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Forgotten (and undeservedly so) ACTION MOVIES of the 2000s

There are many reasons why we don’t revisit certain action movies from the 2000s. Most often, we simply forgot about many of them, and there’s nothing wrong about that.

Tomasz Ludward

21 August 2023

Forgotten (and undeservedly so) ACTION MOVIES of the 2000s

There are many reasons why we don’t revisit certain action movies from the 2000s. Sometimes it’s due to the outdated socio-political context, other times the technological lag in devices and weaponry is so significant that we can’t help but view such productions with a sense of amusement. However, most often, we simply forgot about many films, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Let’s take a look at a few productions that, although made not too long ago, haven’t necessarily stood the test of time.

The One (2001), dir. James Wong

jet li the one fighting

Jet Li was already dishing out kicks frequently in Hollywood during that time. However, what sets The One apart from movies like Romeo Must Die or Kiss of the Dragon – another forgotten action flick – is its audacious screenplay. The story of an agent tracking down all 124 versions of himself across alternate universes promised something out of the ordinary. It turned out to be average, but the still-explored slowed-down action pace, where not everyone succumbs to temporal distortions, could be visually appealing. The One also had a spectacular final showdown between two Jets, with one of them distinguishing himself by removing his shirt. In reality, a double had his face painted green, allowing Li’s face to be digitally transplanted. Thus, it’s comforting to know that in this aspect, a loose precursor of “deep fake,” cinematic technology has progressed. It’s more hygienic and less painful, especially if we recall how Nicolas Cage and John Travolta swapped faces a few years earlier in Face/Off.

Firewall (2006), dir. Richard Loncraine

harrison ford with his family firewall virginia madsen

Firewall doesn’t stand as a strong entry in Harrison Ford’s filmography. Perhaps there are too many tried-and-true Ford-isms present: a constant sense of danger, a threatened family, a hero not consumed by everyday heroism, and villains ready to pull the trigger at any moment. The film kept the tension high, but it had so many odd subplots and plot twists that it abandoned any chances of maintaining credibility very early on. The characters tinker with GPS devices, plan transfers, deftly handle technological novelties, all while attempting to outsmart each other. After so many years, many of these tactics and devices, as well as the characters’ decisions, evoke a sense of pity. A glimmer of hope came from Paul Bettany’s role, who a few years ago was celebrating some of his greatest acting triumphs.

Domino (2005), dir. Tony Scott

domino keira knightley

A classic example of overindulgence. Action was Tony Scott’s middle name, but at times that name resonated too strongly, and the extreme example of this was none other than Domino. The action movie that was supposed to be fueled by Keira Knightley got firmly stuck in its overly music video-like presentation, aggressively edited like a stormy April montage, and a lackluster script based on the true story of Domino Harvey – a model who chose the path of a bounty hunter over her career. Fate had it that within Scott’s body of work, Domino was surrounded by other memorable productions: Man on Fire and Déjà Vu, and perhaps this, along with the presence of the excellent Denzel Washington in them, resulted in the expected hit with the girl from Pirates of the Caribbean not making a breakthrough. Today, this completely forgotten film provided Keira Knightley with a role as a true bad girl. However, that didn’t help at all.

Paycheck (2003), dir. John Woo

paycheck ben affleck aaron eckhart

Simply great cinema, skillfully paced. It doesn’t make a mockery of the future, treating predictions of what might happen – just like the detonation of an atomic bomb – with deadly seriousness. Paycheck involves the adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story to the screen, and among the trio of similar-themed films created at the beginning of the third millennium – referring to A.I. and Minority Report – it’s the “easiest” one. From a plot perspective, it’s another action-filled piece of the puzzle from John Woo, but technology plays a significant role. It turns out that technology allows for delving into human memory, manipulating and erasing memories as if clearing the cache in a browser. As one might expect, the film doesn’t shine with logic, but it surprises with the well-matched duo of Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman, as well as the fantastic symphonic musical layer provided by John Powell.

Chaos (2005), dir. Tony Giglio

chaos jason statham ryan philippe

If you were to place Chaos on a store shelf, you’d have to reach out and slightly bend down. Not squatting or groping for products at the bottom, but gently tilting. Because Tony Giglio’s work really wants to be taken seriously. This goes against Giglio’s directorial debut, which was Soccer Dog: The Movie. In Chaos, the best is Wesley Snipes – a criminal who boldly defies the police by laughing in their faces and pulling the trigger. There’s a strong urge in him to sow chaos (Demolition Man) and cunning artistry (The Art of War). The rest of the cast doubles and triples its efforts to blur the storyline, adding more threads and twists to the mix. Chaos is also a treat for fans of Ryan Phillippe’s acting talent, who was still on billboards at that time, before he fully immersed himself in the abyss of toothless film projects that, honestly, very few remember.

Death Sentence (2007), dir. James Wan

Death Sentence kevin bacon

James Wan took on Death Sentence right after the groundbreaking Saw. He dialed the intensity down a bit but remained faithful to the spillage of blood and evocative scenes of violence. In the lead role, he cast the always-electrifying Kevin Bacon, who accidentally finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s hard to label it any differently than a mob initiation involving the death of a random person – Bacon’s son. The murder ignites a thirst for revenge in the father, and predestines Wan’s film to be a revenge movie. Bacon is furious, and his anger gradually turns him into a butcher who manifests his cruelty through his freshly shaved head. Of course, the path from a polished American businessman to a ruthless killer is short. Bacon quickly masters an array of precise strikes and weapon handling. He also runs a lot, constantly bumping into people and desperately trying to protect his family, in which he’s exceptionally hopeless. It’s a decent average movie with evil etched on Bacon’s face. However, it’s not on the caliber of the signature he displayed with his sinister performance in Mystic River.

The Brave One (2007), dir. Neil Jordan

brave jodie foster

The Brave One boldly follows a very similar path to Death Sentence, with the difference being that it contains less chaos and more happenstance and societal context. In the film, Jodie Foster is determined to deliver justice, even though her knack for getting into trouble and the ability to always find herself where a crime is happening is perplexing. The Brave One has little chance of returning to favor, not only because it garnered minimal attention upon release. The issue could be the scene teeming with stereotypes, where Erica metes out justice to two African-American thugs attacking subway passengers. However, it turns out that the struggles of the undoubtedly great Foster won’t go to waste. The actress will appear in the fourth season of Detective, where violence and crime will once again engage her composed mind.

The Kingdom (2007), reż. Peter Berg

The Kingdom jamie foxx

Does anyone remember The Kingdom? It’s a quite decent action-packed movie saturated with agents and firearms. Peter Berg’s film is still a prime time representation of American operations in the Middle East. The screen is filled with realistic battle scenes and the typical tension arising from terrorists lurking at every turn. It’s also a hastily prepared cocktail where politics, religion, and social threads are unevenly poured, which doesn’t hinder sitting on the edge of the seat during the screening. As a spectacle, The Kingdom works wonderfully because the cast is exemplary (Chris Cooper!) and the pacing is appropriate. From the screening, I recall the evocative ending, which the creators approached quite uncompromisingly. A cool, charmingly propagandistic film.


Tomasz Ludward

He takes turns watching and listening to movies. Indecently often he returns to his favorite titles. Passionate moviegoer, appreciating the lack of commercials and dubbing. Exceptionally susceptible to literary adaptations. Currently in search of that one perfect streaming platform. Member of the International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA).

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