My Favourite Action Heroes

A look at some of the action-heroes I grew up watching
December 10, 2007
Hi there, just thought I’d do my first article so go easy on me (just kidding). This was inspired after a rerun I saw of the Joel Silver’s reality show “Next Action Star” where one man & one woman win the prize of becoming the “Next Action Star” which made sense because some of us action junkies are lacking a hero.

I’m sure some of you are already saying “What are you talking about? We got Jason Bourne, xXx, Painkiller Jane, The Transporter, etc”. no offense but some of these heroes are “too disposable” and not that memorable (in my opinion anyway) the true heroes have become potbellied geezers who can’t shoot straight anymore, run or drive as fast as they could, and kiss the hot babe while trying not to look like her grandpa.

OK maybe I was little too extreme on that one, anyway without further ado I give you My Favorite Action Heroes:

Snake Plissken (Escape from New York and Escape from L.A)

The cold toned voice, the eye patch and the bad attitude to match…totally unmistakable and probably one of the most overlooked action heroes. I’ve only watched Escape from New York and was told Escape from L.A kinda sucked (could someone tell me the truth). His full names are Robert Plissken (or like he says it, “call me snake”) and according to his profile Snake Plissken is a former US Army Lieutenant; serving under Special Forces Unit Black Light, with two Purple Hearts, and the youngest soldier to be decorated by the US President for bravery during campaigns in Leningrad and Siberia in World War III against the Communists. Some time later, he turned to a life of crime, probably due to the perceived betrayal of the United States government.

In Escape from New York, he was sentenced to life in New York maximum security prison (the year is 1997 and the entire Manhattan Island has become a prison due to an uncontrollable crime rate). at the same time, the President’s plane has been hijacked and ends up crashing in Manhattan and is captured by the “Duke” of New York and it’s up to Snake Plissken to rescue him in exchange for a full pardon proposed by the warden Robert Hauk.

One of my favourite scenes from this movie was (forgive if I’m not accurate, coz it’s been a while since I saw this film):

Robert Hauk: We’ve got word that the President has been captured

Snake Plissken: The President?…….. of what?

Robert Hauk: That’s not funny!

Then later in the discussion when the situation is explained….

Snake Plissken: I think I got the perfect plan

Robert Hauk: And that is?

Snake Plissken: Get yourself a new President!

Snake Plissken is definitely one of my favorite action heroes and hope the proposed remake of this movie won’t disappoint.

John Rambo

When I think of the perfect soldier only one name rings bells in my head and no I’m not talking about The Commando, I’m talking about John Rambo.

According to a brief bio, he joined the US Army in August 1964, shortly after leaving high school and was deployed to South Vietnam in September 1966. He returned to the US in 1967 and began training in the Special Forces (Green Berets) at Fort Bragg. In late 1969, Rambo was re-deployed to Vietnam. In November 1971, was captured by North Vietnamese forces near the Chinese-Vietnamese border and was tortured along with other American POWs. Rambo escaped captivity in May 1972, but was then re-deployed. Rambo was discharged on September 17, 1974. In his return to the U.S., Rambo discovered that many civilians hated returning soldiers from Vietnam. His experiences in Vietnam resulted in an extreme case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

And who wouldn’t be after an ordeal like that. This dude was basically a killing machine on two legs like we saw in First Blood where he obliterated an entire sleepy town together with its stubborn sheriff, then in First Blood II he goes back to Vietnam and rescues some POWs and kills the guys who tried to set him up, and in First Blood III he wipes out entire Soviet platoons in Afghanistan.

I guess all that gun blasting and violence was the perfect therapy for a guy like this.

Nevertheless, Rambo inspired toughness and courage which led to President Reagan blurting out that he admired him and he is the symbol of the American army (OK… the next time when the US has beef with anyone just send this guy and problem solved so we catch upon the latest gossip, right?).

John Rambo is definitely one of my favourite action heroes and can’t wait for his next adventure. (Rumor has its coming out next year)

Axel Foley

Is it possible for an action hero to be tough and hilarious at the same time? Yes, and the only one I can think of is Axel Foley the Detroit cop who some how finds his way to Beverly Hills especially when it involves someone close to him such as a childhood friend (Mickey in Beverly Hills Cop), a new found friend (Capt. Bogomil in Beverly Hills Cop II) or his boss (Inspector Todd in Beverly Hills Cop III). Axel is street-smart, as well as wisecracking which are essential qualities he uses to get what he wants, especially in places we clearly see he just doesn’t fit in whether if its luxury hotels or country clubs like in the first movie or the Playboy Mansion in the next.

