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4 Action Movies So Insane They Are Brilliant

It takes a special blend of ingredients to make an action film that truly stands above all others in terms of the sheer audacity. The Rock, for instance, was a great action movie, but was for some reason missing that extra step that would turn it from a classic actioner into an unassailable god of mayhem. In the following list of films, plot, acting, and a moment of undeterred insanity all collide to make a film that makes you wonder how it ever got made in the first place.

Face/Off

Plot:

An FBI agent hell-bent on taking down the domestic terrorist who killed his son must trade faces with his newly-comatose nemesis in order to stop a bombing in LA. Unfortunately, the terrorist wakes up and assumes the FBI agent’s face and identity. Soon, the FBI agent is using the terrorist’s network of supporters to try to take down the terrorist, who is likewise using the full force of the US justice system to try to take down the actual FBI agent in his face.

Acting:

Nicholas Cage plays Castor Troy, domestic terrorist and general sociopath. John Travolta plays Sean Archer, a beleaguered, no-nonsense FBI agent. Then, when they trade faces, John Travolta is suddenly playing Nicholas Cage playing a sociopathic terrorist who is playing an FBI agent, while Nicholas Cage is playing John Travolta playing a downtrodden FBI agent trying to play an energetic sociopathic terrorist. It’s like charades, only everyone is on acid.

Unchecked Insanity:

Let’s put aside the plot for the moment – that is a given. Could it be the super high-tech prison in the middle of an abandoned oil rig with magnetic floors? The giant shoot-out in a posh apartment to the tune of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’? No, for this movie, it is the massive climax, where a shootout in a church somehow turns into a massive high-speed boat chase that ends with a fistfight on a beach. However, special mention must go to the pairing of theatrical hand motions to endlessly repeatable line: “I’m going to take his face…off!”

Genius.

Shoot ‘Em Up

Plot:

A stoic, carrot-munching, sharpshooting British man and a foul-mouthed, lactating Italian prostitute must save a baby from a shady conspiracy that seeks to destroy it. The conspiracy is led by a squat, balding maniac who is in a hurry to be done so that he can get home to his son’s bar mitzvah so his wife will stop nagging him.

Acting:

Clive Owen rules the day as Smith, a self described “British nanny” who is dangerous as hell. That Owen plays his character with 100% straight-face determination and loosely veiled contempt for the world even as he channels Bugs Bunny is a credit to the actor. Any other man would have seemed ridiculous cutting an umbilical cord with a well-placed pistol shot, but Owen makes it seem like the most natural thing in the world. Paul Giamatti also deserves some credit for his portrayal of a put-upon business man who has trouble balancing his sitcom marriage with his job – a job made harder by his dolt compatriots. Also his job is killing people.

Unchecked Insanity:

That this film was ever green-lit in the first place.

Wanted

Plot:

A sub-par Joe who is tired of life constantly turning against his is recruited to kill the man who killed his father by a super secret organization of assassins whose job is to keep the world on track by murdering certain people. They accomplish this by bending bullets via a shoulder-destroying, side-armed gun maneuver. Also they get their orders to kill from a loom.

Acting:

James McAvoy plays the world’s biggest schmuck. He can’t even find himself on Google. But when he finds out he can kill people and act with impunity he gets a kind of misdirected rage that is pretty infectious. The real winner here, though, is Morgan Freeman, who starts off a lot like his character in every other movie – a sagely old man helping some white guy find himself – until the end where he gleefully shouts “Shoot this motherfucker!” Then he becomes like everyone we ever wish he was.

Unchecked Insanity:

The reveal of the binary code held in the fabric woven by the Loom of Fate is pretty wild. As is the curving of bullets around objects. Then of course you have the super-healing wax baths. However, I still love the final shootout, in which a textile mill gets turned into a bullet-festival and a single bullet makes a perfect 360-degree job around a room, perfectly braining every motherfucker in there.

Point Break

Plot:

Johnny Utah is a brand new FBI agent who is the only one who believes his crazy, disgraced partner when he claims that a series of bank robberies is being perpetrated by a surf gang. Utah must go undercover – basically as himself, he’s not very good at his job – to find the identity of the robbers, even though it means putting himself at odds with his hard-assed section chief. When Utah finds out his new friend Bodhi is the ringleader, will he be able to put aside his admiration and person feelings in order to stop him?

Acting:

Keanu Reeves is a fairly convincing surf bum, but not an FBI agent. The tie here goes to the two polar ends of the spectrum. First, you have Patrick Swayze spouting off faux-Buddhist philosophy about surfing before rushing into a bank in a Reagan mask to rob the place. Then there is Gary Busey, playing Reeves’ partner with a kind of barely concealed rabid-dog insanity. Its only a matter of time, you know, before he throws out an allusion to his time in ‘Nam – which he totally does.

Unchecked Insanity:

It could be all the surfing, or Reeves and Busey as FBI agents, or the unearned and never explained bout of hatred their chief has towards them. It could even be the ‘nighttime’ surf scene that was clearly shot in the middle of day using a blue filter. But the real pinicle of insanity here is the cocaine-fueled moment of genius where one person on this production turned to another and said, “We have a big chase scene, but we need something to differentiate it from all other chase scenes,” and his friend responded, “Have one dude throw a pit bull at another dude,” and no one stopped them.

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