Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie

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For more than thirty years, the action movie has been the film genre that most represents Hollywood to the world, as action films find blockbuster success at box offices around the globe. Still, the genre seldom receives the critical attention it deserves. Studying its trends, key components, and visual excesses, this new and expanded edition of Action Speaks Louder traces the genre's evolution to reveal how it has come to assume its place of prominence in American culture. With scores of in-depth case studies-including films such as Dirty Harry, Robocop, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Armageddon, Spider-Man, War of the Worlds, and The Incredibles-author Eric Lichtenfeld draws on film analysis, production histories, critical responses, studio marketing materials, and original filmmaker interviews. Up-to-date and comprehensive, Action Speaks Louder is the definitive study of the movies' most kinetic form of fun.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[A]n intelligent, coherent and frequently illuminating study of a genre that has become firmly entrenched in pop culture.”—Geoffrey Berkshire, Variety

“[A]n intelligent, coherent and frequently illuminating study of a genre that has become firmly entrenched in pop culture…The book encourages the idea that, although some action films may be ‘mindless,’ our reaction to them doesn't have to be.”—Geoffrey Berkshire, Variety

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275980542
  • Publisher: Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/28/2004
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,527,648
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

ERIC LICHTENFELD has worked in many areas of the film industry, and his articles have appeared in film publications including The Scenographer, Film Score Monthly, and Trace, the journal of the Art Directors Guild. He has contributed features and commentaries to special edition DVD releases of such films as Predator, Die Hard, and Speed, and has taught film studies at Loyola Marymount University.
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Table of Contents

Introduction : a little violence never hurt anyone
Prelude : 1971 1
1 "The law's crazy" : the vigilante and other myths 17
2 Automatons : hard-bodies and world pacification 59
3 Enter the fists : the body as the weapon 97
4 Into the jungle, out of the wasteland : action in the wild 127
5 Blowing up all those familiar places : terror and the confined arena 163
6 Unmitigated disasters : old formulas and the new spectacle 197
7 Tomorrow's heroes today : action meets the fantastic 229
8 Excelsior! : march of the superheroes 253
Conclusion : sifting through the rubble 273
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 22, 2009

    update of comprehensive, insightful, timely study of action films

    Lichtenfeld has worked both in making films and as a film critic and commentator, including doing extra features for DVDs of several action films. He sees this popular film genre as 'derived from the Western, film noir, and the police procedural 'with special guest appearances made by the disaster film and others [with an evolution] quite analogous to the horror film.' Though many films depict violence and mayhem, the action film is distinguished in that it ushered in a 'new violence [which] would be deployed more to pleasure audiences than to jar them.' This 'new violence' came about from a shift in standards marking a 'New Hollywood' and related changes in structures and pacing of films and cinematographic techniques such as lingering on the violence by slow-motion and close-ups. It is these and other elements, not merely the violence and plotting, which account for the new genre of the action film. The cluster of elements reflected changes in the culture's psychic relationship with violence and what it looked for in entertainment. Bonnie and Clyde is pointed to as a seminal action film, with the films Billy Jack, Shaft, and The French Connection closely related to it in paving the way for the action film by demonstrating its popularity and giving guidance for filmmakers. Advertising, publicity, and marketing of action films has as much a part in the author's multifaceted study of this major contemporary film genre as film history, film editing, and cinematography. References to numerous action films over the past couple of decades make for enjoyable as well as engaging and stimulating reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2004

    A Must Read Book For The Action Film Fan

    Action Speaks Louder is a meticulously crafted book which discusses the action films for the past three decades in great detail.A 'must read' book for all those who enjoy the Action film genre

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2004

    ACTION SPEAKS LOUDER 'made my day!'

    ACTION SPEAKS LOUDER gives a panoramic view of the action film. As a fan of this genre, the information in this book not only gave me a historical analysis but also brought a new appreciation of many of the films I have seen over the past 3 decades. Mr. Lichtenfeld carefully crafted an informative book not only for the film scholar but for anyone who enjoys the action genre.

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