Where’s the sexy Black action hero who knocks heads and always gets the girl, movie after movie? We’re still waiting for him to come to the rescue.
Super-talented Anthony Mackie was being considered to helm the Jason Bourne franchise spin-off movies. Instead, the role went to Mackie’s The Hurt Locker castmate Jeremy Renner. Now, don’t get me wrong. Renner deserves all the accolades he’s gotten. But can’t you just see Mackie, sprinting through the streets of Berlin, dodging all kinds of shadiness, defying death in grasp-the-arm-of-your-chair stunts and pulling his heroine in for a spine-tingling lip lock? We can only dream.
James Bond. Ethan Hunt. Jack Bauer. Jason Bourne. Franchise heroes, reality-based, live action, taken seriously, aggressive and ambitious, sexy as all get-out. Alpha males who fight for their heroines as hard they fight against the bad guys.
Not since Shaft have we had an iconic African-American action hero in the vein of Bourne & Co. Though, there have been attempts:
Action Jackson—Carl Weathers was smooth as silk in this cop-turned-on-the-run-vigilante-turned-hero. But it was a one-off movie with no franchise in sight. Even Apollo Creed got 4-movie action!
Vin Diesel’s roles come close—The Fast and the Furious franchise is made of box office gold. But Vin’s ex-con character shares the screen with Paul Walker. More buddy movie than solo vehicle. And unfortunately there was only 1 installment of A Man Apart. Diesel’s Riddick movies are supernatural-based. xXx’s Xander Cage is alpha to the hilt, but the movies underwent an identity crisis with the title role swinging from Diesel to Ice Cube playing the title role. Plus, Diesel has described himself as “of color” and “of ambiguous ethnicity” so some movie-goers may or not define him or his Dominic Toretto character as “Black.” Fast Five just broke all kinds of box office; maybe we’ll get to see dashing Dom in a tux.
Nick Fury—Marvel Comics super-spy debuted in 1963 and was white in those comic books. It wasn’t until 2000 that Fury appeared as a Black man when Ultimate Marvel, a line of books within Marvel Comics, reimagined and updated versions of Marvel superheroes. Fury was one of them. Jackson is Fury dynamite, but when our iconic hero phones home we want it to be local.
Will Smith roles come even closer—It’d have been great if Robert Dean from Enemy of the State had a few movie notches on his belt. But unfortunately, he was a one-off too. Bad Boys was a good heroic effort but it had a major comedy element to it and was a buddy movie, rather than a solo hero effort. And Smith’s Independence Day, Men in Black, I Am Legend, and Hancock are all in the supernatural/alien/fantasy realm. Will may be flying all the way to the bank, but we want to see his princely mortality.
Eddie Murphy—Beverly Hills Cop was a juggernaut of a franchise, but not much was made of Axel Foley’s love life. Plus, Foley’s hero-ness was straight comedy. Bust a gut comedy, but still traded on jokes rather than super-spydom.
Spawn—Image Comics’ super-soldier was portrayed by Michael Jai White in the first film to feature Black comic book superhero. For better or for worse, it’s still in the super-fantasy realm.
Blade—Wesley Snipes played this Marvel Comics superhero who was originally created as a Black man. But this vampire hunter, born in a whorehouse and the son of a prostitute, doesn’t walk among the living.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson roles—The Rock’s heroes are alpha all the way. But they set up shop in fantasy-land of mummies and myth.
Alex Cross—The beloved detective and psychologist found a home off James Patterson’s pages and onto big screens. Embodied by Morgan Freeman in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider, Cross saves the heroines. But the movies are more whodunit suspense than heart-stopping-action. Plus, does Cross even flirt or kiss anyone on screen? He does in the books.
Shame—Keenan’s tongue-in-cheek humor overpowered Shame’s action prowess in A Low Down Dirty Shame. A goofy James Bond.
Shaft—Private detective John Shaft, in the eponymous Blaxploitation films Shaft, Shaft’s Big Score, Shaft in Africa, and the Shaft remake, is the closest thing we have to Bond and Bourne—so far. Tackling the mob and rescuing the girl, he was the original player president. But even Shaft had its satirical overtones.
And Denzel . . . just because you can’t talk about Black actors of any kind without mentioning the ultimate heroic fantasy—Denzel chases, kisses, simmers, explodes, paces, detects and keeps us safe. His heroes, love them as we do, are all one-offs.
Movies featuring Black comic book heroes represent. Black heroes with supernatural powers are in the mix. Buddy, comedy movies are all browned up. And everyday Black male characters stumble upon conspiracies that they need to heroically solve, though by accident.
But Bond, Bourne, Bauer and Hunt, movie after movie—with their cores deliberately made of the stuff of spy legend—need some soul-stirring company.