For critics, Paul W.S. Anderson is the ideal punching bag—a terrible director with a penchant for churning out clichéd action flicks. If you take a look at his Rotten Tomatoes page—where the highest-rated project is the straight-to-video sequel “Death Race 3”—you will get an idea of the response the filmmaker’s work tends to receive (admittedly, he's only a producer on that one).
However, there are a few, ahem, gems lying around his filmography—not full movies, mind you, but some cool action sequences from those movies. To paraphrase The Playlist review of Anderson’s new film, “Pompeii,” no one goes to a Paul W.S. Anderson flick for the gripping narrative and beautifully written dialogue. Audiences go to watch things blow up and people fight each other, and that’s exactly what we’re going to spotlight here. Hell, even people like Quentin Tarantino seem to appreciate the guy's work (QT had "The Three Musketeers" on his Top 11 films of 2011 list).
“Pompeii” hits theaters this weekend. However, if you don’t want to spend $12 on a movie ticket—and admittedly, it's hard to argue against that very often—why not take a few minutes to check out some of Anderson’s best action scenes for free? Below, we’ve compiled five of his most memorable ones for your viewing pleasure.
Liu Kang vs. Shang Tsung — “Mortal Kombat”
In 1994, we were still in the early stages of the terrible-video-game-adaptation era. “Mortal Kombat” was different, though. Well, sort of. The film fit into the hilariously-bad category of filmmaking: its acting, its storyline, and its graphics were so horrendous you couldn’t help but smile (as opposed to “Super Mario Bros.,” which was so horrendous you couldn’t help but break your television set). Nevertheless, the film had a few great moments, like this fight sequence between Liu Kang and Shang Tsung. Here, Kang looks to avenge his brother’s death by taking Tsung, the host of an inter-dimensional martial arts tournament, out. But before he can get to him, he is forced to deal with a group of warrior souls. The kung fu, courtesy of actor Robin Shou, is great. But it’s the film’s infectious techno theme that really makes the scene. Once you hear it, you can’t get it out of your head.
There is a lot of great action to choose from in Anderson’s 2008 futuristic flick about the now-most popular sport in the country: a deadly car race between prison inmates. The star of this film is go-to action hero Jason Statham, who mostly spends his time brooding behind the wheel of his armored car. In this scene, Statham is up against The Dreadnought, a gigantic tank of a truck with machine guns and flamethrowers attached to its sides. It’s a nasty piece of equipment that can tear through automobiles, blow things up, and impale drivers, all of which are on full display here.
CORRECTION: A previous entry of this post included a clip from "Resident Evil: Apocalypse." As one astute commenter pointed out, Anderson only wrote and produced this film; he did not direct it. I apologize for the mistake. We'll keep it below as a bonus for fans of the series.
“Soldier” may be Anderson’s worst film. But there is at least one salvageable moment, and that comes during the final fight sequence, where Kurt Russell’s character, Sgt. Todd 3465, goes up against his nemesis, Caine 607. Both individuals are genetically engineered soldiers and have been trained since birth to kill and not feel pain. This makes for an entertaining—and occasionally graphic—fight: Todd’s head gets smashed through a plate-glass window, a metal structure drops right on Caine’s face, Todd uses a helicopter blade to slice Caine’s stomach open, etc. This is easily one of the best fight sequences Anderson has done. (Random aside: I think Anderson increased this scene’s sound effects volume by about 1000 percent; those punches are loud.)
“Resident Evil: Retribution"
Taking a page from Quentin Tarantino’s Gogo Yubari-Beatrix Kiddo fight in “Kill Bill,” this sequence from the fifth chapter of 'Resident Evil' features Milla Jovovich’s Alice running down a fancy white corridor while swinging a chain whip at zombies. Unfortunately, the whip isn’t too good at actually killing them, so Alice decides to shoot them in the head. The entire thing is stylish, fast-paced, and bloody. More importantly, the spatial orientation is impeccable; you always know where you are in this scene and the geography of the scene is never confused.
Bonus Not Directed by P.W.S.A. : “Resident Evil: Apocalypse”
Yes, I will watch Milla Jovovich run down the side of a building, stab a few nameless bad guys, and take on a rocket launcher-wielding monster named Nemesis who she ends up impaling on a large piece of metal. The 'Resident Evil' movies are slightly better than most of the dreck in Anderson’s filmography (he is a writer and producer—not a director—on this one), and this clip shows you why. This is a fun, balls-to-the-wall action sequence.