If I get my stuff together and turn this into a feature, I’ll properly revisit this list when I do the 2010s, but in the meantime, I cannot believe I forgot about a number of even personal favorites from the first attempt, including two critical omissions. So this is what the revised list will look like, as of now, forehead sweaty.
10) Death Race (2008)
Yeah, this one might slip by. I have to credit Paul Chapman over at The Greatest Movie Ever! for this one and a number of the new entries here, for having covered these movies with a more open mind than most other contemporary critics. I won’t tell you who directed this, just know that it’s got Jason Statham, gruesome violence, and a fun, exciting vibe despite the grey, Gears of War visual palette characteristic of the era.
9) So Close (2002)
I was wavering on this one, but honestly, the action is really good. It’s just that the real attraction is the three awesome ladies, and it’s a borderline comedy. I respect Redline a lot, and it’s worth recommending, but I wasn’t its biggest fan, to be honest. Also glad to get 300 off here, but that was an important movie — for better or worse.
Also, Gladiator is gone because everyone’s seen Gladiator. And with the excision of The Matrix Reloaded, we’re done with franchises. Pick any of these and watch ’em, stress-free. You don’t even have to watch the original Crank to enjoy Crank 2, but why would you not watch Crank?
8) Versus (2000)
7) Appleseed (2004)
6) Crank: High Voltage (2009)
5) Punisher: War Zone (2008)
I even mentioned this one yesterday, but this is a 2012 movie to me, I don’t know why. Yeah, Lexi Alexander’s take on the Punisher is all business. Ray Stevenson is a middle-aged bruiser, imposing and brutal. The violence is splashy, and there are a number of great, gory gags. Frank punches a guy’s face in, so I don’t even have to tell you that Colin Salmon is the buddy cop buddy. Name of Budianski.
4) Battle Royale (2000)
3) Ip Man (2008)
Uh, I thought this movie came out in 2010. I know I didn’t see it until much later, and it’s the only Ip Man that came out in this decade. It also remains the best Ip Man, though it’s hard to define why. Yes, there’s the excellent dojo scene, and maybe the only villain who isn’t a frothing, racist psycho. The other entries in this four-part saga (with spin-offs) are all worth watching, but you’ll be laughing by the end. The original is pretty serious, the best possible spotlight for Donnie Yen. I still have yet to see Ip Man rival The Grandmaster, in part because I couldn’t make it through Ashes of Time. But for Zhang Ziyi, of course I’ll check it out.
2) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
1) Doomsday (2008)
This is a truer number one, because if you were to ask for an action movie recommendation from the 2000s — which, like, why, weirdo? — I would say Doomsday. Granted, I may have forgotten about it, but when I remember it, this is honestly one of my favorite movies. How do you make Escape from New York better? Make it fun and dumb like Escape from L.A. How do you make Escape from L.A. better? Swap out Snake Plissken with Maj. Eden Sinclair. Girl Snake? The only variant Hideo Kojima didn’t give us.
This is the much-maligned mash-up between the Escape movies, The Road Warrior, and 28 Days Later, but director Neil Marshall made no secret of his influences. The other ruinous frame around Doomsday was the whole “Maybe this guy isn’t so great” after the critical acclaim for The Descent. I wasn’t too big on The Descent, but I did like Dog Soldiers and Centurion. However, his Doomsday is closest to my heart. Like with Keita Amemiya, it was one of those, “Oh, I get this guy” moments. That’s always nice.
Of course, Crouching Tiger is a more moving, fuller experience, but that’s its problem where it concerns this list. If you just want to see a lady kick some ass but without the romance, the tragedy, the dialogue, go for Doomsday, and try not to fall in love with Rhona Mitra.