Not to sound like one of those po-faced, tree-hugging granola gimps, but we’re rapidly approaching the height of summer, and you really shouldn’t be spending it inside. But before you march off to the local nature zone with a bag full of frosty pilsners slung round your shoulder, it’s worth bearing in mind that summer is prime for high-octane escapades.
With that thought swirling around your frontal cortex, here’s some full throttle XTREME sport films that might just inspire your next outdoor excursion/knee injury.
NOBUHIKO OBAYASHI, HIS MOTORBIKE, HER ISLAND – 1986
Unlike the other films listed here, Nobuhiko Obayashi’s His Motorbike, Her Island isn’t afraid to pump the brakes every so often. A wistful paean to young love, this underseen gem focusses on shiftless motorbike enthusiast Ko and his budding romance with carefree Miyo.
If you’re a keen cinema nerd, you might recognise Nobuhiko Obayashi as the genius behind that mental House film (a bit of a shame that this is the only film of his popular in the West, considering his filmography is full of bangers) and go into this expecting something equally as bizarre… but this ain’t that, and that ain’t this. It’s got the hazy, indeterminate quality of memory and – apologies for sounding like a hack film critic here – perfectly conveys the weight of longing that’s felt when pining for adolescence.
This one goes out to all the lovers out there…
PETER GEORGE, SURF NAZIS MUST DIE – 1987
Surf Nazis Must Die isn’t exactly held in high regard in most ‘serious’ cinematic circles – Roger Ebert famously stated he stormed out after the first 30 minutes – but if you’re not a humourless middlebrow bore you’ll find plenty to enjoy here.
Distributed by world-famous trash merchants Troma Entertainment, Surf Nazis Must Die is a tale of revenge, retribution, apocalypse, violence… and yeah, surfing neo-Nazis.
Although, this premise isn’t as outlandish and ridiculous as the title might suggest. Since as far back as the 30s, California has been a noted hotbed for straight-up Nazis, and it wasn’t just the nutters in the suburbs either – the burgeoning surf scene was plagued with its fair share of them, thanks to charismatic surfing villains like Miki Dora and the fact that… errr… California attracted a lot of eugenics enthusiasts.
Surf Nazis Must Die isn’t exactly held in high regard in most ‘serious’ cinematic circles, but if you’re not a humourless middlebrow bore you’ll find plenty to enjoy here.
Don’t you ever go and accuse Troma of not tackling the big issues.
RENNY HARLIN, CLIFFHANGER – 1993
Crammed full of nasty violence, scenery-chewing, cheap thrills, practical stunts and more carabiners than a Snow+Rock stockroom, Cliffhanger is the crème de la crème of Die Hard knockoffs and a decent actioner in its own right.
The Italian Stallion shines as Gabe Walker, a mountain ranger with skeletons in the closet, who’s tasked with rescuing some plane crash survivors who, shock horror, end up being baddies scouring the Rocky Mountains for stolen loot.
Unlike most of the action flicks of the era, there’s a palpable sense of danger to this one. That isn’t just down to the photography by Excalibur lens-man Alex Thompson – although his work here is very good – it’s because… well, filming was actually dangerous. Stallone had to take a pay cut so that the production could bribe stuntman Simon Crane one million dollars to cross between two planes at an altitude of 15,000 feet via zipline.
Might not have been the best day at work for Mr. Crane, but the results speak for themselves.
PETER SUTHERLAND, PEDAL – 2001
Peter Sutherland’s Pedal is one of those absolutely belting documentaries more people need to seek out, especially if you’re a fan of jumping red lights and cutting off taxis on the ol’ bicycle.
Taking place on the mean streets of NYC where life is cheap (but healthcare is conspicuously expensive), Pedal follows a ragtag band of unhinged fixed-gear bicycle messengers, who risk life and limb delivering important documents, contraband and other articles of interest to New York’s minted elite.
Pedal is one of those absolutely belting documentaries more people need to seek out, especially if you’re a fan of jumping red lights and cutting off taxis on the ol’ bicycle.
Cover of the photobook released alongside the film
But there’s more to this than just bike-based nuttery – the grainy, lo-fi digital video has plenty of visual charm, as does having a neb around the streets of a pre-drone-delivery-service, pre-electric-bike, pre-neutered New York in the company of some real-deal lunatics.
TOM GREEN, FREDDY GOT FINGERED – 2001
No list of extreme sport films would be complete without a skateboarding flick. Unfortunately, most movies about skating tend to be bobbins – the narrative ones are either too rose-tinted or too commercial, and the documentaries are usually stomach-churningly mawkish. So instead, here’s the universally-reviled Freddy Got Fingered, a film that features maybe two or three scenes of skateboarding.
There’s no point doing a plot rundown for this, because it doesn’t really have one, but what it lacks in plot (or good taste, for that matter), it more than makes up for in belly laughs. I’m not saying this is for everyone – sensitive stomachs and animal lovers need not apply – but if you’re willing to accept Green’s mad vision of comedic nihilism, you should find this a flavourful stew indeed.
And yeah, the skate rats in the audience should appreciate the thirty-to-forty seconds skateboarding here.
And that should just about do it. Dig out that tent, tune up those spokes, replace that haggard grip tape – it doesn’t matter what activity it is, the important thing is getting out there… but if you’re not going to do any of those things, at least you’ve got some decent films to watch.