R0BTRAIN’s Badass Cinema: The Badasses of 2010, Part II

Hey folks, March is upon us and so far I’ve had a pretty good time when I’ve actually had the time to go to the movies this year, but hopefully things are about to really step up a notch. It definitely wasn’t perfect, but I still kind of dug The Green Hornet, and I especially loved Jay Chou’s take on Kato, which was quick-witted and quick-fisted, and didn’t just manage to ape the work on the TV series by Bruce Lee. The Mechanic managed to surprise me with just how much it was able to evoke the Charles Bronson original, inserting more mood and less explosions than I had anticipated, but still containing plenty of opportunities for Jason Statham and Ben Foster to put down some scummy individuals with some pulse pounding action. In fact, in some ways the movie was even better than the Michael Winner directed 1972 version, especially when it comes to the motivations for Ben Foster’s protégé character.

The real winner for me so far this year, though, has been Patrick Lussier’s Drive Angry (AKA: Drive Angry 3D or Drive Angry: Shot in 3D). I had an absolute blast with the movie, with “The World’s Most Awesome Actor” Nic Cage busting out of Hell in order to take revenge on a cult who killed his daughter. With fun chases, some of the best use of 3D I’ve seen (at least since Jackass 3-D), and one of the best gunfights I’ve seen since Shoot ‘em Up, Drive Angry is the most fun you can have at the movies right now. If Cage only made movies like this the rest of his career and Amber Heard was contractually obligated to wear short shorts every time out, I’d be perfectly happy.

With March though, things are really looking to kick into high gear. Sure, I’ve missed some of the movies I’d have liked to have seen along the way this year (Unknown, The Eagle), but there’s no way I’ll be missing the upcoming slate of Battle: Los Angeles, Paul, and most importantly, Sucker Punch. Here’s hoping all of these movies turn out to be awesome as we roll into April and then start what could potentially be an amazing summer movie season.

Alright, so this week, my Badass list continues.

Here’s Part 1 in case you missed it!

 As always, there are some spoilers ahead.  Enjoy!

The Badasses of 2010, Part II

16. Aisha, played by Zoe Saldana – The Losers

“When I was little, I collected human ears…”

At first glance, Zoe Saldana’s Aisha might seem like an odd choice for this list, especially coming from a movie that was filled to the brim with badasses and featured the likes of The Comedian and the soon to be Captain America. When it comes down to it though, Aisha is probably the most dangerous character in the entire film, and if it came down to locking them all in a room I’d probably put my money on her coming out on top solely due to her strength of will. While the rest of the team is out to clear their names and get some revenge, Saldana’s character makes this mission truly personal, and when it comes down to it, Aisha is by far the scariest killer that The Losers has to offer because it’s tough to decipher her exact intentions and loyalties.

 

15. Frank Moses, played by Bruce Willis – Red

“People get shot all the time.”

It’s hard to think of an action star aging more gracefully than Bruce Willis. Over 50 and still wiping the floor with bad guys time and again, the action star is the most consistent asskicker in the business right now and still going strong. Willis’ Frank Moses is like a samurai; stoic and letting his actions do the talking for him 90% of the time. Sure, he’s pleasantly awkward in the movie’s limited romantic scenes, but when surrounded by CIA assassins or facing off against an agent almost two decades his junior, Moses shows his killer instincts are as sharp as ever. Red’s main event showdown with Willis’ character and Karl Urban’s William Cooper is short, but features some of the best bone-snapping, glass breaking brutality of 2010.

14. Arthur, played by Joseph Gordon Levitt – Inception 

“And I will lead them on a merry chase.”

You may find it hard to believe that a Joseph Gordon Levitt character would rank higher than a Bruce Willis one, but Inception’s biggest badass proves himself time and again, and by the end of the film manages to distinguish himself as the coolest cat on Christopher Nolan’s awesome team of dream-thieves. Not flustered by scores of security guards trying to kill him or even the loss of gravity, Arthur makes the dream world work for him, adapting to each situation in order to get the job done. Definitely the most creative fight of 2010 and perhaps cinema’s most iconic showdown from last year, Inception’s hallway sequence needs a dream warrior ready to do battle with his fists as well as his intelligence, and along with blowing away all villains in front of him, Arthur ends up blowing our minds as well.

13. Hit-Girl, played by Chloe Moretz – Kick-Ass

“So, you wanna play?”

