Some action movies, like Brawl in Cell Block 99 and Dredd, dial up the violence and gore to a bone-crunching level, more similar to the horror genre.
Throughout the 2010s, a new subgenre was pioneered in action cinema thats characterized by gory, over-the-top violence. Not only is the violence not sanitized like it is in typical Hollywood fare; its dialed up to an insane level. The characters arent invincible like the usual shredded supermen played by Arnold Schwarzenegger; every gunshot and stab wound actually has consequences, and the pain feels real.
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These movies occasionally transcend being straight action movies and veer into the horror genre with more blood and guts than A Nightmare on Elm Street. They are so gruesome and unsettling that they border on horror.
Leigh Whannell, one of the creators of the Saw and Insidious franchises, wrote and directed Upgrade, a cyberpunk thriller about a technophobe who gets an experimental computer chip implant that turns him into a well-oiled killing machine.
Cinematographer Stefan Duscio used experimental techniques to lock the camera onto the fight scenes and move with the action.
Gareth Evans The Raid is a beautifully self-contained action thriller in which Iko Uwais leads an elite squad of cops into a high-rise controlled by a crime lord. Its essentially a feature-length action movie as the cops spend the entire runtime killing henchmen armed with machetes. Bodies are flung around and gruesomely mangled as the camera tries to keep up.
The sequel, The Raid 2, blew the scale of the story wide open. Its an epic, taking audiences through the prison system and the criminal underworld without losing any of the brutality.
In the opening scene of RoboCop, a police officer named Murphy wanders into a gang hideout and gets blown to pieces by gunfire. Then, the Omni Consumer Products megacorporation resurrects him as a police state killing machine.
Paul Verhoevens movie is far from the one-dimensional sci-fi actioner it seems to be; its a sharp satire lampooning capitalism, authoritarianism, privatization, and the media.
After a man has been imprisoned for seemingly no reason for years, hes released with clothes, a cell phone, and some money, and has to find whoever locked him up or his life will get even worse. Oldboy is the second entry in Park Chan-wooks Vengeance Trilogy.
The scene in which a guy eats a live octopus is enough to make viewers squeamish, let alone the infamous blood-drenched hallway scene.
Over the course ofQuentin Tarantinos two-part martial arts epic Kill Bill, Uma Thurmans lead protagonist the Bride goes through hell: shes beaten, shot, stabbed, assaulted, and buried alive.
RELATED:Quentin Tarantino: Why The Bride Is His Greatest Hero (& Django Is Second)
It would be a horror movie if she didnt have the ability to get back up and exact vengeance on her attackers. In one scene, she rips her closest rivals eye out of its socket.
Pete Travis is the credited director of Dredd, a dystopian thrill-ride revolving around the iconic 2000 A.D. character, but according to Karl Urban, screenwriter Alex Garland directed so many of the reshoots that hes basically the movies director. Garland wrote 28 Days Later, so its hardly surprising that Dredd has a horror sensibility.
Dreddhas a merciless fascist protagonist targeting the suppliers of a drug that slows down time. This drug allowed the movie to show bullets passing through people in super slow-motion, exemplifying every horrifying detail. Some characters are given the drug before being thrown from the top of a high-rise to make the fall feel slower.
At the beginning of Battle Royale, a bunch of schoolchildren are taken to a remote location by their totalitarian overlords and told that theyre being pitted against each other in a fight to the death.
Kinji Fukasakus movie is one of the most riveting action thrillers of the century thus far. It hit theaters years before the similarly-themed The Hunger Games and its much more violent.
Some of the same team from The Raid upped the ante when they made Netflixs The Night Comes for Us, which sees a small band of justice-seekers fending off the entire Indonesian crime world and the corrupt cops on their payroll to protect the life of a little girl who escaped from the Triads slaughter of her entire village.
This movie has some of the most spectacularly violent fight scenes ever put on film. It crosses every line that one would expect it to avoid. In one scene, the little girl stabs a guy in the face.
The fourth entry in the Rambo franchise, simply titled Rambo, saw a grizzled, aging John Rambo living on the fringes of society in Burma. A group of political activists asks him to escort them deep into the belly of the beast to liberate oppressed locals.
RELATED:Rambo: 10 Reasons The Sequels Could Never Top First Blood
As usual, hes reluctant at first but soon gets back into killing modeto exact brutal vigilante justice. Rambo once held the record for the highest kill count in movie history. In the final act, Rambo gets at the helm of a giant machine gun and tears the Burmese militia to pieces. This movie is gorier than all the Halloweens combined.
Even the most desensitized viewer will struggle to stomach the bone-crunching, skull-scraping carnage of S. Craig Zahlers Brawl in Cell Block 99. The Bone Tomahawk director recruited Vince Vaughn to play a violent criminal who is forced to punch his way through the prison system by a gang lord threatening to perform a horrific experimental abortion on his pregnant girlfriend.
The naturalistic cinematography emphasizes the near-cartoonish brutality of the action. The shocking evil of the villains is matched by the gruesomeness of their comeuppance.
NEXT:The 5 Best Opening Scenes (& 5 Best Endings) Of Action Movies
Next Twilight: The 10 Saddest Things About The Cullen Family
Ben Sherlock is a writer, comedian, and independent filmmaker, and he's good at at least two of those things. In addition to writing news and features for Game Rant and lists for Screen Rant and CBR, Ben directs independent films and does standup comedy. He's currently in pre-production on his first feature film, Hunting Trip, and has been for a while because filmmaking is expensive. Previously, he wrote for Taste of Cinema and BabbleTop.
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Reviewed and Recommended by Erik Baquero