1988. That’s the last time the “holy trinity” of action stars — Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sylvester Stallone — all released action films that were in theaters at the same time. There were other years since then when all three made movies, but never as closely together as they did in 1988. Until now.
In February, the three top action stars of the 80′s and 90′s will all be at it again. Willis has a new Die Hard coming out, Schwarzenegger will still have The Last Stand in theaters, and Stallone will have the campy-looking Bullet to the Head releasing (my money is on Khal Drogo beating him up a lot, but eh). Quite a few articles have been written about this major cinematic spectacular, but I feel like everyone is missing the bigger picture. Are proper action movies dead?
Let’s look at Willis, Schwarzenegger, and Stallone. These guys are aged 57, 65, and 66 respectively. The latter two are eligible for Social Security and Medicare for crying out loud. Now, I don’t want you to think I’m being an ageist. All three have made non-action movies in the past, some of which were quite good. But as action stars, they simply aren’t going to work for most roles. Well, Bruce Willis still does. He hasn’t aged poorly at all, and can still smash through windows and beat the living crap out of twentysomethings with the best of them. But Schwarzenegger? Stallone? Nope, not going to the theater to see either of them. I wouldn’t pay money to see them in a theater doing an action movie if I wrote the script myself. I mean, come on! Did you see the latest Rocky or Rambo movies? Stallone can get all of the plastic surgery and botox injections he pleases, but his face looks like a wet gym sock someone bunched up into a ball and tossed toward a laundry bin, but missed, and now it’s lying there all sloppy and gross. It’s not an issue of age… it’s a matter of aging poorly.
It’s outright tragic that we’re losing Schwarzenegger and Stallone. Some of my favorite action flicks of all time — Terminator, Predator, The Running Man, Total Recall, First Blood, Demolition Man — those are some true classics right there. And Bruce Willis still has several years of butt-kicking ahead of him, but he’s already starting to take roles where he’s referred to as some elderly man that can still somehow manage to bang heads together when he isn’t playing with the thermostat or bitching about those stupid neighborhood kids mucking things up on his lawn.
It’s a sad future we’re facing, but we can’t sit around fondly thinking about yesteryear. We need a more proactive approach… we need new, young action stars, directors that understand the value of pointless explosions, and screenwriters that can tell a fun story without getting bogged down with pointless self-inflection and all that drivel we see in the halfhearted attempts at contemporary action movies Hollwood has been pushing toward us in the past decade. I don’t give a single fuck, not even a little one, why the hero is a cop, or the tragic thing he experienced as a youth that gives him romance issues, or what psychotrauma led him to grow huge muscles and fight crime so vigilantly. See those bad guys over there? I want the hero to go make them quite a bit dead. Preferably with an explosion or five. Go-go-go!
There are some really promising contemporary actors who can do really well in action roles. Gerard Butler, Jeremy Renner, and Christian Bale can all carry themselves quite well in action flicks. Even Colin Farrell can keep an action movie afloat, if he has a director capable of respecting his shortcomings and not pushing him out of his comfort zone. But they’re too dynamic to be proper action stars. Sure, Schwarzenegger can show up in movies like Twins, and those movies aren’t always terrible. Would you cast Schwarzenegger in a romcom opposite Katherine Heigl? I think not. It’d be like using an allen wrench on a philips head screw. It just doesn’t fit.
So get on this, Hollywood. Give us proper action movies again, like you used to. We need explosions, and pointless sexual exploitation, and lots of curse words, and car chases, and explosions, and big effing guns, and explosions! And we’re going to need a whole new generation of action stars, too. Men and women that can buckle down, zero in, and wipe out whole brigades of baddies, with campy one-liners and campier catch-phrases. But none of this Expendables stuff (I seriously didn’t like the first one, and never even finished the second… way too campy for my tastes). Go make some action movies with substance.
Well? What are you waiting for, a clever ending to this article? You aren’t getting one. Get to work!