Movielovers are living in a rather turbulent time. The old guard of leading men and action heroes are fading away into low key roles, retirement or unpopularity. You can't bank on Mel Gibson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, or Sylvester Stallone (although he's making a decided comeback) any longer. Bruce Willis is still kicking hard, but he'll soon be at that age where he's just too old to play the wisecracking cop, or the weary soldier. And who will replace him? Who will replace any of them?
Well, Hollywood doesn't know. If you've watched the industry as closely as I expect Cinematical readers do, you'll know they've been sweating over the lack of red-blooded males available to action and thrillers. Gone are the days of Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson where you could find a whole magnificent seven or dirty dozen of them if you needed. Now, Hollywood just seems to be picking any square jaw to fit the gap. The new trend seems to just be manufacturing them. We've seen Taylor Lautner dubbed the new action hero, and Sam Worthington is taking any part that requires a bit of testosterone. With Gerard Butler and Dwayne Johnson more interested in rom-coms and tutus, can you blame them for grabbing any good set of abs?
But surely it takes more than that. Here, I should stop and say that by "action movies" I don't just mean the explosion heavy stuff like Cliffhanger or Commando, though there's a definite lack of that kind of fun, but the more nuanced thrillers and dramas like Witness and Ransom (or going really far back, Tokyo Joe or This Gun For Hire) or the finer character work you find in franchises like Dirty Harry or Die Hard. It takes a certain kind of man to carry those films and those characters. They don't have to be drop dead gorgeous (when you break them down to their parts, Humphrey Bogart and Bronson weren't), but they have to have charisma, they have to be of a certain middle age, and they have to exude an inner and outer strength.