Action Hero: Sylvester Stallone
In the same vein as 2010's Predators, Sylvester Stallone's ambition with The Expendables was to transport modern audiences back to the action cinema zenith of the 1980s, when enormous muscle-bound stars utilised equally enormous firearms and slaughtered thousands of bad guys with ease. After resurrecting the '80s aesthetic with 2008's Rambo, Stallone has given the ailing style a new life to deliver an old-school, action-packed wallop of a cinematic experience. Armed with the most charismatic ensemble of badasses to grace cinema screens since 1987's Predator, along with enough testosterone and manliness to make your spleen explode, The Expendables is a blast; a fucking epic old-fashioned manly movie with infinite replay value.
More than anything else, The Expendables benefits from a fast and furious pace. The film is a taut, fast-moving actioner that never lulls. While the film is probably 30 or 40% action, the areas of exposition between the loud 'splosions and blood-letting are filled with something: interesting plot development, engaging tough-guy banter, one-liners and nail-biting sections of anticipation. It sustains momentum in the lead-up to the final half hour, when the film truly takes off in exhilarating ways.
Stallone's interest in gory combat scenarios and penchant for amazing, visceral action is retained in The Expendables with a climax capable of shaking the theatre walls via the rollicking sound mix and Brian Tyler's epic score. There's carnage aplenty throughout the action scenes; men are blown to pieces, men are sliced to pieces, necks are broken, bones are shattered, and there are massive explosions. Once the bone-crunching climax draws to a close, you'll be left wanting more. You'll also be left wondering what exactly Stallone is smoking and why more Hollywood filmmakers aren't smoking the same thing.
In addition to the action, there's a great deal of heart. Mickey Rourke's character of Tool shows up on a few occasions to deliver poignant stories of past missions. With his inclusion, there's a human element to the action that's lacking in traditional blockbusters (even the much-acclaimed Inception was marred by boring characters and a lack of humanity). The film underscores that these tough guy mercenaries are people, not automatons without a conscience, and this accentuates the dramatic intensity when the team march off to battle.
Yes, The Expendables is dumb at times, as it features enemies who are slow to respond and can't shoot straight. Yes, The Expendables is clichéd and largely predictable, too, but the movie should not have been any other way.
Full review here
For 2008's Rambo (a.k.a. Rambo IV), Sylvester Stallone (who co-wrote and directed in addition to starring) returned the titular character to his roots; emulating the tone and emotion of First Blood in order to craft a gritty, poignant war picture that doesn't skimp on the action. What's truly daring about Rambo - and what a lot of critics have missed - was Stallone's decision to resurrect the ironic warrior to lament his soul rather than celebrate his strength.
You attend Rambo movies to watch the titular badass laying waste to hundreds of bad guys, and this fourth instalment offers exactly that. In prior Rambo sequels, Rambo was dropped in some hellhole to rescue a bunch of people before he breaks them out, kills the bad guys and escapes. Rambo '08 stays true to the formula, except there's a lot more grit. Stallone is never shirtless at any point, and the cheesy music was replaced with Brian Tyler's harrowing, exceptional score. Rambo even works as a member of a team, as opposed to taking down hundreds of soldiers single-handedly. Up until Rambo, Sly had never directed an action film, but his excellent handling of the material here belies his inexperience. Sly may have utilised a shaky-cam approach, yet the style benefits the picture and is at no point distracting. And my word, the picture delivers in terms of action - the final battle is a celluloid tribute to the blood-soaked mayhem of the '80s. For all the criticisms Rambo endured, the violence is deserved: it characterises the villains, and provides the audience with a sweet sense of vengeance.
Infused with a poignant social commentary to provide sufficient context for the action, Rambo exists to call attention to the atrocities in Burma in addition to providing a fitting end for John J. Rambo. In First Blood, Rambo's breakdown in the film's final minutes left us with the sense that he wanted to discover who he is and put the past behind him. This theme was never brought full circle in the following two sequels, but Rambo '08 does exactly that: providing the ending that fans have yearned for since the commencement of the franchise.
Full review here
"It ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!"
Plot: Rocky Balboa comes out of retirement to step into the ring for the last time and face the heavyweight champ Mason 'The Line' Dixon.
Due to the decline in quality across the Rocky series, in addition to the lengthy period of time since Rocky V, the notion of sixth Rocky movie seemed scoff-worthy. Yet, against all odds, 2006's Rocky Balboa proved the naysayers wrong, as Sylvester Stallone (serving as writer, director and star) managed to deliver a heartfelt and entertaining conclusion to the long-running Rocky series.
Following about an hour of well-paced character development and dramatic growth, the strains of Bill Conti's exceptional Gonna Fly Now begin to blare. I defy any audience member to not cheer or find their senses roaring to life as they watch Rocky jog up the front steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art once again. And, of course, the climactic fight still stirs the soul. In fact, the final bout could be the greatest in the series; evincing a more refined, mature sense of realism and emotion than prior Rocky films. Perhaps the biggest reason for this is that, for the first time, just about every punch you see is real.