A talented policeman, Axel is also known to bend the rules, which annoys his boss, Inspector Todd. An only child, he has no family except his parents and grandparents.

There's a running gag in all of the films in the series where Axel will also flash his badge quickly at workers, security guards, etc. to pose as a variety of different kinds of inspectors and assert authority he actually doesn't have. He accompanies this with humorous acting often consisting of quick rants about the security or service of the establishment to gain access to what he wants.

Because of this he won the hearts of detective Rosewood & sergeant Taggart, two cops who have his back when he’s in town (Taggart retired in the third installment and may come back in the fourth).

Axel Foley was an action hero we can all love and enjoy because if we are not seeing him beating up somebody or shooting a baddie then we can listen to slick sense of humor which he executes flawlessly.

Martin Riggs & Roger Murtaugh

Before we had Lee & Carter (Rush Hour), Lowry & Burnett (Bad Boys) there was Riggs & Murtaugh two cops very much the opposite of one another (then again aren’t all buddy cop movies like that). But I suppose the one thing both these guys shared despite both being Vietnam veterans was their deep understanding and respect of one another.

That’s got me thinking; while over there did any one of them ever meet with Rambo? Hmmm…. Now there’s an idea, Vietnam Vets, Everyone who Served; from John Rambo to principle Skinner (of The Simpsons)…………. Anyway whatever, lets start with these two first.

Martin Riggs joined the US Army at age 19 as a member of Special Forces, receiving specialized training in weaponry and hand to hand combat. These skills would later serve him well when he became a police officer. Most of Riggs' time in Special Forces was in Vietnam, where he served as an assassin under the CIA's "Phoenix Project" directive; while his ability as a trained killer would later plague his conscience, he thought of it as "...the only thing I was ever really good at."

When Riggs' wife, Victoria Lynn, was murdered it sent him into a deep depression. Driven to the brink with grief and anger, he would regularly puts himself (and anyone else near him) in harm's way, secretly hoping someone will put him out of his misery, The factor which initially gave Riggs the edge is that because of his wife's death, he was so suicidal that he didn't care whether he lived or died, and this gave him a definite advantage in showdown situations.

He is partnered with fellow detective sergeant Roger Murtaugh in hopes that the older, more conservative veteran will keep him in line. After a rough start, the two become good friends, even though Riggs always gets on Murtaugh's nerves.

Throughout all four films, Riggs has used martial arts, including Jujutsu, Judo, and boxing, leading Murtaugh to jokingly suggest that Riggs himself be registered as a "lethal weapon" and a Beretta 92F pistol as his signature weapons, but that doesn’t stop him from using other types of weapons such as anything from sub-machine guns to sniper rifles.

And now we come to Roger Murtaugh.

A Vietnam veteran who joined the Los Angeles Police Department (In the first film he mentions he has 20 years on the force), Murtaugh is a strait laced veteran homicide detective sergeant and family man who is considering retirement in the first film (hence his famous catchphrase, "I'm gettin' too old for this sh*t") when he is partnered with loose cannon Martin Riggs.

His weapon of choice is a Smith and Wesson Revolver with a 4" barrel, the exact model of which is not mentioned; though most likely a Model 19-6. Another one of his trademarks is rolling his neck before dispatching one of the main villains with a single shot from the revolver. In some of the later films he also carries a S&W 5906 semi-automatic pistol and in the third film brandishes a MAC-10 machine pistol taken from the young drug dealer he killed while searching for the ones who gave him the weapon. He also briefly uses an Heckler & Koch MP5 sub-machine gun (in the second film) commandeered from a member of a South African crime syndicate while working with Riggs to shut down their operations.

Throughout the rest of the series, Murtaugh and Riggs become close friends and save each other's lives many times. They also help each other through a few personal crises; for example, Murtaugh helps Riggs track down the men who killed his wife, Riggs helps Murtaugh rescue his daughter, who had been kidnapped by drug-lords and military mercenaries, and also Riggs helps Murtaugh forgive himself for killing a teenage drug dealer in self-defense who was a friend of his son, and protects his family from the dealer's bosses.

