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Action Flicks to Bring in the New Year

December 22, 2006

Still waiting for NTIA's final rule on the government's digital-to-analog converter box subsidy program. Promised by the end of December. In the meantime. . .

Four more DVD picks. Action as in guns and bullets. Professional killers with hearts of gold. Good stories. Interesting characters. Some die, some survive. Movies you want to see more than once.

Not so obscure this time. So here they are:

Ronin (1998)

Directed by John Frankenheimer

This an action thriller that wants you to think, because we're never sure who anyone is and what their real motives are.

Stars Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone, Jonathan Pryce.

Someone (we don't know who) has hired a number of mercenaries (it seems) to steal a case from another group of people who want very badly to keep it. And as it turns out, there are other very nasty organizations that also want the case.

Of course, our heroes (?) don't know what's in the case, but that just adds to the mystery.


Loyalties are for hire, so betrayal is always a possibility.

This all takes place in Europe, where streets are narrow and winding. The car chases are legendary!

Edge of your seat from start to finish.

Leon: The Professional (1988)

Directed by Luc Besson

This is another Jean Reno film. In this one, he is the primary character. This is also the film that started a very young Natalie Portman on her way to stardom. Gary Oldman plays the bad cop, and Danny Aiello plays the fatherly mob boss.

If you don't know the story: Calling himself a "cleaner," the mysterious Leon (Reno) is New York's top hit man. When his next door neighbors are murdered, Leon becomes the unwilling guardian of the family's sole survivor -- 12-year-old Mathilda (Portman). But Mathilda wants revenge. Training her in the deadly tricks of of his trade, Leon helps her track the psychotic agent who murdered her family.

Leon: The Professional

This is a must see movie. Buy or rent the uncut international version, containing the 24 minutes of footage that were excised from the original U.S. release to make the film more upright and proper. The full version is a more complete story.

Enemy At the Gates (2001)

Directed by Jean-Jacque Annaud

This is a World War II movie that is set in the Battle of Stalingrad, pitting Russian peasant (Jude Law) against aristocratic German (Ed Harris). When the Soviet soldier demonstrates his natural shooting ability by using only one bullet per German kill after kill, a political officer (Joseph Fiennes) turns him into a national hero to raise morale among the suffering masses.

The sniper's skills soon have the opposite effect on the invading Germans; they send their own top sniper to terminate the Russian legend.

Enemy at the Gates

Easier said than done of course, and the stakes escalate.

Interwoven in this cat-and-deadly-mouse game is the competition between the Russian hero and the political officer who created him for the affections of a lovely woman soldier (Rachel Weisz).

This movie is based on real characters and has drawn some criticism by history buffs for not getting it right, but this is fiction after all, and not a documentary.


The Replacement Killers (1998)

Directed by Antoine Fuqua

This is what an action thriller is, Hong Kong style!

International action star Chow Yun-Fat pairs up with a very foxy, kick-ass, take-no-prisoners Mira Sorvino.

After he reneges on the ruthless crime boss who hired him to avenge his son's death, professional killer John Lee goes on the run. Enlisting the aid of beautiful document forger Meg Coburn, Lee attempts to return to his family in China before they are victimized by the crime boss.

The Replacement Killers

But an army of "replacement killers" is hot on his trail, and now both he and Meg are targets for their impressive firepower. With both sides fully armed and determined to fight to the death, neither side holds back when they finally face off.

The story actually has some depth, and the writing simply works. It's a keeper!