I really do believe that cinema is undergoing an action comedy crisis right now. Most of these films that have released over the last couple of years, frankly, have been either underwhelming or flat out flavourless. Titles like The Lovebirds, Stuber, Bad Boys for Life were all algorithmic duds. And one of the few ways to fill this void now is by reliving (or living) the most cracker and liveliest flicks. Here are some of the best action comedies currently streaming on Netflix, from madcap zombie epics to buddy-cop romps.
Get Smart (2008)
Over a decade ago, there was a time when Dwayne Johnson wasn’t just a bronzed, righteous on-screen hero. In Get Smart, he was an asshole. And the hero is an awkward, muscularly pale Steve Carell. Things are bound to get interesting with a dynamic like that and the film cashes in on this unapologetically. This is a tongue-in-cheek, Americanised Johnny English. It is cartoonish but slick (in the ironic sense) and earnestly amusing.
Zombieland is probably the smartest, most fun, zaniest zombie film Hollywood has ever come up with. Zombie films have often been considered shorthand for easy-to-pull-off slashers and thrillers. This film, starring Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Woody Harrelson, shows us otherwise. There is a nihilistic utopia to their world — absolutely nothing matters because humans have turned into flesh-hungry cannibals, so, let’s just destroy everything and do whatever we want (even if that means breaking into Bill Murray’s house). In this universe, anarchy means combining goofiness with screwy action.
Delhi Belly (2011)
It’s always nice to see irreverent, audaciously cheeky Bollywood films where no one has any qualms about swearing, shitting or shooting. Abhinay Deo’s directorial debut is a caustic take on India’s brand of mainstream comedy. He infuses it with coarse dialogues, pulpy action sequences (like when three grown men, dressed in burqas, are being chased by cops), and parody songs. And with an actor like Vijay Raaz in the mix, who’s trying to retrieve his misplaced diamonds from these three muppets, the high jinks turn even crazier.
This is arguably Guy Ritchie at his directorial best and Brad Pitt, Jason Statham at their funniest. Another film about a coveted diamond gone missing, here, there are several cabals of ruffians trying to hunt it down. One of them even has a pit bull but that’s beside the point. There are gypsies with undecipherable “pikey” accents, boxers, pig-breeders, and fast-talking British gangsters. The crime caper coats the action with humour and chaffs — the heist scenes are ludicrous and street fights outright bonkers.
From the Kill Bill and Die Hard style of action to Kung Fu Panda references, Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota is that rare Bollywood action film that stitches together a string of cinematic homages. There is a comic-inspired silliness to the lead, who, as a result of a medical condition, is physically insensitive to pain. Not only does it equip him with the perfect ingredients to become a vigilante but it enlivens the realm of action comedies with much-needed charm.
Subversive superhero content is always a treat to watch. They acknowledge how far-fetched these hero archetypes are but in one way or another, end up embodying the same ideal they dismiss as fairytales. It always feels ironic when films like these take jibes at superhero-doms for their pomposity but they’re nevertheless entertaining and oddly audacious. Here, we have a puny, wannabe superhero; a ball-busting adolescent; and a vindictive widower. They are fledgeling vigilantes that can be mistaken for phony Spider-Man and Batman cosplays. All in all, Kick-Ass is fresh, warped, and kooky.
The Other Guys (2010)
Yet another Dwayne-Johnson-is-a-piece-of-shit film, although that is quite short-lived here. And on top of that, Mark Wahlberg is playing a loser-underdog cop. For two actors that are drenched in swag and machoness, The Other Guys is a neat and clever outlier. In this buddy-cop drama, where Wahlberg partners up with the more supreme loser Will Ferrell, the two try to take on a large corporation and a suspicious capitalist. Out of pure, uncontrollable desperation, the duo will do anything to make it big and be ‘cool’, even if that means getting into reckless shootouts or holding the bad guys hostages.
And, of course, here are some special mentions that come close to the ones above — Seven Psychopaths (2012), 30 Minutes or Less (2011), Game Night (2018), Miss Congeniality (2000), and the Johnny English series.