All my action movie heroes are still older than me

Getting old, as most people realise eventually, is weird. You go seemingly overnight from being the youngest guy in the office to a balding, withered spectre who doesn’t understand TikToks. 

But one thing that still makes me feel curiously young is my favourite newer action movies, where the folks I enjoy watching the most still are older than me by nearly a decade. 

Watching Keanu Reeves shoot, stab and kick his way through an unceasing army of bad dudes in the wonderfully over-the-top new John Wick: Chapter 4, one thing kept coming into my mind as the high-octane carnage unfolded:

This dude is 58 years old.

Keanu Reeves is 58 years old, yet still mowing down bodies by the dozens in the Wick franchise. Donnie Yen, who might just be one of the few people on Earth even cooler than Keanu, is fantastic in John Wick 4 as his blind frenemy, is 59 years old and still kicks amazing ass. 

Tom Cruise is 60 years old, yet he blew the box office away by piloting the surprisingly decent Top Gun: Maverick to record numbers last year. I’m among the Ethan Hunt stans eagerly awaiting his Mission Impossible 7 later this year, as it’s been the most reliable James Bond-style franchise in decades. 

Michelle Yeoh, also 60, kicked ass and won an Oscar in Everything Everywhere All At Once; Bob Odenkirk, also 60, was a surprise action star in the grittily fun Nobody. 

Sylvester Stallone has probably retired from the Rambo and Rocky franchises but is still smacking meatheads about in the delightfully silly Tulsa King at 76 years old. Harrison Ford is freakin’ 80 years old, but he’s still saddling up for one more Indiana Jones movie later this year, and even if my heart has been broken in the past, you know I’ll be there for it. 

Sure, a good chunk of what we see on screen now is probably stunt doubles and clever CGI, but even so, it’s hard not to watch John Wick 4 and think that 58-year-old Keanu must have been pretty damned sore after some of those filming days. Put me in Wick’s stylish shoes and I’d be crumbled into a gelatinous heap after the first two scenes. 

Yeah, I know young folk still star in action movies, although even some of the Marvel Universe stars are showing their age (Ant-Man Paul Rudd, 53, for instance). But honestly, the action movies I get excited about these days seem to star those old, familiar faces.

Is it because Tom and Keanu have been around in movies since I was a teenager myself that I enjoy watching them grow increasingly weathered and yet still capable of punching ninjas and flying jet planes? Do the lines on their faces give them a little more authority on screen? 

Or do they bring the weight of me seeing their baby faces in Cocktail and Point Break a lifetime ago to their modern-day adventures and that somehow makes their action movies resonate more for me than watching some young dude in his 30s who just makes me think, jeezus, when did I stop being 30? 

Possibly so. Then again, maybe it’s just because Keanu, Tom, Michelle and company have been doing this for so long that they just do it really, really bloody well. 

All the cool pop stars are half my age now and authors who win Booker Prizes here in New Zealand are more than a decade younger than me, but gosh darn it, my action movie heroes are still older than me, and I hope they’ve got a few more big-screen punches left in them yet. 

Author: nik dirga

I'm an American journalist who has lived in New Zealand for more than a decade now.

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