Never has so much fury been wrapped up in such a small package. Chloe Moretz’s little superhero managed to strike fear into the hearts of drug dealers and gangsters alike as her foul mouthed, gun toting, sword swinging vigilante took no prisoners and had no mercy for any scumbag in her vicinity. Hit-Girl was even in the middle of what might even be my favorite shot from 2010; as a strobe-lit killing spree recalls a perfect representation of the power of comic book images. Her biggest achievement though, might still be stealing Kick-Ass right under the nose of “The World’s Most Awesome Actor”, Nicolas Cage, who’s Batman-garbed Big Daddy is an absolute riot, especially when spouting Adam West-style dialogue. Still nothing beats Hit-Girl taking down a hallway full of bad guys with as much cruelty as possible.

 

12. Hanzo, played by Louis Ozawa Changchien – Predators 

“I talk too much…”

As of this moment, I’m instituting a new rule that if a character kills a Predator in hand to hand combat, then you are instantly included on a Badasses of the Year list. Predators are the standard by which I measure alien badasses, and if a character manages to defeat one then it’s got to count for something. Now, if I’ve ever had a problem with the original 1987 Predator, it’s that nearly every one of the Predator’s victims gets a proper death except for Sonny Landham’s Billy, the team’s half crazy Native American tracker. Trying to buy more time for his compatriots, Billy silently decides to go mano-a-mano with the intergalactic big game hunter with only a machete. Unfortunately, instead of one of the most badass moments of the entire movie, we only hear Billy scream in the distance, and never get to see just how well he fares before falling to the alien’s prowess.

 Well, in creating Louis Ozawa Changchien’s Hanzo, Predators’ spiritual successor to Billy, film makers Robert Rodriguez and director Nimrod Antal decided to rectify the situation by not only showing the fight with the Predator this time out, but making it a true showdown between warrior classes. Watching Hanzo, a Yakuza by trade, face off against the monster with only a samurai sword in hand is a showstopper of a sequence. Filmed as if it were a classic fight scene from a Lone Wolf and Cub or Zatoichi picture, the sequence slows down to show you every clash of steel rather than inundate you with frenetic action. In the end, though his victory is all too brief, it is Hanzo that stands tall, not even watching as the Predator falls to the ground in defeat.

11. Machete, played by Danny Trejo – Machete

“Machete don’t text.”

I think in creating Machete, Danny Trejo and Robert Rodriguez wanted to create the ultimate exploitation hero; born out of the mold of hard vengeance seekers like Charles Bronson in Deathwish, Sonny Chiba in The Streetfighter, or William Devane in Rolling Thunder. Trejo’s Machete is like a walking death machine, taking out scumbags with any weapon at his disposal, whether it be guns, knives, meat thermometers, or his trusted cutting tool. Perhaps the best compliment I can pay to this Mexican bringer of death is that the character manages to somehow live up to the original fake trailer from Grindhouse and then some. Here’s hoping that someday we’ll get a crossover movie with Antonio Banderas’ Mariachi from Desperado or someday get a machete vs. machete showdown with Jason Voorhees.

10. Luc Devereaux, played by Jean-Claude Van Damme – Universal Soldier: Regeneration

“I’m going back. I’m going to fight.”

2011 was a huge year for action hero comebacks of all sorts, with the likes of Steven Seagal, Dolph Lundgren, and others making their return to the big screen, but I’d rank this JCVD turn alongside any other action movie performance from 2010. Though this third official Universal Soldier film was only a DTV release in the U.S., it had some of the best action scenes of last year and definitely had two of 2010’s best onscreen brawls. Though Van Damme’s return in this movie is a really slow build up, when he is finally unleashed against enemy forces all hell breaks looks and Luc Devereaux becomes a one man wrecking crew, in one of the ultimate action performances of Van Damme’s career.

What’s really amazing about the character this time out is that most of the Van Damme tropes we’d associated with Devereaux in the past have been stripped awat. There are no gratuitous butt shots and no splits, and gone are the naïve comedic elements from the first movie. What you’re left with is a 1000 yard stare and the type of intensity that has always marked JCVD’s best roles, such as the father in Sudden Death or Chance in Hard Target. The equivalent is something like the work that Sylvester Stallone did in the fourth Rambo film that sort of stripped the character down to his bare essentials. The last 30 minutes of this movie are a tour de force of badassery from director John Hyams, with Devereaux either taking out hundreds of enemies or facing off against other Universal Soldiers, including a miraculously great Dolph Lundgren. Let me put it this way, Luc Devereaux is so overwhelmingly awesome and badass in this film that there is a moment when a foot soldier decides to jump out a window rather than fight him hand to hand. When an enemy decides he has a better chance of defeating gravity than you, you’re doing something right.

Well, that’s it for this week folks, see you guys next time with some Korean cowboys, agents on the run, and some angry dudes out for vengeance.

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