With The Expendables 3 in theaters, and already receiving less than favorable reviews, a look back at the careers of this collection of aging action stars felt appropriate. Before Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and their co-stars were quipping in these Expendables movies, they were busy making their own series of popular films.
“Nothing is over!”
With the exception of Rocky, First Blood is arguably Stallone’s mot beloved movie. Less of an action film and more of a thriller, First Blood tells the story of John Rambo, a troubled and deeply depressed Vietnam veteran trying to integrate himself back into a post-war society. After being brutally harassed by a local sheriff played by Brian Dennehy, Rambo snaps and assaults the deputies tasked with interrogating him. After making his escape, Rambo hides in the rain swept forests of Washington, while trying to survive the elements and a police onslaught.
First Blood succeeded in not only delivering plenty of action and violence, but it also examines the abuse and psychological trauma suffered by veterans of war.
“Get to the chopppaaa!”
It’s hard not to say that the 1980s was Schwarzenegger’s decade. He had a movie out every year, and it was the decade that cemented him as an action icon. In 1987, Predator was another notch on his belt when it came to delivering great popcorn entertainment. The films follows Dutch (Schwarzenegger) and his crack team of commandos who have been tasked with rescuing hostages from hostile territory in Central America. Realizing the mission is anything but a simple rescue, each of the members is slowly and methodically picked-off one by one. The team soon learns that they are being stalked by an alien life-form with a love of collecting the skulls and skins of its prey. Gory and ridiculously bloody, Predator is an action movie that holds up to this day.
The Road Warrior
“Two days ago, I saw a vehicle that would haul that tanker. You want to get out of here? You talk to me.”
There was a Mad Max before there was a Mad Mel. Yes, Mel Gibson’s career as an actor has certainly stalled due to his controversial comments and behavior, but before all the controversy he was fondly remembered as “Mad” Max Rockatansky in The Road Warrior. The sequel to Mad Max, The Road Warrior was a post-apocalyptic action film set in the desert wastes of Australia. In a place where gasoline is more valuable than water, Mad Max is many things; mercenary, wanderer and opportunist are words that more than adequately describe him. In this particular film, he finds himself in the middle of a stand-off between a group of nomadic settlers and a band of leather clad marauders. Considered to be one of the greatest science-fiction films ever made, The Road Warrior offers plenty of action and heroics by Gibson and is one of the best movies in the action genre.
“Some motherfuckers are always trying to ice-skate uphill.”
Before Wesley Snipes was better known for tax evasion, the same crime of which his character in The Expendables 3 is guilty, he was part of the movement that brought superhero movies to the forefront of cinema. Blade is looked at as the grandfather of the modern superhero film genre. It was the first of the comic books films to have an R-rating, and to be just as violent as its source material. It succeeded not only because of these things, but also because Snipes was so dedicated to the role. Nothing was more jaw dropping than Snipes’ Blade walking into a blood drenched vampire rave to brutally dispatch the deadly creatures of the night. While the quality of the sequels would take a nose dive off a cliff, the first film still holds up and it remains one of the best action movies of the 1990s.
“Bless me, Father, for I have just killed quite a few men.”
Robert Rodriguez’s Desperado, the second film in his Mexico Trilogy, played a huge role in showcasing Antonio Banderas as a leading man and action star. Playing the role of El Mariachi, a guitar carry gunman seeking revenge, Banderas brings plenty of charisma and playfulness to a character that many would find cliché today. The film’s plot may be thin, but it more than makes up for it with its senseless violence and bloody gun battles. It’s also the movie that introduced Selma Hayek to American audiences. You have to be thankful for that.
I Come in Peace (Dark Angel)
“And you go in pieces, asshole.”
Dolph Lundgren is a very intelligent and sweet man, but he’s terrible at picking films. After scouring through a long list of movies of questionable quality, I Come in Peace is probably one of the few Lundgren films that deserves at least one watch. The story follows Jack Caine (Lundgren), who learns that extraterrestrials are harvesting a chemical from the bodies of drug addicts. This unknown chemical is then sold to addicts on the aliens’ home planet. Featuring campy dialogue and some groan worthy acting, I Come in Peace is not a good movie, but it does give Lundgren a chance to deliver a number of quotable one-liners, and show off a fair amount of bone crushing martial arts moves.
“Want me to start with the other knee?”
Harrison Ford has played a number of iconic roles. In the 1990s, Ford also managed to add another name to his substantial resume of performances with Patriot Games. Taking on the role of Jack Ryan, perhaps Tom Clancy’s most famous fictional character, Ford matched wits and fists with the IRA. After saving the life of a member of the British Royal Family, Ryan and his family is targeted by a nasty IRA operative played by Sean Bean. It’s a good action thriller, and shows that even Ford, who was no longer cracking the whip, could still hold his own against a few nefarious terrorists.
“I am home.”
Jet Li’s has hardly been given enough screen time in the Expendables films. What is especially frustrating is that he’s easily the most physically active actors among his co-stars. To truly see Li’s talent as a master of martial arts, and his ability to deliver a solid performance, Unleashed is the film that must be watched. Playing the role of a slave in modern day society, Jet Li’s Danny has been collared and caged since he was a child. Forced to fight in underground fighting tournaments in Britain, Danny is only released from his shackles when he is forced to kill an opponent. Eventually escaping his abusive master, played by the late Bob Hoskins, Danny finds solace in a quiet home of a blind man and his step-daughter. Offering plenty of violence, kung-fu and wise words from Morgan Freeman, Unleashed is not only a great film, but a fantastic introduction to those unfamiliar with the mixed-martial arts genre.
What about you reader? Any other action films that one should see that stars Expendables cast member? Let us know in the comments below.