Something that has been on my mind recently is the dwindling pipeline of action flicks and the lack of new action hero stars. In the days of my youth, Hollywood had more big name action stars than Barry White had love songs. My big four would be Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Willis, and Gibson, but reasonable arguments could be made for the tier 2 action prowesses of Lundgren, Van Damme, and Seagal as well. While I'm glad that Steven Seagal has gotten old (and incredibly fat), sadly we're reaching the end of line for Mad Max, Rocky, and John McLain. Unfortunately, I don't see any obvious candidates waiting in the wings to fill the action hero gap. Let's take a look at some contenders.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson – A couple years ago, I would have bet the farm that The Rock would ascend to the top of the action star heap. Schwarzenegger had even passed the torch to The Rock during a scene in The Rundown. But since then, the Rock has yet to land a bigger hit and is currently starring in The Game Plan, which seems like his own version of Kindergarten Cop or The Kid. There's nothing wrong with those, but I didn't expect Rocky to be doing a version only 6 years into his film career. He's still in his early 30s and has plenty of time for action roles, but the Rock appears to be heading down a different path at the moment.
Matt Damon – Damon is one of my favorite actors and his turns in the Bourne movies have been very well done. The guy is well respected and connected in Hollywood and should continue to have his choice of everything from art house films to blockbusters. However, that means he is just as likely to be in Oceans Fourteen or the film adaptation of The Informant as an add-on to the Bourne trilogy. With his diverse projects, I'm not sure how many more action romps we can expect from Good Will Hunting.
Christian Bale – The 21st century Batman will be roaming the streets of Gotham City again next summer. Genres like superhero or action movies are inevitably cited as limiting or beneath serious actors, so Bale's willingness to embrace quality roles which are clearly not Shakespearian theatre is a good sign for future action stardom. Bale has also worked around the periphery of straight-up action films in Reign of Fire, Rescue Dawn, and 3:10 to Yuma. Like The Rock, Bale is under 35 and could have a long and effective run as an action hero if he so chooses.
Eric Bana – Bana had a good action run several years back with Black Hawk Down, Hulk, and Troy. However, it's unclear if Bana will reprise his superhero role in any Hulk sequels and his recent projects have tended towards dramas. He seems to be on a George Clooney or Russell Crowe track, but I think it is too early to remove him from the action star radar screen.
Orlando Bloom –With both the Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean on his résumé, Bloom certainly knows how to choose the blockbusters to sign on to. He also starred in Kingdom of Heaven and alongside Bana in Troy and Black Hawk Down. While a solid roster of titles, Bloom always seems to be part of an ensemble where he is second fiddle to the true hero of the narrative. I'm unconvinced that he could carry a film as the solo hero.
Shia LaBeouf – He's a dark horse to be sure, but perhaps LaBeouf is the new mold that leaves the big muscles/big explosions/big guns action hero in the past. A gangly kid with good acting chops should find himself in dramas or relegated to the occasional role as nerdy tech genius in action flicks, but LaBeouf is starting to build quite the portfolio. He's following up Transformers with a role in the new Indiana Jones movie, a thriller centering around a terrorist assassination plot, and possibly a Transformers sequel. A far cry from playing Louis Stevens on the Disney Channel.
Who am I missing? Is there anybody who can save us from poor quality direct-to-DVD action movies?