No Right Explanation

Put the Cookie Down!


Last week, the guys discussed who was the best action hero, and this week continue the discussion for your reading enjoyment.


Chris: Who would like to know a little secret about how a No Right Answer episode gets formed? Sometimes, we listen very closely to the comments people leave, having been inspired to do a particular debate. Sometimes we anticipate a debate that we feel will be rather popular or entertaining. And sometimes one of us just wants to do an Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation on camera. I’ll let you guess which one of those three debate kernels inspired last week’s episode.

I was rather happy that Arnold walked away with more than a few supporters, seeing as how that’s what I intended to see in the first place since, impressions aside, I do believe that Arnold is the quintessential action hero for now and ever more. But good ol’ Bruce Willis had more than his share of backers, even though he’s only really been in four really high-profile action movies that we all know and love, those being the Die Hard movies. Sure, I could have seen Dan arguing in favor of Willis pretty well, but I don’t think he could have stood up against an onslaught of Schwarzenegger any better than the English language.

I saw another popular choice emerge in the form of the Italian Stallion himself, Sylvester Stallone. Now that’s some real action hero stuff right there. Could Rambo destroy a T-800? Ooh, I don’t know, but I’d love to see that play out. Heck, even Rocky Balboa is somewhat of an action hero if you think about it, insomuch as every solution can be resolved by “punch someone harder.” Stallone and Schwarzenegger were built for action, but I still give the winning medal to Arnold because he’s done comedies and family movies that were well received or at least enjoyed to this day as an odd duck. Why does this make him a better action hero? Because these roles accentuate how much action is in his typical movies. Arnold looks more powerful in Predator partly because he looks so silly in Jingle All The Way. Basically, he’s able to laugh at himself, which means he’s so cool you can’t even hurt his feelings. Stick and stones can’t break his bones, and neither can words, apparently.

Of all the choices that commenters came up with that I could seriously see myself switching sides for, it’d be Jackie Chan. Mmm, I do love me some Jackie Chan. The two Drunken Master movies are gold and his more American movies like Rush Hour or Shanghai Noon are brilliant in how much fun they can be while Chan demonstrates how much ass he can kick, which unsurprisingly is a lot. Could Jet Li outdo Jackie? Well, that’s a tough call. I’d be splitting hairs a bit, but I have to make a distinction and say that Li, Chan, or even Bruce Lee himself aren’t necessarily “action heroes” as we’ve defined them but rather “martial arts heroes.” Stallone, Willis, or Schwarzenegger are more likely to shoot you with a gun, missile, or car than go one-on-one in an elaborate fight scene, whereas Li, Lee, or Chan will have kicked you more times than you can count before you can pull up your sidearm. Therefore, martial arts masters they may be, but they don’t qualify here.

Guess we’ll have to do a different debate for them another time…


Kyle: Hi, my name is Kyle, and I got married this week. I’m on a cruise ship smooching my lady and attending the midnight chocolate buffet. Deal with it. Naw, just kidding about that last part, but I’ll be missing out on my usual contribution this week. Incidentally, check out Media Sandwich this week, where Dan fills in for me and waxes poetic about The Rocketeer!


Dan: I love a good action film, but it’s hard to lump them all into one big category. In my mind, there’s the action film that you watch because they’re amazing. Things explode, bullets fly everywhere, and the CGI doesn’t crap over everything … just perfect. You can pop it in, order a pizza and spend the afternoon feeling good about your life. Heck, maybe you end up punching a wall because you got too hyped up, but that’s just how it goes.

Then there’s the other category, the action star vehicle. These are movies that you watch only because you love the start burning brightly in the center of them. Perhaps some of the action scenes are dated, and perhaps the movie was corny even when it was new. Doesn’t matter, because here comes my favorite part … did you hear that line? That’s my favorite line. Oh wait, this … this is my favorite part … did you see what he did to that guy’s bones? Yeah, you did.

We tried to pick combatants that blended in both of these categories, and I think we did a good job. Bruce Willis was noticeably absent, and I think that’s just the flip of the coin. Truth is, pick a cast member of The Expendables and you’ve got a solid argument. I hope nobody thinks we don’t bow at the altar of Bruce, because we do. I hear great things about Looper and plan to see it ASAP.

As for how we got to where we got before Chris ruined everything, first point went to me for the argument that Jason Statham is a genetically bred action machine. While Schwarzenegger had problems with his accent, then with his muscles typecasting him, Jason flew right out of the gate into what he does best. This guy is so cut, even his muscles have individual memberships at 24 hour fitness. Sure, the same could have been said about Arnie early in his career, but Arnold never had the speed that Jason throws down. Arnold lifted cars while the background exploded, but Jason is the explosion.

Chris got the next point by making an argument that I honestly didn’t think of. I had viewed Arnold’s family comedy movie library as a weakness to his action movie star status, but I was proved wrong. As Chris stated, the comedy doesn’t come from the well-timed puns, but from the muscle-bound monster delivering them. If Seth Rogan delivered the line “It’s not a tumor”, would it have been as memorable, or quoted? I think we all know the answer to that, but just in case an explosion has left you dazed, the answer is no.

Next point I snagged with the accent argument. An action star can have an accent; it’s part of the rules. Sylvester’s stroke-talk counts as an accent, yes. The question is, does the accent hinder your understanding of the one-liners, or does it make them ever so much more punchy? Jason’s accent is an action accent, it is sharp, smooth, and can arouse the ladies and intimidate the fellahs at the same time. Arnold’s accent is intimidating, but it doesn’t really have the smooth suave aspect. That’s why his action movies don’t really have him also being a leading man with a lady he’s wooing. Getting the girl is one thing, but once Stockholm syndrome has worn off, only Statham can keep the fire going.

Chris grabbed the next point saying that Arnold’s broader appeal makes him better. What?! Boo, but it deserved a point anyways, despite my disagreement. Just having action and explosions is nice, but throwing in cheesy one-liners and an Austrian who isn’t above a terrible movie, and you’ve got a winning combination. Perhaps Jason should do a Jingle all the Way, and join the ranks of great action actors.

The last point was a bit of a throw-away, I know, because I knew the spit take was coming up. However, I still feel that the simplicity of Jason’s plots do him a service in being a great action star. Look at Taken, and try to figure out a plot less complicated than that. Daughter kidnapped, dad kicks butts until he finds her. You could have cast Jason in that movie and it would have been just as good, but Arnold would have demanded more. He would have demanded we find out that the daughter isn’t really his, and it is all a dream, or maybe it isn’t, and there’s an invisible alien hunter from the future that’s trying to kill her. Am I ragging on his movies? No, I own most of them, and watch them frequently. It’s just the simple “here’s a reason why Jason’s kicking your butt this week” attitude goes a long way with me.

Then the spit take, unavoidable with such colorful imagery as “Gargling peaches”, not to mention the clearly spot-on Schwarzenneger impersonation. It was a good day to film. Now to see if anyone will see Looper with me.

A handful of people suggested the great Bruce Campbell should be the greatest action star, but let’s be honest; he fits squarely into the second category. Some of his films, if led by someone else, would be utter trash, yet somehow he makes it work.

About the author

Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.