Through it all, Riggs teaches Murtaugh to relax and take more chances, while Murtaugh helps Riggs get over his wife's death and treat life as something worth living, even helping Riggs beat smoking by giving him dog biscuits over cigarettes (wow, does that really work?). Although their friendship can be playfully antagonistic, as Riggs finds amusement in pranking the high strung Murtaugh.

In the fourth film he and Riggs are both promoted to Captain, particularly because of all the past damage they've done in solving their cases, by the police department losing their insurance carrier, but are later returned to the rank of Sergeant after the inevitable chaos ensues.

Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh are definitely my favorite “dynamic duo” who left us unforgettable quotes like some of my favorites here:

Martin Riggs: “I can't shoot a dog: People are OK, but not dogs.” (Lethal Weapon 3)

South African Terrorist: “Diplomatic immunity!”……… (then gets shot by Murtaugh)

Roger Murtaugh: “……. Has just been revoked!” (Lethal Weapon 2)

Martin Riggs: “Do you really wanna jump!!.....huh?!.....Do ya?!?” (Lethal Weapon)

Roger Murtaugh: “Son of a bitch, it works!” (after giving a bad guy a roundhouse kick) (Lethal Weapon 3)

Martin Riggs: “Y’know, I’d like to know how he did that thing with the gun…….”
Roger Murtaugh: “No, lets just leave him”

Martin Riggs: “Yeah, but he did that at your house”

Roger Murtaugh: “…..Y’know what, lets go and ask him” (before they got beaten up by Jet Li’s Character) (Lethal Weapon 4)

And lastly……. let’s ALL say it together

Roger Murtaugh: “I’m gettin’ too old for this sh*t”

John McClane

Now here’s a guy who was always at the wrong place but at the right time and made Jack Bauer’s bad day look like a stroll in the park. Yup, the one and only John McClane who could take such heavy punishment, whether being shot at, blown up or getting beat up which would leave him battered, bloody and bruised and still come back for more without losing his witty sense of humor. First time I saw Die Hard, (about 2 years after it was released) I thought this guy was superman’s cousin or something because both of them were invincible.

As a combatant, McClane survives and thrives due to a number of factors – outside-the-box thinking, tenacity, a bizarre form of grace under pressure, and occasionally sheer luck. Paramount to his success, however, is his refusal to let a threat intimidate him into inaction. Whether bungee jumping with a fire hose to escape a bomb, emptying a magazine full of blanks at an uncooperative airport security chief, or blowing apart handcuffs with binary explosives, he refuses to let his opponents control an encounter. Where most people would hesitate – and die – McClane simply acts, with spectacular results.

Depicted as the “American Cowboy”, a running gag throughout the films often has the villain comparing McClane to John Wayne, although McClane was always partial to Roy Rogers.

However to keep McClane one step ahead of his foes he usually picks up a side kick on the way whether be it giving advice, or providing physical back-up. Starting with Al Powell during Die Hard and Die Hard 2; Leslie Barnes Die Hard 2; Zeus Carver in Die Hard with a Vengeance and recently in the fourth installment Live Free or Die Hard, hacker Matthew Farrell as his ally.

However, despite his impressive abilities, McClane could be considered a reluctant hero because not matter how sophisticated and dangerous the bad guys are he still treats them like common punks on the streets, something that really pisses them off and like we heard from his wife in Die Hard “Its only John who can drive somebody that crazy” (And he loves it when the bad guys starts to lose their cool).

Also citing the state of his life, he says he gets involved in dangerous situations, "because there is nobody else to do it". This philosophy is central to his character. McClane's marriage is in a constant state of crisis, his vigilantism and disregard for authority have put him in danger of losing his job more than once, and he is a chain-smoker who is described as “two steps away from becoming a full blown alcoholic,” which McClane jokingly insists is only one step.

Some my favorite quotes from the Die Hard series are:

911 operator: “Sir, this frequency is for emergency use only”

John McClane: “Damn it lady! Do I sound like I’m ordering pizza?!!” (Die Hard)

John McClane: "Got invited to the party by accident" (Die Hard)

Major Jones: “I thought we were pals!”

John McClane: “I got enough friends!!” (Die Hard 2)

Janitor Guy: "Wow, you look like you came back from Pearl Habor!" (Die Hard 2)

And lastly who can forget……. (As LOUD as you can coz you all know this one)

John McClane: “Yipee-ki-yay, Motherf***er!”

