Lethal Weapon movie. However, he did last play the character at 52, his character in the first film was just days away from retirement, and he coined the phrase “I’m too old for this s*it,” which could be the slogan for this subgenre. Also, and this might be the most important aspect, Lethal Weapon is a hell of a film. This is an action film that takes hard hitting topics like depression, suicide, fear of death, and post-traumatic stress disorder very seriously, giving our heroes a lot more substance than most action movies of this type. There’s plenty of over-the-top action scenes and very quippy, awesome dialogue provided by Shane Black’s genius screenplay. Still, there’s a lot more going on under the surface, which after hundreds of buddy cop action films (including three more Lethal Weapon movies), people seem to forget about this installment. For the record, Lethal Weapon 2 is an insane amount of fun as well.
2. The Last Stand (2013) – Old Man in Question – Ray Owen - Arnold Schwarzenegger (Age at the time of release: 66) – Schwarzenegger’s first starring role after his term as the Governator was completed, is this borderline-great siege film that is shamefully underseen. Schwarzenegger plays a sheriff of a small border town that must be defended from a drug lord hightailing it back across the border and out of the hands of the Feds that are hot on his trail. There are some aspects of the film that bog it down a bit – a lack of an intimidating main villain and a strange sub-plot involving a super-fast car are the most notable. But the action set-pieces are simple and intense, and the cast is clearly having a lot of fun (Jaimie Alexander, Peter Stormare, and Luis Guzman are some of the stand outs), including Schwarzenegger himself. Easily the best scene in the movie involves Schwarzenegger pushing a bad guy off of a building, falling with him while shooting him in the face, and then using his body as a landing pad. Just has to be seen to be believed, and needs to be seen by a lot more people.
3. Assassination (1987) – Old Man in Question – Jay Killian – Charles Bronson (Age at the time of release: 66) – To be fair, this movie isn’t very good. But any fan of action movies has plenty of dopey, dumb ones that they’ve watched over and over, and this is one of mine. Plus, it’s a perfect example of the formula of these types of films. Hero coming off a leave or suspension? Check. Gets stuck with an assignment they don’t want? Check. Said assignment ends up being less boring and deadlier than they predicted? Check, check, and check. Jay Killian is a Secret Service agent assigned to protecting the First Lady (Jill Ireland) who, in typical 80’s fashion, is a huge pain in the ass for him. Someone wants her dead and Bronson must use his geriatric skills to stop the bad guys. Bronson and Ireland were married at the time, and this honestly feels more like an excuse for them to take a vacation together, but they do play well off each other. Action films don’t get much sillier than this, but it still holds a special place in my heart.
4. Breakdown (1997) – Old Man in Question – Jeff Taylor – Kurt Russell (Age at the time of release: 46) – Breakdown is a movie that made a decent amount of change in 1997, and was talked about at the time as being a pretty great action film. Today, no one really talks about it, but the same year’s Con Air is considered an action classic (rightfully so), even though it was pretty much trashed at the time of its release. Maybe it’s the lack of extravagant explosions and one-liners. Instead, you get a very simple and intense story of a man’s wife getting kidnapped and him doing everything he can to save her, including climbing on top of a big rig while it’s shooting down the highway at eighty miles an hour, providing one of the movie’s more exciting sequences. Kurt Russell has that everyman quality that makes this movie work so well. Also, J.T. Walsh (R.I.P.) is amazing as the villain with the great villain-y name of Red Barr. This movie is a ton of fun; go see it immediately.
5. John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) – Old Man in Question – John Wick – Keanu Reeves (Age at the time of release: 52 – I could’ve gone with the first John Wick film here, which is also great, but Reeves is three years senior in this installment, and I think I like this one better. This is my current favorite movie universe, and the universe itself might be the film’s biggest strength. The hotel of assassins, along with items like the coins are fun details that other overblown franchise attempts are missing. And Reeves, while not exactly anyone’s definition of a great actor, can do action movies as well as anyone (Point Break, Speed, The Matrix). John Wick is his greatest achievement. Can’t wait for part 3.
What are some Old Man Action Movies you like, or what’s another topic you would like to see written about here?
You can hit me up with any of these queries or anything else you want to talk about on Letterboxd (https://boxd.it/8aB9 )