2016 Film Essays

His Blazing Automatics: Frank Grillo Is Our Most Undervalued Action Hero


His Blazing Automatics is a column by Vague Visages staff writer Dylan Moses Griffin.

Last week, the trailer for The Purge: Election Year was released, the third film in the Blumhouse franchise. I probably don’t have to tell you whether or not you’re going to see the latest installment, as you’ve surely made up your mind by now about the series. I’m not here to convince you that these films are good, but I am here to convince you that Frank Grillo, the lead of The Purge: Anarchy and the upcoming Election Year, is our most undervalued action star.

The big problem with The Purge films is that writer/director James DeMonaco seems to only grasp the ripe socio-economic subtext of his premise at face value. The first film had already kind of worn out its concept by the time it got to its third act, however, Anarchy, while having all these same problems, had one big improvement, and that was Frank Grillo as its surprise action hero. In Anarchy, one of the great things about Grillo was that his character didn’t have a name, he was just sometimes referred to as “Sergeant,” so we’re pretty much just forced to make the assumption that he’s Frank Castle a.k.a. The Punisher. He’s got the car, he’s got the guns, he’s got the muscle, he’s got the jaw-line… all he’s missing is the shirt.


Grillo’s character is basically a one-man army (and the only reason anybody in the main cast lives past like the first 10 minutes of the film). The big moment of Anarchy comes when Grillo goes through a warehouse and takes out a bunch of armed men, starting with nothing but his bare hands. Grillo sells the scene, as you honestly believe he could do it in real life.


Anarchy hit theaters in the same year that Grillo got to throw down as Brock Rumlow in Captain America: Winter Soldier, upping his action hero game. And yes, he will return as the evolved version of Rumlow as Crossbones in Captain America: Civil War to throw down with Cap some more. Between Anarchy and Winter Soldier, Grillo built up some serious action credit. His past in MMA training allows him to do the stunt work himself, and further, he’s also a really good actor who always brings authenticity and real human emotion to his roles (see The Grey and Warrior for good examples of his work).

Election Year basically looks like The Purge meets Olympus Has Fallen but starring Grillo, and if that description does nothing for you, then I don’t know what to tell you. In fact, now that I think about it, why didn’t Grillo star in Olympus Has Fallen?


The end of the Election Year trailer sets up a finale where Grillo will probably have to fight a church full of Purge fanatics to rescue the senator, and that sounds amazing to me. Did we really need another Purge film? Probably not, but did we need another film where Frank Grillo kicks ass? Yes. Absolutely yes. Even though Grillo is already 50, he’s in his action movie prime, and we’ve gotta squeeze out as many more action roles as we can out of him before he gets too old. They can push out four more Purge films, and I’ll watch them as long as the plot revolves around Grillo kicking ass. He’s our most undervalued action hero working right now, and we’ve got to take advantage of his skill before it’s too late.

Dylan Moses Griffin (@DMosesGriffin) has been a cinephile for as long as he can remember. His favorite film is Taxi Driver, and he reads the works of Roger Ebert like it’s scripture. If you want, he will talk to you for 30 minutes about the chronologically weird/amazing Fast and Furious franchise.


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