While Rocky Balboa is formula with a capital F, this works in the film's favour. After all, it would be silly to try and improve or update the formula (Rocky V tried and failed). Fans of the series wanted to see Rocky being put through the motions one last time, proving that heart, sweat and decency will forever trump ego and fancy workout equipment. The Rocky series has always been about the power of the human spirit as embodied in the title character, and Rocky Balboa continues this tradition.
Rocky Balboa is not a gimmick, nor is it a last-ditch attempt to capitalise on the profitable series and earn a few bucks. Instead, it's an excellent, warm, engaging film, and far better than it ought to be. Stallone couldn't do much with Rocky except take him to the same places we've seen before with predominantly the same results. Yet, the film has heart, and the character has finally returned to his affable self once again. Rocky Balboa is as strong as the original film, and a fitting requiem for one of cinema's most popular heavyweights.
Full review here
"I don't mind talking to myself, but when you guys start to cut me outta the conversation. That's when it gets a little...strange!"
Plot: Carmen's caught in a virtual reality game designed by the Kids' new nemesis, the Toymaker (Stallone). It's up to Juni to save his sister, and ultimately the world.
"I believe there's a possible exception to every rule in a book."
Plot: A woman (Madeleine Stowe) who has just discovered she is the daughter of a murdered Mafia chieftain (Anthony Quinn) seeks revenge, with the aide of her Father's faithful bodyguard (Sylvester Stallone).
"Anything scares you... kill it."
Plot: Stallone plays a cop who comes undone after witnessing a brutal scene on the job. He checks into a rehab clinic that specializes in treating law enforcement officials. Soon, he finds that his fellow patients are being murdered one by one.
"I got will and I got faith. I believe you can will yourself in anything and do anything. And faith, that is like believing in something, man that's like having a good disease. It's contagious, if you hang around with people who have it you're gonna catch it, and its gonna change your attitude."
Plot: A young hot shot driver is in the middle of a championship season and is coming apart at the seams. A former CART champion is called in to give him guidance.
"My name is Jack Carter, and you don't want to know me."
Plot: Jack Carter, a mob enforcer living in Las Vegas, travels back to his hometown of Seattle for his brother's funeral. During this visit, Carter realizes that the death of his brother was not accidental, but a murder. With this knowledge, Carter sets out to kill all those responsible.
"Do you have any idea how much trouble you can get in for talking about for even talkin' about impersonation' a soldier? You can get in trouble just for listening to someone talkin' about impersonatin' a soldier."
Plot: A rather neurotic ant tries to break from his totalitarian society while trying to win the affection of the princess he loves.
"I look at this town, and I don't like what I see."
Plot: The sheriff of a suburban New Jersey community populated by New York City policeman slowly discovers the town is a front for mob connections and corruption.
"Keep trying you piece of shit. Keep trying. You've killed everybody else. You know what, you haven't killed me."
Plot: Disaster in a New York tunnel as explosions collapse both ends of it. One hero tries to help the people inside find their way to safety.
"They get that way when you kill four of them."
Plot: Robert Rath is a seasoned hitman who just wants out of the business with no back talk. But, as things go, it ain't so easy. A younger, peppier assassin named Bain is having a field day trying to kill said older assassin. Rath teams up with a computer hacker named Electra to defeat the obsessed Bain.
"You like watching them die? You like taking them down? Now I'm taking you down. You're finished in the agency. You're going no higher. You're as dead as those people in the river. We both are."
Plot: A woman entices a bomb expert she's involved with into destroying the mafia that killed her family.
During the early 1990s, Stallone's attempts to branch out into other genres miserably failed both financially and artistically (Stop! Or My Mum Will Shoot, anyone?), so he opted to buff up and star in 1993's Cliffhanger, which was helmed by Renny Harlin. Fortunately, Cliffhanger is one of the few Die Hard copycat movies that - in terms of direction, visual style and level of action - can confidently stand alongside John McTiernan's 1988 action opus (this film is certainly superior to the fourth Die Hard instalment). It doesn't matter about the pasting it endured from the critics or how predictable it is, as Cliffhanger is primo entertainment. Produced in the heyday of hard-R action shenanigans, this is one of the most solid, enjoyable action movies of the '90s.
Considering the high replay value of Cliffhanger, in addition to the sense of adventure, the sinister villains, the breathtaking visuals, the sparkling one-liners and the endearing protagonist, there's no mistaking this for one of Renny Harlin's finest forays into the action genre. It's a standout which proudly stands alongside other classic '90s action productions (such as Speed, Face/Off, Con Air, etc) for its relentless sense of danger and tension, and its incredibly high entertainment value.
Following a perilous tone-setter of an opening sequence, the movie's adrenaline levels are set in motion and barely relent until the party is over. The 110-minute running time (rather lengthy for an actioner) flies by unbelievably quickly. More than that, while a suspension of disbelief is called for from time to time, the movie is at no point ridiculously over-the-top or cartoonish. In fact, Sly himself demanded for a stunt to be altered in post-production after a test screening audience laughed out loud at said stunt's impossibility.
