Tom Cruise: Is He Really the Last Action Hero?

Tom Cruise might just be the last great action star in Hollywood. 

In recent years, we have seen a lot of action-filled movies, but they all would end up being categorized into another genre. How many of us remember the 1980s cinematic culture that gave rise to films that really could not have been categorized as anything other than an action film? Perhaps insurance premiums are getting Hollywood actors out of stunt work entirely? Maybe the stunt workers are unionized, and that’s what prevents actors from performing the less-safe sequences we see in film? Or is it that we, the movie audiences, have given up on cliché one-liners, best-buddy relationships, gratuitous violence, and copious amounts of bloodshed?

Yet, Tom Cruise rises like the proverbial phoenix and still he fights on! A large number of actors have gone the route of the dodo, from 80s action icons to forgotten has-beens or worse. That list is a big one, but here are some highlights: Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean Claude Van Damme, Sho Kosugi, Mel Gibson, Sean Connery, Kurt Russell, Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds, Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Michael Paré, and Chow Yun-Fat. When you think of Tom Cruise, most folks flash to Top Gun

Cruise has a list of movies under his belt that put him in the company of those "greats" that I just mentioned; the Mission Impossible franchise comes to mind. Yet there is something that separates him from the rest, though: he’s still at it. Oh sure, there’s the Expendables, and Bruce Willis is still having a go at it with films such as A Good Day to Die Hard or G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Cruise, though, is a thrill-seeker when it comes to his stunts.  Check out the opening sequence for Mission Impossible II again. Remember the rock-climbing leap he did there? That’s the kind of thing I am talking about. 

Cruise is a perfectionist when it comes to his stunt work and well, he's pretty doggone fantastic at it. If you have not seen Knight and Day with Cameron Diaz, I highly recommend it. It's funny and charming, and the stunt work is exceptional! The best part of that movie is that it’s a great example of what you can do with action in a movie if you are Tom Cruise that is.  The man loves to entertain people and in any action sequence, if you see the actor doing their own work, I think it brings a lot more to the film. 

Cruise may be fodder for the tabloids with his marriages and divorces or his religion, but really audiences still love to see Tom being an action hero on the big screen. He’s done it as recently as Oblivion, Jack Reacher, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. The latest news is that the actor is already signed on for no less than two more sci-fi action films.

My point is: Tom Cruise may be the last of the action stars. He is at least the last one of this level of popularity that is doing his own stunt work (or at least as much as he is allowed to). I don't know how many more films will feature stars of this caliber doing any kind of real "action.:  Dangling from wires in on a sound stage against a green screen doesn't count in my book.