Referencing everything from Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin to his own unique oeuvre, Brian DePalma offered up proof of his bravura action filmmaking (his first of two appearances on this list) with this amazing standoff between Kevin Costner’s Elliot Ness and Al Capone’s men. Guarding a key witness, they will do anything, including endangering an infant, to see their boss go free. Staged with a staggering amount of skill, it remains a terrific combination of horror and homage.
For his first appearance on this list, John Woo rewrites the gunfight rulebook - and never looks back. Featuring an assassin, an undercover cop, and a well-armed Triad throng out to get them both, the serene backdrop of a church becomes the stage for one of the most spectacular examples of firepower ever. Just for the sheer audacity of the sequence, Woo deserves praise. That is still stands head and shoulder above his imitators is a testament to his undeniable talent.
How can you hate a last act standoff which sees bullets curving in space, fragments of woven papyrus flying about, and a direct hit to the temple of co-star Angelina Jolie…and that doesn’t take into consideration the opening of such a salvo, which includes trained suicide bomber rats and more ammunition acrobatics than a hitman’s Olympics. Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov has an inspired way with action, mixing slo-mo with static imagery to give us details and designs we might never see otherwise.
“SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND!” indeed. The minute Al Pacino’s Tony Montana brings out his big gun, it’s “adios” to the diminutive drug dealer with a savage, survivalist attitude. Taking on a veritable barrage of bullets from the crew representing Alejandro Sosa, our angry antihero demands more, and Brian DePalma delivers just that. By the end, with the walls painted red, we can’t imagine a bloodier goodbye. And then things really get out of control.
John Woo again, and this time he delivers a masterpiece of mayhem unequalled in the hallowed halls of bullet ballet. It begins in the basement of a hospital (where the bad guys have hidden a wealth of weapons), transfers over to the infant ward (requiring our hero to evacuate the enclosed kids down the side of the building) and ends with our lead literally taking on all comers. As he does with all of his crime drama, Woo stages his shoot outs with a kind of perverse locational logic which makes every fallen body another step toward the fabulous finale.