Tom Jolliffe mans up in preparation for The Expendables 2, taking in an overdose of explosive action cinema with ‘The Arnold Schwarzenegger Rampage’…
Arnold Schwarzenegger personifies the American Dream. He came to the country to achieve something, and then managed to fulfill every fanciful goal he set himself. He wanted to be the best at bodybuilding. He did it. He wanted to be a huge movie star and he achieved it. He then overcame the doubters to become Governor of California.
The former Mr Universe’s movie career has seen him become a pop culture icon as The Terminator. Alongside Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis, Arnold led the action movie genre throughout the 80s and 90s. His CV is filled with some of the best action movies in the business. The first two Terminator movies are widely regarded as classics, while Predator, Total Recall and Conan the Barbarian also remain fan favourites. Everything about Arnold and his films is larger than life. Massive explosions, hundreds of bad guys, one-liners aplenty and a reckless disregard for public property. Arnold is almost a living cartoon at times. In his 80s films especially he seemed as if he’d been exaggeratedly drawn by a comic book artist.
Here is the Arnold Schwarzenegger Rampage:
Arnold teams with James Belushi in this mis-matching buddy cop film. Arnie plays Russian police officer Ivan Danko hot on the trail of drug dealing murderer Victor Rostavilli. When Victor kills his partner and escapes to the US, Danko follows and is reluctantly partnered with wise-cracking Ridzik (Belushi).
Red Heat isn’t one of Arnold’s best but it’s a solid entry, expertly handled by the experienced action specialist, Walter Hill. There’s plenty of well-crafted action andArnold’s persistently robotic and stoic portrayal of the Russian cop Danko is good. The way he interacts with the more colourful Belushi is entertaining, whilst the few moments when Danko gives a little more away, become effective.
There’s a good list of co-stars too with Peter Boyle, Laurence Fishburne and a very youthful Gina Gershon. Ed O’Ross makes for a piercing eyed, intense villain.
Arnold guns down a Russian goon in drag, who’s just been intensely leered at by Jim Belushi.
The period in the mid to late 80s was so memorable for Schwarzenegger. Be it a barbarian, cyborg, marine, or confused spy, he delivered a host of ass-kicking films. As such, Raw Deal gets a little forgotten coming from that era of his career.
Raw Deal isn’t a great film, nor does it have Arnold at his best, but what it does do is deliver what 80s manly action films did with such aplomb, and that is relentless on screen carnage. Arnold is a hard as nails Sheriff asked to go undercover for an old friend to infiltrate Mob boss Luigi Patrovita’s organisation and bring it down.
There’s some decent, violent action in this with Arnold in his prime. It’s ridiculous at times because Arnold is almost untouchable in this. He can pick off bad guys stood 50ft in the air on cranes whilst he’s driving at speed. Pinpoint accuracy.
Sam Wanamaker shouts and growls as the bad guy, while Robert Davi pops up as one of his chief goons. The score is beefy, bassy and brilliantly 80s.
After Arnie’s taken out a club full of gangsters single handed, he finally gets to his prime target Luigi and finishes him off with gusto.
The Running Man:
Based (loosely) on Stephen King’s novel, this is a brilliant slice of action cheesecake. Directed by Paul Michael Glaser, who is of course the original Starsky from Starsky and Hutch, this is great fun. What it lacks in logic and sense, it more than makes up for it in Arnold laying the smackdown on the bad guys.
In some ways, this view on reality TV of the future seems worryingly not too far from where we are now. The titular show is soulless, classless, in-humane and all in the name of making money at the expense of humility. That said the film is mostly tongue in cheek and won’t exactly result in too many political and ethical discussions.
Arnold headlines with his usual mono-syllabic, dead pan, macho routine. His character and the setting really suits Arnold’s almost superhuman movie persona.
So many memorable finishers in this film. The best? Probably Arnold’s mano-a-mano with Buzzsaw. The two beefy beasts fight over his chainsaw. Arnold wins the battle of strength as expected before planting the chainsaw between Buzzsaw’s legs and ensuring he’ll die a soprano.
