I bite my tongue very hard when I hear people say things like this, principally because it seems most don't understand what a Hollywood film is. Name several films that you like that you don't think are "Hollywood films", as they probably are. What I'll assume you mean to be referring to is large budget "blockbuster films", often backed fully by the larger studios, and usually by brand name directors and featuring brand name stars.
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Matt I don't profess to have the answer which is one of the reasons I post the topic to get other input. Wouldn't you agree that too many Hollywood action movie have more explosions and destruction than plot development. In other words it's my opinion that too many of these movies place gratutious carnage over good storytelling. Isn't it time to offer the movie going public more than explosions and destruction in an action movie?
BTW I enjoyed "The Siege" and "The Jackal".
The Jackal is one of the problems with Hollywood today. An inferior remake of the far better Day Of The Jackal
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It seems to me that the very definition of an action movie is that it must contain action. I can imagine an action film with a limited amount of violence and carnage, but not without upsetting at least a few apple carts. Even the good action movies have at least one spectacular action set piece usually involving some sort of explosion and/or destruction. I'm thinking of a movie like The Fugitive which a lot of chases/action but only one really big destruction/explosion scene. After all, what characterizes 'action?'
A better place to seek what you're looking for might be the suspense/thriller genre, which doesn't always contain the same sort of carnage, relying on build-up rather than straight adrenaline.
It all depends on context. Mass destruction in action movies is kind of like violence in horror/slasher films. I really enjoyed deadalive, but the graphic violence was so unrealistic and humorous, where as one time on Cinemax I came across an older film which I don't know the name of where a nude woman was thrown into an empty room and then burned to death by a man with a flamethrower and a hotsuit. I immediately changed the channel and was deeply disturbed.
By the same token, the mass destruction in ID4 and Armageddon was done in a way that was visually exciting, and slightly exaggerated. It was real enough to create the right emotions, but unreal enough not to disturb. While In Die Hard 2 the plane full of innocent people exploding was very painful to watch, and in my opinion was unnecessary as the threat of such an incident was more than enough to convince me that the bad guys were bad.
In answer to the original question, yes, Hollywood does have the talent to make exciting action movies without mass destruction. But they also have enough talent to make good movies with mass destruction. I'll sit through a few misses, like 3000 Miles to Graceland or Tomb Raider, as long as it means more True Lies, Matricies, Mummies and the like.
"Wow, what a dramatic airport!"
Well there are some action films without big explosions of mass destruction.
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Way of the Gun (Lots of gunfire but I don't recall any big explosions, Maybe I just don't remember it well enough)
Although I hated the film and it's not a Hollywood flick, I would also say that RUN LOLA RUN fits this bill.
But yes the truth is that most filmmakers today are not making intelligent action/adventure films. They rely on blowing more shit up than the previous years big action titles. I refer to such films as Pyroflicks!