Definitely a career high point for both Renny Harlin and Sylvester Stallone, Cliffhanger is all about grand-scale action set-pieces, violence and one-liners. It's predictable at times, sure, but like most actioners it's all about the journey as opposed to the destination, and this journey is one hell of an adrenaline rush. The film is a riveting old-school popcorn action film first and foremost, and thus the entertainment value consistently remains high and the film never takes itself too seriously.
Full review here
"Poole was right! You are an ox and a moron!"
Plot: Angelo "Snaps" Provolone made his dying father a promise on his deathbed: he would leave the world of crime and become an honest businessman. Despite having no experience in making money in a legal fashion, Snaps sets about to keep his promise. He is faced with numerous problems: henchmen who know nothing but crime, the police who are convinced he is hatching a master plan, and Oscar, who has just got his daughter pregnant.
"Your body has to be here, but your mind can be anywhere."
Plot: Frank Leone is nearing the end of his prison term for a relatively minor crime. Just before he is paroled, however, Warden Drumgoole takes charge. Drumgoole was assigned to a hell-hole prison after his administration was publicly humiliated by Leone, and has now arrived on the scene to ensure that Leone never sees the light of day.
1982's First Blood was an excellent action-drama that emphasised the pain of Vietnam veterans in a compelling, stirring and exciting way. The sequel, 1985's Rambo: First Blood Part II, however, degenerated into an over-the-top action show-reel which bore little resemblance to its predecessor. 1988's Rambo III continued the tradition of its immediate forerunner; taking us even farther from the character as originally conceived. With any semblance of heart having vanished from the series, Rambo became a larger-than-life, prototypical American action hero.
There's absolutely nothing in this third Rambo adventure that has not been previously seen - it's full of violent action, minimalistic dialogue and more explosions than the mind can fathom. On the other hand, it's still a lot of fun, and it succeeds as a brainless action ride.
With director Peter MacDonald (who replaced Russell Mulcahy not long into filming) having been given a tremendous budget to play with, Rambo III is certainly the most epic of the franchise, and the money shows. Exotic locations are visited, and there are lots of guns, fiery explosions, big action sequences, and helicopters. As per the typical action films of the '80s, there are also cheesy one-liners, villainous villains, and a "no mercy" troop slaughter. And, of course, the film is often badass. While the dialogue is at times utterly risible, there are some notable interactions that are sure to provoke big dumb grins.
All things considered, Rambo III is a perfectly adequate way to pass 90 minutes of your life. This is definitely the weakest in the Rambo canon, but it's certainly entertaining, and fans will get what they yearn for in terms of explosions, stunts, high body counts and memorable kills. Unless you're a die-hard action nut, though, there is absolutely nothing in this outing that will appeal to you.
Full review here
"The world meets nobody halfway. When you want something, you gotta take it."
Plot: Lincoln Hawk (Stallone) is a struggling trucker who's trying to rebuild his life. After the death of his wife, he tries to make amends with his son who he left behind years earlier. Upon their first meeting, his son doesn't think too highly of him until he enters the nation-wide arm wrestling competition in Las Vegas.
"No, maybe I can't win. Maybe the only thing I can do is just take everything he's got. But to beat me, he's going to have to kill me. And to kill me, he's gonna have to have the heart to stand in front of me. And to do that, he's got to be willing to die himself. I don't know if he's ready to do that. I don't know."
Plot: When Apollo Creed is killed in a match against a powerful Soviet boxer, Rocky decides to challenge him himself.
"Do you know how many men could've been sitting on top of the world, but they let a dame tell them what to do and the only thing they ended up sitting on top of was a toilet."
Plot: Three Italian-American brothers, living in the slums of 1940's New York, try to help each other with one's wrestling career using one brother's promotional skills and another brother's con-artist tactics to tho wart a sleazy manager.
"You're not a detective, Marlowe, you're a slot machine. You'll do anything for six bits."
Plot: The film concerns private eye Philip Marlowe's attempts to locate Velma, a former dancer at a seedy nightclub and the girlfriend of Moose Malloy, a petty criminal just out of prison. Marlowe finds that once he has taken the case, events conspire to put him in dangerous situations, and he is forced to follow a confusing trail of untruths and double-crosses before he is able to locate Velma.
"How does it feel to know you're gonna spend the rest of your life in pain? The rest of your life is about a minute and a half."
Plot: A champion of a brutal cross-country car race of the future where pedestrians are run down for points has a change of heart while being hounded by rivals and a conspiracy seeking to stop the race.
"Give it to me, Stud. Give it all to me. Go ahead, Stud, give me all your juice."
Plot: Kitty and Stud are lovers. They enjoy a robust sex-life, which includes fellatio and light S&M, specifically, Stud belt-whipping Kitty. Three women come over for a party and Stud services them, one after the other.