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Ek Ticket, Ek Black Coffee: How BTS killed the thrill of watching action movies

No, no, by BTS I don't mean the K-pop group, but let’s explore this whodunnit!

Ek Ticket, Ek Black Coffee: How BTS killed the thrill of watching action movies

Still from Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning (Image via: YouTube/Screengrab)

  • Manisha Lakhe

Last Updated: 12.57 PM, Jul 30, 2023


I am willing. Yes, very willing, to believe that the world is threatened by Hydra or The Injustice League. I search the internet frantically for a sunscreen-type cream that will protect me from the eye of Sauron. I am terrified that people I know might belong to the Hellfire Club or turn into Hans Gruber. That’s why I watch action movies because I also believe that Indiana Jones will return the priceless artifact to the museum and that Shah Rukh Khan will get the girl because he’s asked the Kainaat to help him in his quest with poori shiddat.

But recently at the movies, when the lights in the theatre are dimmed, and I have turned that seat into a temporary home, I find myself wishing harm on the stunt teams. Why is every hero, every villain so darned predictable? Villains should be like the velociraptor in the original Jurassic Park, calculating and cunning. The retractable claw tapping on the steel kitchen top should make you shiver years after you have seen the movie. The way to fight these things should make your heart relocate to where your stomach is, even if it is just hiding in the kitchen.

Instead, we see heroes being chased on rooftops by equally agile villains. How the heck does every hero know parkour? I blame the film Yamakasi by Luc Besson who introduced us to this sport. And yes, I blame the scene at the beginning of Casino Royale that I believe turned every action director into ‘meri audience paglaa jaayegi, sar!’ (that’s Bollywood speak for ‘let’s drive the audience crazy’). Since then, everyone has turned into a jumping, flipping, running hero/henchman/heroine. 


The last time Parkour and its brother Freerunning were shown as art in movies was District 13 (David Belle the creator of parkour plays Leito in the film). These days, it’s become so trite now, every time the hero’s theme starts, Indy and Ethan Hunt have a theme I sigh into my coffee and expect the same ole, same ole. Bruce the shark too had a two-note theme, but we reacted to it in fear. By the time Son of Jaws 9 showed up on our screens, the audience would be like, ‘Whatever happened to all the plastic we dumped into the oceans that should have killed this big shark?!’ 

That’s the exact feeling one gets from watching heroes climb on top of the train and run towards the engine to stop it from reaching the broken bridge or some other impediment. That’s the same acid reflux that hits you when you watch yet another hero fight a villain atop the train. Not to mention the henchmen and these days heroines are walking on top of speeding trains as well. I'm not being mean to female leads, but the stunt itself. When did we first see this man against a speeding machine, against a villain scene? 

Mara mari inside the train is still fine, and the wonderful action and comedy-packed Bullet Train (2022) with Brad Pitt is something everyone appreciates. And to my horror (because everything else about the show is so wannabe) I didn’t mind Priyanka Chopra Jonas fighting off baddies in the first episode of Citadel (on Amazon Prime Video). But the greatest disappointments have come from movies where we are in love with the men! Harrison Ford and now Tom Cruise! Imagine watching Tom Cruise and his heroine (who looks like all other Mission Impossible heroines - and don’t tell me Thandie Newton was different, because I’ll say she was a thief as well!) jump from compartment to compartment that’s going down the cliff because the bridge is broken and saying, ‘Pathaan bested you, Tom Cruise! Or watching the fight ensue on the train and hearing someone in the audience say, ‘Abhi Salman Khan aayega, is train wreck ko bachane ko!’

And when it comes to car chases, it’s silly to watch the hero being chased by baddies and vice versa, careening through crowded markets (from Moroccan Souks to Macy’s Parade and as Indiana Jones would have you believe, the Moon Day parade!), through traffic (dudes who are stunt directors should not show cars filled with baddies chasing hero unless it is better than John Wick 4 where the going against the traffic trope at the Arc De Triomphe is magnificent), and yes through Rome (From James Bond to Bourne to John Wick to any other action film they have to show car chases through the city and they’re usually boring set pieces)…

And don’t even get me started on boat chases! All the Hong Kong kung fu flicks had them, Bollywood Dubai films have them, and any Hollywood film that goes to Miami (or any Delta-based city), Venice, Monte Carlo, and other such cities has them! At least one film will show some quiet fisherman - who has dozed off in his solitary boat - suddenly falls into the water because of the high-speed boat chase… No longer funny. No longer unusual.

But what brought this rant on? The enthu cutlets that make up Tom Cruise’s team, that’s who! More than a year ago a YouTube video set social media afire with the ‘Tom Cruise performs a never before motorbike stunt for the next Mission Impossible film’ video. Damn! We watched it and loved the crazy that is inside Tom Cruise! The man is older than I, but manages to do these super dangerous stunts himself! The PR team was relentless! They followed it up all year until the film was released. 

That actually was horrid to watch in the film! We knew the rock that was jutting out was the ramp they created for the film! We knew what was going to happen when he was speeding up to jump off that ramp! The joy of the story was taken away because we knew what happened next! We knew that Tom Cruise went through a free fall, did not get hit by his falling motorbike, and his blue parachute opened… All because we had seen it in the promo videos! We were no longer following Ethan Hunt and his desperate need to get on to the runaway train, we were watching Tom Cruise who does his own stunts. We were watching that YouTube video on the IMAX screen. Bah!

So stunt directors, screenwriters, producers, and actors who do their own stunts, hear my prayer: Don’t blow the lid off fab stunts just because you need that extra publicity. Don’t write any more scenes we have seen a thousand times. These old stunts are DOA. Remember, the audience wants to be surprised. For predictability like cars blowing up, we have Bollywood’s Rohit Shetty.

About the author:
Manisha Lakhe writes on films and TV shows, is a poet, teacher, traveller and mom (and not necessarily in that order). Could sell her soul for Pinot and a good cheesecake.

(Disclaimer: Views expressed in the above article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of OTTplay. The writer is solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.)