Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Last of the Action Heroes?

A good friend of mine once pondered a delicate question. Tirelessly, he argued for two hours with his own brother to get to the bottom of this thorny issue. Who is the greatest action hero of modern cinema… Schwarzenegger or Stallone?
With The Expendables 2 in pre-production and rumours circulating of bigger roles for Bruce Willis and Big Arnie The Ex-Governator, it’s time to put this debate to rest.

So in the red corner we have the Austrian Oak; Conan, the Terminator, the Commando, Dutch from Predator, the Eraser, and um… Mr Freeze? 
And in the blue corner the Italian Stallion; Rocky, Rambo, Cobra, Tango, the Demolition Man, and um… Judge Dredd?
They’ve both been in some stinkers so let’s just forget most of the attempts at comedy; Junior, Oscar, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot to name a few. Stallone takes the crown for king of crap just by looking at his CV for the early part of the new century. The Get Carter remake? Driven? D-Tox? Hello…. anybody? You’d be forgiven for thinking these were attempts at comedy if they weren’t so f**king boring.
But then there’s the good stuff that so many of us grew up on. The guns, the explosions, the endless dispatching of villains and henchman and the plentiful bloody, beaten faces as our heroes pummeled the next sorry victim to get in their way. Who needs acting lessons when you got muscles and an arsenal like these guys?
So… Arnie's icons: Conan the Barbarian and Destroyer, camp, fun and bloody bloody but not the best action films ever made. Terminator 1 and 2 and even his other collaboration with James Cameron, True Lies, made for some of the best action cinema in history. So many classic moments and the casting of Schwarzenegger was the perfect choice for the emotion-less cyborg from the future. Dutch getting all muddy and declaring the Predator to be ‘one ugly motherfucker’. Even the Kindergarten Cop got some good action and even better lines to play with.
But on the other hand Stallone has Rocky and the Oscar nominations to prove his under dog was a hit with audiences and his Hollywood peers. He also has the inferior sequels to answer for and the same goes for his other icon, Rambo. Classic first entry followed by dodgy Vietnamese and Russian bashing in the follow-ups.
Arnie has a couple of smaller gems that should also be noted; Commando and its genius one liners including ‘he’s dead tired’, ‘I let him go’ and ‘let off some steam Bennet!’. Last Action Hero and the post-modern take on the action film hero. Even The Running Man, Red Heat and Terminator 3 had their moments.

Sly has even more little nuggets of gold in amongst the sea of stinking shite he’s been a part of. Tango and Cash is ridiculously fun and makes the most of teaming serious Sly with silly Kurt Russell in the mis-matched buddy cop genre. Cliffhanger is pretty much Die Hard on a mountain and gets by on some awesome stunts and mountain-top fights. Cop Land is an under-rated and under-seen semi-classic with a great performance but not much action from the aging Stallone. Demolition Man is stolen from Stallone by Wesley Snipes and Denis Leary but is still great action/sci-fi. Daylight and Assassins aren’t too shabby either.

But who comes out on top? Both Arnie and Sly have undisputed icons in classic films. Arnie may only have the Terminator compared to Sly’s Rambo and Rocky but for me this all comes down to Terminator VS Rambo. The quality of the sequels of Sly’s films dips dramatically whereas the Terminator films are all impressive. It boils down to this:

Top 5 Schwarzenegger
The Terminator
Terminator 2
True Lies
Top 5 Stallone
Rambo: First Blood
Demolition Man
Tango and Cash
It’s time to put this to rest. Schwarzenegger or Stallone? Arnie or Sly? Oak or Stallion? The greatest action film star of our generation is….
Bruce Willis.
The Die Hard series … Last Boy Scout… Armageddon… The Fifth Element, … ‘nuff said.

Next time: Van Damme VS Seagal