One of Arnold’s team ups with director Ivan Reitman. This sees the Oak branching out somewhat and playing a more sensitive character than normal. The film, though successful, was mis-marketed and caught somewhere between being a family film and being a typical Arnold action fest. It’s too adult for kids, but a little too soft and saccharine for Arn’s legion of adult male fans.
Despite the film’s tone shifting wildly, it’s still pretty enjoyable. Arnold is thrown right out of his comfort zone as his character, Kimble, has to go undercover as kindergarten teacher. Seeing the big lummox dealing with a rowdy bunch of little tykes offers plenty of entertainment. Arnold, as he does in his other Reitman films, gets to show his softer side and it’s one of his better performances in his more “human” roles.
Arnold kills bad guy Crisp, whilst he’s holding a ferret. Yep… he dies holding a ferret!
Last Action Hero:
This film is part of Hollywood folklore. A production, from pre to post, full of problems. Numerous script re-writes and a plethora of writers all bursting with ego, throwing in their own flights of fancy to this film, which ends up being a hodge podge of wildly different styles and ideas. This film really is a mess. Is it kid’s film? Is it for adults? Is it a comedy with action, or an action with some comedy? Is it a crime thriller, or a fantasy? It’s indefinable and it makes for confused film indeed.
Despite this, Last Action Hero is a film with certain merits. Arnold is great. When the film is most ironic, without being too ridiculous (the cartoon cat…why a cartoon cat? Why?!), Arnold excels. He sends up his macho image fantastically. Then there’s Charles Dance who is fantastic as the villain of the piece. He takes the role seriously. He injects proper menace into the villain and never lets him delve too much into spoof. Sure, there’s still plenty of tongue in cheek with the role, but he’s a villain you could see taking on John McClane or whoever, in a genuine action film that knows what it wants to be. Danny Madigan as the kid transported into a movie is really annoying though which is another detrimental part of the film.
The film’s budget was huge at the time and though it doesn’t show as much as it perhaps should, it still shows. There’s a lot of big action and some typically well shot action by John McTiernan.
Plenty of comically-themed kills but the best is last when Slater (Arnold) shoots bad guy Benedict in his glass eye, which happens to have an explosive built in. He then blows up.
This is Arnold at his most manly in a film that’s frankly ridiculous in the most brilliant way. Bad guys kidnap his daughter. Not a good idea and Arnold hunts them down and takes on an army of them by himself.
Commando is great. It’s a relentless barrage of crunching action, stunts, quotable one liners and Arnold in a shirt that looks like it’s inside out. At times this could almost be like Hot Shots or something; it feels close to being a spoof sometimes, from the opening scenes featuring Arnold both carrying a whole tree over his shoulder and then feeding a deer, to him dodging a zillion bullets whilst picking off hundreds of bad guys during the finale. Then there’s Bennett, the bad guy, looking like the love child of Freddie Mercury and the biker from The Village People.
There’s so much action in this, all brilliantly cut. Then there’s a great score from James Horner too. Commando remains one of the best of those one man army flicks.
What a choice. Arnold’s one of the masters of the memorable kill and this film is loaded with them. However it’s hard to look past “Let off some steam Bennett!”
By the time this came out, Ah-nulds career was on a major decline. He’d slowed down somewhat following heart surgery, and dwindling grosses saw him trying his hand at newer things and more grounded roles. Gone were the cartoon, OTT, heroics of the 80s and early 90s and by Collateral Damage he was everyman Gordy Brewer, a fireman whose wife and child are blown up by terrorists. It didn’t really work, and let’s face it, Gordy Brewer is not a name that sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger should be playing.
Collateral Damage is just mediocre. It’s not terrible and it holds enough interest, largely because of Arnold’s star power, but considering the cast and crew involved, it should have been far better. Directed by Andrew Davis who gave us The Fugitive, and photographed by Oscar winner Adam Greenberg who was the DP in Terminator 2, this should have looked the bee’s knees. It looks flat, cheaper than its lavish budget should suggest, and less a cinematic experience and more a straight to DVD experience. The biggest problem is the contrived script that feels like one of those vault jobs that’s been dusted off by a studio head and thrown into production when no other ideas could be thought off.
Jane Lynch pops up in a brief role and for the crime of not doing anything funny in this, she is sentenced to death via neck snap.
Next up: The Chuck Norris Rampage.