While films such as Rambo, Thelma and Louise and Basic Instinct have operated as major points of cultural reference in recent years, popular action cinema remains neglected within contemporary film criticism.
Spectacular Bodies unravels the complexities and pleasures of a genre often dismissed as "obvious" in both its pleasures and politics, arguing that these controversial films should be analyzed and understood within a cinematic as well as political context.
Yvonne Tasker states that today's action cinema not only responds to the 1980s shifts in gendered, sexual and racial identities, but reflects the influences of other media, such as the new video culture. Her detailed discussion of the homoeroticism surrounding the muscleman hero, the symbolic centrality of blackness within the crime narrative, and the changing stature of women within the genre addresses the constitution of these identities through the shifting categories of race, class, ethnicity, nation, sex and sexuality. Spectacular Bodies then goes on to examine the ambivalence of supposedly secure categories of popular cinema, questioning the existing terms of film criticism in this area and addressing the intricate pleasures of this neglected form.