Bruce lee

When I think of a martial arts legend/icon only one name comes come to mind (and no, I’m not talking about Casey Rieback, who could have been on my list) I’m talking about the man who virtually introduced to the world to a whole new genre of action, that right Bruce Lee. Totally unforgettable were the piercing eyes, the physique and the unmistakable yells (don’t know best to describe but you get the idea) tell me the truth, who didn’t want to be this guy?

This guy was the real deal and knew a lot of martial art styles which included Wing Chun (close combat martial art) Gung Fu from age 13-18 under Hong Kong Wing Chun Sifu Yip Man. Lee was introduced to Yip Man in early 1954 by William Cheung, then a live-in student of Yip Man. Like most Chinese martial arts schools at that time, Sifu Yip Man's classes were often taught by the highest ranking students. One of the highest ranking students under Yip Man at the time was Wong Shun-Leung. Wong is thought to have had the largest influence on Bruce's training. Yip Man trained Lee privately after some students refused to train with Lee due to his ancestry.

Bruce was also trained in Western boxing, believe or not and won the 1958 Boxing Championship match against 3-time champion Gary Elms by knockout in the 3rd round. Before arriving to the finals against Elms, Lee had knocked out 3 straight boxers in the first round. In addition, Bruce learned western fencing techniques from his brother Peter Lee, who was a champion fencer at the time. This multi-faceted exposure to different fighting arts would later play an influence in the creation of the eclectic martial art Jeet Kune Do (JKD).

While practicing European wrestling, Lee was once pinned by an opponent, who asked what Lee would do if he found himself in the situation in a real fight. Lee replied, "Well, I'd bite you, of course". One of the theories of JKD is that a fighter should do whatever is necessary to defend himself, regardless of where the techniques used come from. Lee's goals in JKD was to break down what he claimed were limiting factors in the training of the traditional styles, and seek a fighting thesis which he believed could only be found within the event of a fight (or as I understand it, an-anything-goes-street fight). JKD is currently seen as the genesis of the modern state of hybrid martial arts.

JKD not only advocates the combination of aspects of different styles, it also can change many of those aspects that it adopts to suit the abilities of the practitioner. Additionally, JKD advocates that any practitioner be allowed to interpret techniques for themselves, and change them for their own purposes. For example, Lee almost always chose to put his power hand in the "lead," with his weaker hand back, within this stance he used elements of Boxing, Fencing and Wing Chun. Just like fencing, he labeled this position the "On Guard" position.

He also learnt Jujitsu during his life time and together with the styles he learnt evolved into a style that made him nearly undefeatable. This didn’t kick ass…..he whipped ass!
Some of my memorable Bruce Lee flicks were:

Fist of Fury:

Set in 1908, during the occupation of Shanghai, China by several foreign countries, including Japan. It is about a Chinese Martial Arts school whose master (Huo) was recently killed by men associated with a rival Japanese Martial Arts School who continue to harass them. Chen Zhen (Bruce Lee) is out to find out who is responsible for his master's death and get justice. My favorite line from this movie was:
Chen Zhen: “This time you’re eating paper, the next time it will be glass” (feeding two guys after smashing a sign encased in a portrait frame)
Also just found out recently a teenage Jackie Chan was also in this film as a martial arts student as well as stunt-double.

Way of the Dragon:

Tang Lung (Bruce Lee) is sent from Hong Kong to Rome to help a family friend whose restaurant is being targeted by the local gangsters. After their offers to purchase the restaurant outright are repeatedly turned down, the gangsters turn to intimidation. Tang Lung fends off the local gangsters, but that does not stop the mafia boss. He hires martial arts experts, the best of whom is known as “Colt” (Chuck Norris). This leads to a showdown between Tang Lung and Colt in the Colosseum.

Who could forget this epic battle with two the greatest martial artists going head to head. As youngster, there’s was nothing more memorable than seeing your favourite action heroes beating the crap out of each………………… and not sure who to root for.
One of my best scenes was the time when he enters a restaurant and the menu is in Italian and is completely baffled (a very funny scene you should check out)

Enter the Dragon:

Lee (played by Bruce Lee) is a Shaolin warrior in Hong Kong, considered to be his master's finest student as he knows martial arts skills are truly gained through philosophical insight. His notoriety has earned him an invitation to a martial arts tournament organized by the mysterious businessman Han (Shih Kien).
Han was once a Shaolin student himself, who betrayed them to use his skills to gain wealth and power. This included gaining ownership of the island where the tournament is held, at a time before it fell under the jurisdiction of the Hong Kong government. Lee's master asks him to cooperate with the government as their spy, to gather evidence they can use to stop Han, thereby restoring honour to the Shaolin.
Also aboard are several other competitors. They include Roper (John Saxon), an American playboy-gambler on the run from the mob to whom he is heavily in debt; and Williams (Jim Kelly), an African-American activist on the run from the law after defending himself against two racist policemen.
For those of you who’ve seen this film, was this a classic or what?!

