Fall Movie Preview 2011: Action

With the best action films saved for the summer, many of these films have varying degrees of drama built in, but that doesn’t make the slate any less promising. Some of these films (“Warrior,” “Drive,” “Machine Gun Preacher”) could make some noise, even if they never find awards attention or insane box-office dollars.


Warrior (Sep. 9)

Directed by Gavin O’Connor
Written by Gavin O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis, Cliff Dorfman
Starring: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison

Summary: The son of a former boxer trains for a mixed martial arts tournament that would put him in direct competition with his older brother.

The Word: MMA finally gets its own mainstream film, but you could probably lump it in the same corner as boxing as far as the typical movie tropes. Hardy’s rising profile gets a big boost and “Warrior” should also continue to elevate the prominence of Edgerton as well. O’Connor directed “Miracle,” probably the most recent great sports movie and all the early screenings suggest he might have done it again.

My Thoughts: It’s all or nothing in a sports drama. Yes, I recognize this isn’t action, but there are too many dramas this fall so I tossed it here. Anyway, you either get a terribly cliched sports drama or a powerful and uplifting one. Many review seems to suggest the latter, which is great; we haven’t had a good film in this genre in too long.


Drive (Sep. 16)

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Written by Hossein Amini, James Sallis (book)
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks

Summary: A Hollywood stunt driver moonlights as a getaway man, but things take a sharp turn when he finds a hit has been put on him after a heist goes wrong.

The Word: Word on fall films is always prevalent because they’re screened so early. “Drive” has some of the best early buzz. Gosling has taken his career to the next level of late and Refn will soon be one of the more sought-after directors now that he’s bridged the gap to Hollywood from his British filmmaking days with “Pusher,” “Bronson” and “Valhalla Rising.” This film should be a car-chase film with a bit of an indie edge. Screenwriter Amini was also hired recently to make changes to “Snow White and the Huntsman.”

My Thoughts: I have yet to see one of Refn’s films so I’ve got big expectations for this one. Gosling might be one of the most versatile actors in his age group and Mulligan and Cranston among others are all “it” names in Hollywood right now. What I like most about “Drive” is that the story opens up and dives into the over-looked “getaway” aspect of crime capers and related films, an aspect often wrought with cliche.


Abduction (Sep. 23)

Directed by John Singleton
Written by Shawn Christensen
Starring: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Alfred Molina

Summary: A teenager and his friend find his picture on a missing persons website which launches him into a conspiracy about his real parents and puts him on the run from those looking to obtain him as he’s some kind of Bourne-type asset.

The Word: The big story with “Abduction” is that it’s Taylor Lautner’s first big starring role that will test whether or not audiences are drawn to him as a leading man and action star or anything for that matter outside of the “Twilight” series. To play it safe, he’s some younger Jason Bourne figure and we don’t know why everyone’s after him. Singleton’s obviously most known for “Boyz in the Hood,” but he’s proven capable as an action director.

My Thoughts: I’m of the slightly smaller camp who thinks Lautner has a shot at being magnetic enough to be an action star. I don’t give him much of a chance to blow our minds as an actor, but I think he can be a watchable (and maybe even bankable) leading man in the future. As for “Abduction,” I think it will have trouble outrunning the “Bourne” and “Eagle Eye” tropes.


Killer Elite (Sep. 23)

Directed by Gary McKendry
Written by Gary McKendry and Matt Sherring, Ranulph Fiennes (Novel “The Feather Men”)
Starring: Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Robert De Niro

Summary: An ex-special ops agent finds himself in a game of cat and mouse with the leader of a secret military society after he threatens to kill his mentor.

The Word: Statham and Owen are two powerful personalities in roles best suited to their strengths. De Niro has had a rough string lately and these two look to lift him up. The film is based on a true story, but I’m sure quite loosely. McKendry directs his first feature-length film, so he must’ve been rather persuasive with his script in order to get the job.

My Thoughts: I love seeing Statham kick Owen’s ass while tied to a chair in the trailer, but I’m worried that might be the coolest part of this movie. It’s not a major studio film and frankly, De Niro involving himself in a film of this genre worries me more than excites me these days. However, Statham tends to make enjoyable action flicks with some consistency, so here’s to hoping he and Owen can do just that.



Machine Gun Preacher (Limited, Sep. 30)

Directed by Marc Forster
Written by Jason Keller
Starring: Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon

Summary: Sam Childers is a former drug-dealing gang biker who finds God and goes on a mission trip to Sudan where he fights to put an end to child soldiers. When he discovers how bad it is, the fight becomes quite literal.

The Word: Based on a true story, this film looks to blend drama and action as seamlessly as Edward Zwick has so often done with films such as “Blood Diamond” and “Defiance.” Marc Forster has made a great number of excellent films from “Kite Runner” to “Finding Neverland,” but he does have to right the ship as an action director as “Quantum of Solace” didn’t go over as well as hoped.

