This weekend marks the American wide release of the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. The movie is famous for 007’s getaway car — a Lotus Esprit, which transforms into a submarine. It even has the ability to launch torpedoes and set land mines. During one chase scene, Bond makes a seamless escape into the water, eventually emerging on land to the amazement of a group of gawking sunbathers. It’s one of the film’s funniest moments and certainly one of the most ridiculous scenes in action cinema. Movie heroes like Bond are thrust into death-defying situations for our entertainment, but sometimes these scenes elicit a bit of laughter, too. Here are ten ridiculous action scenes in films that require us to really suspend our disbelief.
Is John Woo’s Hard Target a loose adaptation of Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game or a violent, extended commercial for denim? It’s hard to say, but the Hong Kong director’s first American movie, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, has several wildly improbable action scenes that are heavy on the cheese. Wearing his finest blue cotton twill and greasy mullet, the “Muscles from Brussels” surfs a speeding motorcycle in one scene, before flipping off the vehicle and landing with a resounding, “Yeahhh!” Between the explosions and JCVD’s telepathic communication with pigeons, there’s an action-lite moment involving a fistfight with a rattlesnake. Universal Pictures was anxious about the execution of Woo’s American debut, so they hired Evil Dead director Sam Raimi to monitor the filmmaker’s progress. Still, the studio’s stifling treatment has little to do with Hard Target’s unintentional hilarity.
Fear the “banana monster” (aka the “watermelon monster) in Yuen Cheung-yan’s 1984 Hong Kong campfest, Taoism Drunkard. The rotund creature guards a set of “secret documents” and squares off against the “Cherry Boy” (a virgin who lives with his grandmother — who is actually a man in drag) chasing him with nipple-grabbing pincers and a lipstick-slick mouth full of sharp teeth. Director Yuen Cheung-yan’s filmography is full of Kung Fu oddities, but the bizarre characters in Taoism Drunkard accent the action scenes with added eccentricity.
Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky
Combine Hong Kong martial arts fury, low-budget splatter cinema, and a prison film, and you have something resembling a movie called Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky — a cult epic. The action is violent, bloody, and so hilariously over the top that gorehounds and novices will find something to appreciate here (although, perhaps not the truly weak-stomached). The plot is secondary to, oh, just about everything — but it involves a man with superhuman strength who battles corrupt prison wardens, fighting for the oppressed. Any number of scenes could have been spotlighted here, but there’s a certain je ne sais quoi about the fight during which one man slices open his own stomach and uses his intestines to strangle the other. A man watching from the sidelines shouts, “You’ve got a lot of guts, Oscar!” in laughable English dub. For those of you wincing in disgust, try the tamer head-crushing scene.
Eat your heart out, Michael Bay. The 2010 Kollywood film Enthiran was inspired by the CGI-riddled action films of American cinema and kaiju (Japanese monster movies). Bursting with just about everything you could possibly think of (cyborgs, car chases, explosions, and… cobras), the height of Enthiran’s insanity arises during this scene with a ruthless android that makes Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator look like a pussycat.
Actress Cynthia Rothrock’s martial arts credits are impressive. She’s a five-time World Karate Champion (in forms and weapons), holds six Black Belts in various Far Eastern martial disciplines, and made a career for herself in Hong Kong cinema alongside some of the greatest. Mortal Kombat’s Sonya Blade is said to have been inspired by Cynthia. For all her achievements, Cynthia has also starred in some pretty terrible films — but her decade-long B-movie career produced a few cult gems. In 1993’s Undefeatable, Cynthia played a woman who sets out to avenger her sister’s death. She goes up against a lunatic fighter, Stingray. Real-life martial arts master Don Niam plays the formidable opponent, rocking a curly mullet and crazed expression that just won’t quit. In the film’s most over-the-top action scene, Stingray fights John Miller’s Nick. Shirts are torn off (revealing that the men are oiled up underneath their clothes), knives are drawn (and licked), animal grunts are echoed, and Cynthia kicks major ass (with just one arm!). The scene closes with some eyeball gore, after which Cynthia says, “We’ll keep an eye out for you, Stingray.” Miller’s character doubles up on the camp by shouting, “Yeah, see ya!”
The Bollywood film industry has carefully observed Hollywood’s technological progress over the past decade, which has prompted moviemakers to match their Western counterparts. The result of this unspoken competition results in films like 2011’s Singham. The action defies the laws of physics to a preposterous degree, giving us scenes in which a car flips through the air and our protagonist pulls the bad guy from the vehicle with one hand like it’s no big deal.
Pas de problème!
“I didn’t want glory or to make masterpieces but popular films that would please the greatest number,” French director Georges Lautner once stated. “International recognition didn’t interest me. I was passionate at what I did with my faithful team. We made the films we wanted as quickly as possible. But with time, my commercial films appear almost intellectual.” His 1975 comedy-thriller Pas de problème! (No Problem!) gave the popcorn-munching people what they wanted: a car chase during which the vehicle is split in two and continues to barrel down a city street… eventually mending itself.
Good Guys Wear Black
Chuck Norris plays a former commando targeted by the CIA after a botched assassination in 1978’s Good Guys Wear Black. Sporting a porn stache and golden locks, Norris shows the government who’s really in charge when a couple of men attempt to run him over, only to be thwarted by Norris’ deadly flying dropkick through the racing car’s windshield.
Swedish action-comedy Kopps throws all pretenses aside and revels in every genre trope it possibly can during this scene with an invincible police officer — who tosses a bomb behind him simply for the explosion effect.
“I’m giving you a choice: either put on these glasses, or start eating that trash can,” Roddy Piper’s Nada tells Keith David’s Frank. What ensues is an absurdly long fight between the men. David’s character refuses to don the glasses that will reveal the alien conspiracy that has taken over the population. The action goes on far too long and is reminiscent of the matches seen on TV during the WWF heyday. It’s executed with a knowing wink as John Carpenter’s satire pokes fun at ’80s greed and consumer excess — excess of all kinds if this fight is any indication.