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A lot of the best action movies (in my opinion) that I can think of, came out in the 1990s, such as Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Michael Mann’s Heat, and Speed, just to name a few. However, I also believe that the decade is littered with films that, while still enjoyable to many action junkies, missed the mark of what they could have been due to egregiously cliche-ridden camp, or could be ready for a reintroduction to the mainstream for a new generation of moviegoers. The following are the ‘90s action movies I believe are most deserving of a revisit, starting with the first of a few Sylvester Stallone classics on our list.
Demolition Man (1993)
I enjoy Demolition Man - about a loose-canon cop (Sylvester Stallone) and eccentric terrorist (Wesley Snipes) continuing their cat-and-mouse game after more than 30 years in cryogenic stasis - mostly for its silly, but poignant, social commentary. It imagines a seemingly utopian 2032 in which violence is virtually non-existent, in-person conversations are censored, Taco Bell is the only eatery available, and metal seashells have replaced toilet paper somehow.
Given the increased scrutiny surrounding these exact topics (and others the movie explores) today, a remake (if not the rumored sequel) could double down on the satire, and I’d be curious to see how new cast members would handle the lead roles, including Sandra Bullock’s character.
Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997)
Director Jan de Bont’s acclaimed 1994 hit Speed - about a loose-canon cop (Keanu Reeves) trying to save passengers of a city bus rigged to explode if it drops below 50 mph by an eccentric terrorist (Dennis Hopper) - is another great Sandra Bullock action movie. However, few would say the same about its sequel, Speed 2: Cruise Control, which essentially recycles the concept, but sets it on a luxury cruise ship, replaces Reeves with Jason Patric, and fails to deliver much of the same cleverly constructed thrills or well-timed humor.
Still, I would love to see this franchise resurrected, either as a way of revisiting the otherwise intriguing concept of the 1997 sequel, or a whole new installment that could reunite Reeves with Bullock. Maybe set this one in space?
Speaking of space movies with franchise potential, Stargate was the catalyst for a few enduringly popular, critically acclaimed, planet-hopping sci-fi TV shows set in the same universe(s) - including, most notably, Stargate SG-1. Despite this, the original film - in which a loose-canon colonel (Kurt Russell) and eccentric linguist (James Spader) lead an expedition through a strange, ancient device that sends them to a primitive alternate dimension - is a lot of the same cheesy schlock you would expect from Roland Emmerich movies (Independence Day: Resurgence, 2012, etc).
Considering its grand story potential and the creative rejuvenation it would experience on the small screen, I believe this franchise deserves the same treatment on the big screen, and perhaps with a filmmaker as gifted as Jon Favreau or Denis Villeneuve at the helm.
Our second Sylvester Stallone film on this list, Daylight, comes from another notorious B-movie proprietor: Rob Cohen, helmer of the original Fast and the Furious and xXx movies. While it is not the most ridiculous and cliche-ridden of the director’s work (also including The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and The Hurricane Heist), the story of a disgraced first responder (Stallone) racing to rescue survivors trapped inside New York’s Hudson Tunnel after an explosion causes it to cave in at both ends earns a spot, mostly for how shamelessly it borrows from more acclaimed disaster movies before it.
However, because people still love disaster movies and the pitch for this flick still intrigues me, I’d be down to see a new take on it in the hands of someone who could really freshen it up.
I feel the same way about Volcano, which sees Tommy Lee Jones face off against an explosive natural disaster that awakens underground after a startling earthquake hits Los Angeles, California. The Mick Jackson-directed B-movie is one of several films that suffered from the “twin movies” trend throughout the ’90s (it came out the same year as the similarly plotted Dante’s Peak).
Well, because it has been quite a while since we have seen a movie about volcanic eruptions taking place in modern day, now might be the perfect time for a new version of this story that also could use a script with a little more imagination.
For the record, I do not believe there has ever been a better thriller about tornadoes than Twister, but I also believe that I am not saying too much with that statement. In yet another over-the-top ‘90s action classic from director Jan de Bont, Helen Hunt and the late, great Bill Paxton play storm chasers on the verge of a divorce, which is interrupted by a series of devastating twisters sweeping through Oklahoma.
While its Oscar-nominated visual effects still hold up grandly today, the plot, character motivations, and oddly placed humor have not aged as well, which is why I would love to see Hunt’s idea for a reboot (written by Daveed Digs and Rafael Casal with the Academy Award winner directing) finally become a reality.
Hudson Hawk (1991)
Now, I would normally consider the idea of remaking a Bruce Willis action movie to be sacrilege (especially if that movie is called Die Hard), but there is one early ‘90s flick that I believe many would agree could use another shot. A critical and commercial misfire, Hudson Hawk is another example of a really fun concept - following a recently released burglar (Willis) forced into stealing some of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous pieces as part of a world domination plot - that does not live up to its potential and, instead, resulted in forgettable, mediocre farce.
By replacing the lead (sorry, Bruce) with a witty performer like Ryan Reynolds and getting someone with the gifts of say, James Gunn, a Hudson Hawk remake could be the new action-comedy classic we have been waiting for.
Last Action Hero (1993)
Speaking of action-comedy classics, the cult favorite, Last Action Hero - in which a boy meets Arnold Schwarzenegger (sort of playing himself) after he is magically transported into the actor’s latest movie - was also a critical and commercial misfire, but undeservedly so. Supposedly, seeing Schwarzenegger in the lead and Die Hard director John McTiernan in the credits did not prepare audiences for what was intended to be a send-up of action movie cliches. Thus, this is a ‘90s action movie particularly deserving of a second chance, especially with the genre conventions that exist today. And, filling in for Schwarzenegger in the meta role of a leading action star would have to be Dwayne Johnson.
I bet this would not be the first time that a remake of Last Action Hero was ever proposed, including one with The Rock involved. Of course, there are other ‘90s action films that could benefit from some fresh material and some that others would prefer be left alone as their flaws are what makes them special in their eyes. Do you believe any of those above fall under that criteria?
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Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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