My Thoughts: Butler’s a great fit for the role and despite the problems with “Solace,” Forster has shown he can handle action. It’s also a promising sign that the script comes from a new writer in Jason Keller; that means it’s probably good. Hopefully the right balance of genres will make this one maybe not a heralded fall film, but a solid one.



Real Steel (Oct. 7)

Directed by Shawn Levy
Written by John Gatins, Dan Gilroy, Jeremy Leven
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Dakota Goyo, Anthony Mackie

Summary: In a future when boxers have been replaced by robots, a down-on-his-luck promoter finds a scrapped robot and trains it in hopes of revitalizing his career and connecting with his 11-year-old son.

The Word: Director Shawn Levy spent most of his career helming Nickelodeon shows and movies until “A Night at the Museum” elevated his profile. Still, the director of that film as well as “Cheaper by the Dozen” and “Date Night” wouldn’t seem like the right choice for a sci-fi action movie. Nevertheless, this “Rockem’ Sockem’ Robots: The Movie” looks to have a wide appeal with a blend of science fiction and sports drama.

My Thoughts: “Real Steel” could do well for itself if it appeals to boys as well as grown men. The challenge will be — as mentioned before — avoiding the sports cliches, which this trailer doesn’t do all too good of a job with.

The Three Musketeers (Oct. 21)

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by Alex Litvak and Andrew Davies, Alexandre Dumas (novel)
Starring: Logan Lerman, Matthew Macfadyen, Ray Stevenson, Luke Evans

Summary: Based on classic story. The aspiring musketeer D’Artagnan teams up with the fable three to foil a plot by the villainous Cardinal Richelieu, Duke of Buckingham and the assassin M’lady De Winter to unleash war across Europe.

The Word: Anderson takes his distinct “Resident Evil” sensibilities and applies them to this classic tale, pumping up the explosions, CGI and most of all: 3D. To his credit, he acquired a loaded cast that in addition to the musketeers and his wifey, Milla Jovovich, contains Orlando Bloom, Christoph Waltz, Mads Mikkelsen, Juno Temple and Til Schweiger.

My Thoughts: Dumas must be rolling over in his grave. M’lady De Winter sliding “Matrix” style under exploding spiked cannonballs? Flying zeppelin pirate ship war machines? If it works, all the credit in the world to Summit Entertainment for finding a winning formula in giving a classic story steroids.


In Time (Oct. 28)

Written and Directed by Andrew Niccol
Starring: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Alex Pettyfer

Summary: In the future, time (left to live) replaces money as the main form of currency because we’ve eliminated the aging gene. After 25, the aging process stops and those with the more influence and wealth living the longest. When poor blue-collar worker Will Salas acquires an absurd amount of time from a man with a death wish, he becomes the system’s biggest threat — and target.

The Word: Niccol is one of the more revered sci-fi writers out there having penned “The Truman Show” and “Gattaca,” the former of which won him an Oscar. “In Time” is his first truly high-concept film in awhile, but the plot appears more like a cat-and-mouse thriller in a sci-fi context. The film will also test the leading man mettle of Justin Timberlake, who’s clearly the focal point of the entire film. If “In Time” does well, he’ll get the majority of the credit and perhaps land some huge projects.

My Thoughts: I’m betting on the side of Niccol for this one. I think Timberlake has chops, but for me this is about the science-fiction concept and “In Time” has one that excites me. I’m a huge fan of much of Niccol’s previous work, so fingers are crossed that the reason he hasn’t churned anything out in six years is because he’s put a lot of effort into this baby and it’s going to be worth it.


Immortals (Nov. 11)

Directed by Tarsem Singh
Written by Charley and Vlas Parlapanides
Starring: Henry Cavill, Freida Pinto, Mickey Rourke, John Hurt

Summary: When a king steals a mythical bow and is hell-bent on unleashing the angry titans that the gods narrowly defeated ages ago and ruling the world, Zeus chooses the heroic demi-god Theseus to lead the fight against him.

The Word: The more examples of sword-and-sandals action epics we get, the more “300” appears to be the exception rather than the rule, but the producers of said film have given Tarsem Singh the chance to change all that. The director of “The Fall” and “The Cell” as well as next spring’s untitled “Snow White” film has been praised as a visual mastermind. Star Henry Cavill also has a chance to improve public opinion with regard to his upcoming turn as the new Clark Kent/Superman.

My Thoughts: “Immortals” easily looks like the best thing from a visual/cinematography standpoint since “300” and the cast of Cavill, Rourke, Freida Pinto, John Hurt, Stephen Dorff and others will certainly help bolster things. In fact, Singh’s film looks like the Thanksgiving dinner of visual feasts (fitting for the time of year). The least fantasy fans can hope for is to be riveted beyond compare.


1 Comment

  1. Max says:

    Regarding not having a good sports drama in a long time… The Fighter?

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