Those deafening thunderbursts of explosions, staccato blasts of gunfights, whining squeals of car chases and the general cacophony of bloodlust coming from South Asheville are nothing to fret over—it’s just ActionFest 2011. Returning to The Carolina Asheville from April 7 through 10, this second installment promises everything you might expect—plus a little extra—from what’s touted as the only film festival in the world dedicated solely to action movies.
Where last year’s fest saw the ever-popular Chuck Norris honored with the Lifetime Achievement award, this year ActionFest will be bestowing it on legendary stuntman Buddy Joe Hooker. While he may not have the immediate name recognition of Norris, Hooker—with nearly five decades working in film and approximately 200 titles to his credit—has certainly made his mark on cinema.
Browsing through the man’s filmography is a who’s who of the last 50 years of film, working with names like Sam Peckinpah, Hal Ashby, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, William Friedkin, Brian De Palma and Quentin Tarantino. It’s nearly impossible for even the most casual of filmgoers to have missed a film Hooker has had a hand in. “It’s been an unbelievable thing to think about, to be honored for doing all the stuff you’ve loved to do your whole life,” Hooker told Xpress via telephone. “I think the most exciting part for me is that other people appreciate what I’ve been doing.”
To commemorate Hooker’s work, ActionFest will be presenting a free screening of the 1978 Burt Reynolds’ vehicle Hooper, which is based on the real-life feats of Buddy Joe and Hal Needham, the film’s director. In addition, the Asheville Film Society will present Hal Ashby’s Harold and Maude (1971), at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 8, with a Q&A with Hooker, who was a friend of Ashby’s and worked as the film’s stunt coordinator.
In addition to this, there are all of the fan-friendly festivities festival-goers have come to expect, including a free stunt show in The Carolina parking lot at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 10, and various panel discussions throughout the weekend. The real draw, however are the films.
ActionFest kicks off on Thursday, April 7, with Jonathan English’s medieval battle epic Ironclad (featuring Paul Giamatti and Brian Cox), and closes Sunday, April 10, with 13 Assassins, the new samurai actioner from prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike. Between those two screenings will be a huge variety of action films, from neo-grindhouse movies to kung-fu flicks—and even a handful of documentaries—with all proceeds going to Chuck Norris’ charity, Kickstart Kids. Highlights include: exploitation fun with Jason Eisner’s wonderfully titled Hobo with a Shotgun (starring Rutger Hauer as—surprise—a hobo with a shotgun); James Gunn’s over-the-top superhero comedy Super; Little Big Soldier, written by and starring Jackie Chan; and the first official American screening of Kinji Fukasaku’s Japanese cult favorite Battle Royale, to name just a few.
For those on a budget, there are a handful of free events, including screenings of ActionFest’s Action Movie of the Year, Robert Rodriguez’s wonderfully absurd Machete (which also includes stunt coordination from the fest’s Stuntman of the Year, Russell Towery), and a midnight show of blaxpoitation spoof—and cult hit—Black Dynamite, with star Michael Jai White there in attendance. It all adds up to a film festival that has something for nearly every breed of action cinephile, from the casual fan to the white-knuckle action connoisseur.
who: ActionFest 2011
what: The only movie festival dedicate to action movies
where: Carolina Cinemas
when: Thursday, April 7, through Sunday, April 10. Tickets and details at actionfest.com