Action Movies Essay Research Paper Simply by

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Action Movies Essay, Research Paper Simply by its name, the action film genre would seem to be the easiest of all genres to describe. In fact, unlike a genre such as the Western, whose generic markers are largely clear-cut (deserts, cowboys, horses, shoot-outs on Main Street, the frontier), the action film can be defined so broadly that it becomes a term of almost no use at all. Technically, as marked by the cry of "action" by the director at the beginning of all scenes, every film is an action film, and all films have action in them. But the categorization of any film in the action genre has come to mean that it has two essential things: violence and death. Additionally, there is almost always an overtly masculine ethos.The history of action films is almost as old

as cinema, evidenced, for instance, in the battle sequences of D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation (1915), or (later) in the climactic shoot-out and race against the Apache to make it to the town of Tonto in John Ford's Stagecoach (1939), or (much later) in the dizzying chases that open and close Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958). But action films as we regard them today are almost exclusively both a post-Classical Hollywood Studio and a post-Vietnam War phenomenon; this is for two major reasons.First, the breakdown of the studio system (which was initiated by the Paramount Decrees in 1949) and the crisis in which mainstream American cinema found itself in the face of television forced Hollywood to distinguish itself from the small screen and to offer experiences to audiences which

TV could not deliver. One important way film did this was to emphasize widescreen (including Vistavision and Cinescope), new color processes (from Technicolor to Tru-color), and special effects (3-D being the most ignominious, though it seems to have found a suitable legacy in IMAX films). This development of the big screen paved the way for the pyrotechnics, high speed car chases, nuclear explosions (True Lies, 1994), planes crash-landing on the Las Vegas Strip (Con Air, 1997), and even aliens blowing up the White House (Independence Day, 1997), the apotheosis — so far — of the action film's appetite for destruction). All of these are par for the course in the genre today, so much so that in the action film's latest incarnations, there is often a sense of self-reflexive

irony to the proceedings, as when Nicolas Cage remarks to his partner Sean Connery in The Rock (1996) that he senses just a little too much male adolescent, testosterone-based anxiety in the motivations of their adversary (Ed Harris). This is precisely what — sociologically speaking — seems to be at the root of the action film's raison d'?tre in the first place.Second, it is commonplace that the Vietnam War brought an unprecedented, immediate, and real violence into America's living rooms. This, combined with the seemingly endless string of assassinations in the '60s (starting with President John F. Kennedy and moving through Robert F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and the students at Kent State, and probably ending only with the failed assassination attempt on

the life of Ronald Reagan), incited a need to work through these traumas through cathartically violent narratives (e.g Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (1969), a Western well on its way to being an action film). But it also had the effect, somewhat ironically, of sanctioning the increased representation of violence in cinema simply for its own sake. Certainly, in the wake of the assassinations, the war in Southeast Asia, the protests and riots in urban centers in the United States (Chicago 1968, Newark, Watts), violence as represented in the "reality" of television, found its exaggerated counterpart in cinema, and mostly in the action film.There are no action films without violence, and in which no one dies, and this distinguishes action films from highly physical