One of my favourite quotes were:

Lee: “My style? You could call it the art of fighting without fighting”

Williams: “Man, you come right out of a comic book”

Then there was Game of Death which I vaguely remember but last year on the Discover Channel I got to see it (the way Bruce Lee had intended to do it before his untimely death) since there two stories I’m not sure which one to tell.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar freaked me out in this movie and I felt sure that our hero wouldn’t make it (boy, was I wrong)

Bruce Lee no doubt is a legend because without him there would be no Mortal Kombat, (seriously, take a look at Liu Kang and tell me who he is modeled after). Most notably is the yellow jump suit, The Bride in Kill Bill wore a similar jump suit which Bruce Lee wore in game of death, some of the moves in Tekken (Marshall Law and Forrest Law) are modeled after Bruce Lee moves and not forgetting the numerous parodies about or inspired by him.

Indiana Jones

And now we come to the most likeable action hero of them all, Dr. Henry Walden Jones, Jr., most famously known as Indiana Jones or Indy, a professor of archaeology, adventurer, and the main protagonist of the adventure film Raiders of the Lost Ark, its prequel (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) and sequels (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Indiana Jones and the soon to be released Kingdom of the Crystal Skull).

Jones is notable for his trademark bullwhip, (oh, looks like someone has been “naughty” – just kidding) fedora hat, and fear of snakes. From a young age, his observations of many major people and events of the early 20th Century would have a major effect on his later life as an archaeologist.

The character was originally named Indiana Smith, after an Alaskan malamute “Indiana” however, Spielberg disliked the name "Smith", and Lucas casually suggested "Jones" as an alternative. (Thank goodness they dropped Indiana Smith coz it sounds kinda lame)

Other elements of the outfit include:

* The leather jacket - a hybrid of the “Type 440” and the A-2 jacket, made by Wested Leather Co.
* The bag - a modified Mark VII British gas mask bag.
* The whip - a 10ft Bullwhip crafted by David Morgan (although different lengths were used in specific stunts)
* The pistol - usually a World War I era revolver. Examples include the Webley Mk VI (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), or a .45 ACP Smith & Wesson Hand Ejector 2nd model revolver (Raiders of the Lost Ark). He has also been seen using a M1917 revolver, and a 9mm Browning Hi-Power.
The shoes - "Indy Boots" made by Alden Shoes, which are still sold today (though in a lighter shade of brown than seen in the movies).

He is portrayed as an adventurous throwback to the 1930s film serial treasure hunters, with an alter ego of Professor Jones, a respected archaeologist at a New England college. In this first adventure, he is pitted against the Nazis, traveling the world to prevent them from recovering the Ark of the Covenant.

The prequel Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, set in 1935, took the character into a more horror-oriented story, skipping his legitimate teaching job and globe trotting, and taking place almost entirely in India. This time, Jones attempts to recover children from a bloodthirsty cult.

The third film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, set in 1938, returned to the formula of the original, reintroducing characters such as Sallah and Marcus Brody, a scene from Professor Jones' classroom, the globe trotting element of multiple locations, and the return of the infamous Nazi mystics, this time trying to find the Holy Grail.

This is one action hero who gave us a “human-face” in that he had a clear weakness i.e. fear of snakes (now who loves snakes – personally I hate them to bits; don’t know about you) and when punched in the face, he’d give that “ouch that hurts” look, that “Gimme a break I can’t be bothered” look when he shot that guy showing off his sword skills in Raiders of the Lost Ark which he tried to repeat in The Temple of Doom but never worked out and gave us that “Oops, I forgot my gun” look and was charming when it came to the ladies like we saw in Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Temple of Doom. Basically this was a guy we all could feel for and relate to and because of that I think he’s my greatest action hero of all time (then again there’s James Bond and Tarzan but that another story).

Anyway, hope you enjoyed my list and I KNOW I’ve left out someone just let know who it is and hope he/she was one of my favorites.
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