How to Make an Action Thriller That People Actually Care About

Watch “The 355” to see how Hollywood got an action thriller movie completely wrong. Rather than tell an intriguing, suspenseful story about characters we care about, “The 355” simply jumps from one action scene to another, skipping character development, suspense, and logic just to get us to another meaningless action scene over and over again.

Hey, Hollywood. This action formula doesn’t work.

Now watch a far superior Danish film called “Riders of Justice,” which is about a train accident that may have actually been an assassination. Now a soldier, who lost his wife in the train accident, vows revenge on the people he thinks are responsible.

Unlike “The 355,” “Riders of Justice” lets us get to know each character so we can see their flaws, their painful past, and how they’re gradually learning to become stronger as the story goes on. Rather than throw us in one action scene after another with no logic in how the characters got there, “Riders of Justice” takes its time.

In between action scenes, “Riders of Justice” lets us get to know the main characters. Now when they appear in the next action scene, we understand what they’re doing and why. This makes the action far more interesting to watch.

For example, one scene in “Riders of Justice” shows a fat man who looks like a loser. Yet when he’s given a chance to learn how to fire a gun, he excels at it, which reflects his anger and frustration for being considered a loser all his life.

However, when faced with actually having to shoot a man, he freezes and can’t kill. Only later on when his friends’ lives are in danger, he summons up the courage to use his gun to kill and save his friends. First, he’s finally made real friends who accept him for who he is. Second, he finally has a reason to kill, which is to save his friends.

This simple emotional component makes the action scene far more interesting than the endless, meaningless action in “The 355.”

Watch “Riders of Justice” to see how to marry emotion with action. Action by itself is always pointless, but action combined with emotion makes the action meaningful, and that’s how to write an action thriller.

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