Wednesday, August 16, 2006

MOVIES: Missing in Action - Tough Guys in film

In this day and age where Hollywood rolls out one action packed film after another, it is interesting to note that none of them have actors that would be traditionally considered a traditional tough guy. What is a tough guy? A tough guy is a man who is the ultimate alpha male, a guy's guy, one who can project the threat of violence through simple body language (like Clint Eastwood's squint). In the fifties and sixties, there seemed to be a lot of actors like that: Lee Marvin, Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery, and Charles Bronson. Even the eighties and early nineties had actors that fit the old school such as Harrison Ford and Bruce Willis. Fast forward to today look where actors in action films these days seem more likely to be pretty boys than tough guys: Ethan Hawke (Assault on Precint 13), Keanu Reeves (Matrix). Orlando Bloom (Kingdom of Heaven), Josh Hartnett (Black Hawk Down), Jude Law (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow), Matt Damon (Bourne Identity), and Ben Affleck (Paycheck). These actors have managed to even squeeze some A-list actors to the B level pictures-Wesley Snipes anyone? To be fair, some of these actors are fairly talented. Heck, some of the action films like the Bourne films and the Matrix were pretty good. Yet, I don't think I would rely on Damon or Law to be of much help in a fist fight.

So what happened to the tough guy? One possible reason is that with films focusing more on special effects it seems like anyone could be in an action film. According to Gitesh Pandya of, most of the big action films were special effect extravaganzas, he even goes on to say, " The real stars are the special effects artists. Those are the guys worth paying money for," .

The second reason for the disappearence might be due to the business of film. I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal which told how certain actors are paid more than others. The article mention that actors that had softer features like Leonardo DiCaprio happened to be more popular globally in markets like Japan than say, Bruce Willis.

So is there no actors that could fit the mold? I actually see some hope in some of the actors from England and Australia with actors like Russell Crowe, Jason Stratham, and Clive Owen. No the old school tough guy is not dead yet, but with each passing action film it is clear his days are numbered.

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