You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Action Speaks Louder<br>Violence, Spectacle and the American Action Movie

Despite their importance to Hollywood's financial bottom line both domestically and abroad, action movies always seem to get short shrift from the film elite. Author Eric Lichtenfeld attempts to correct that oversight with his compelling genre study "Action Speaks Louder." It's the perfect accompaniment to the high-octane summer movie season.

Despite their importance to Hollywood’s financial bottom line both domestically and abroad, action movies always seem to get short shrift from the film elite. Author Eric Lichtenfeld attempts to correct that oversight with his compelling genre study “Action Speaks Louder.” It’s the perfect accompaniment to the high-octane summer movie season.

From the vigilante dramas of the ’70s (“Dirty Harry,” “Death Wish”) to the superhero blockbusters of today (“X-Men,” “Spider-Man”), Lichtenfeld traces the trends and evolution of a category that represents Hollywood at its most spectacular, most violent and, very often, most popular.

As far as significant film genres go, “action” is a relatively young one. It has roots in film noir, the Western, combat films, police procedurals and thrillers.

But “Action Speaks Louder” makes a strong case that it wasn’t until the ’70s that elements from all of these coalesced and formed a new, distinct genre defined by violent character confrontations and filmmaking that emphasize the visceral and kinetic.

(Lichtenfeld cites Variety to trace the gradual emergence of the action imprint via the “Dirty Harry” franchise. Original 1971 pic was dubbed a “Police Melodrama.” Classifications shifted with each successive pic until the final entry, 1988’s “The Dead Pool,” was categorized simply as “Action.”)

What it lacks in age, the action genre more than makes up for in depth and range. That’s a point Lichtenfeld successfully gets across without ever losing narrative focus. The book seizes on specific trends such as the indestructible “automatons” of the ’80s (think Stallone and Schwarzenegger’s defining roles) and the concept of terror in confined spaces, popularized by “Die Hard.”

Utilizing reviews, interviews, promotional materials and the films themselves, Lichtenfeld gives each trend its due in thoughtful, analytical terms. What emerges is an intelligent, coherent and frequently illuminating study of a genre that has become firmly entrenched in pop culture.

“Action Speaks Louder” flies in the face of those who hope to marginalize action films and look down on them as “popcorn entertainment” somehow unworthy of serious consideration. The book encourages the idea that, although some action films may be “mindless,” our reaction to them doesn’t have to be.

More Reviews

  • maggie rogers

    Album Review: Maggie Rogers' 'Heard It in a Past Life'

    Maggie Rogers earned one of those very rare “Saturday Night Live” slots in which a musical guest is booked onto the show well in advance of her major label debut album’s release — two and a half months prior, in this case. And the scrutiny of such an appearance is not always pretty. Rogers’ “SNL” [...]

  • iHeartRadio Alter Ego Review

    Concert Review: Muse, Weezer, the Killers Rock iHeartRadio Alter Ego 2019

    iHeartRadio’s Alter Ego — a multi-band bill that serves to showcase some of the biggest names in alternative rock — is a relatively new creation, but clearly one that’s been embraced by radio listeners in the greater Los Angeles area who filled the Forum on a Saturday night. Twenty-One Pilots, the Revivalists, Rise Against, Bishop [...]

  • 'St. Bernard Syndicate' Review: A Quietly

    Film Review: 'St. Bernard Syndicate'

    John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan may have received major award nominations this season for their fine work in “Stan & Ollie,” but there’s arguably a superior Laurel & Hardy tribute act to be found in the droll Danish comedy “St. Bernard Syndicate.” As a pair of bumbling losers who turn an already dubious business [...]

  • Dragon Ball Super: Broly

    Film Review: ‘Dragon Ball Super: Broly’

    Late in “Dragon Ball Super: Broly,” the 20th Japanese anime feature in a 35-year-old franchise that also has spawned scads of TV series, trading cards, video games, mangas, and limited-edition collectibles, a supporting character complains, “I don’t understand a single thing you’ve said the whole time.” If you’re among the heretofore uninitiated drawn to this [...]

  • 'Who Will Write Our History' Review:

    Film Review: 'Who Will Write Our History'

    The most famous diarist of the Holocaust, Anne Frank, began to write down the drama of her daily life with no ulterior motive (apart from her teenage ambition to write fiction). But in March 1944, the year before she died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, she heard a radio broadcast by a member of the [...]

  • mike-posner

    Album Review: Mike Posner's 'A Real Good Kid'

    From the tone of such hits as his 2010 debut “Cooler Than Me” and 2015’s  “I Took A Pill In Ibiza,” singing, songwriting pop-hop beardo Mike Posner had a seemingly breezy take on life, love and responsibility. If you could have squeezed together the two Justins — Timberlake and Bieber (Posner has written for the latter) [...]

  • Conversations With a Killer: The Ted

    TV Review: 'Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes'

    The title “Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes,” Netflix’s new four-part documentary series launching Jan. 24, is slightly misleading. Not about its subject, Bundy, the infamous serial killer who finally confessed to some 30 murders before his 1989 death in the electric chair. The misnomer is “Conversations.” While we hear Bundy’s voice on [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content