Tom Jolliffe mans up in preparation for The Expendables 2, taking in an overdose of explosive action cinema with ‘The Sylvester Stallone Rampage’…
Slyvester Stallone’s story has become Hollywood legend. His rise to prominence from someone struggling in the doldrums in his chosen profession mirrored that of his star-making creation, Rocky. Sly’s insistence to take the lead role himself, for his script, despite having no money (and substantial offers for said script) paid off and the rest is history. Sly’s brilliant performance as Rocky promised a lot from him as an actor. His career though took different route and he became part of a breakout new wave of macho action men in the 80s. It was fantastical, flag waving, fist pumping, and a move away from the Westerns of the 60s, and the gritty crime thrillers of the 70s. Beefy bad-asses with a dislike for wearing shirts and a penchant for running around and taking on armies of baddies single handed. Sly, along with Arnold Schwarzenegger, really led the way.
Sly’s determination and charisma has seen him through a career that’s had box-office domination, followed by declining popularity and then cinematic exile. He hit back with aplomb, re-igniting his best and long dead franchises, Rocky and Rambo, with great success. Then Stallone went about creating a new cinematic legacy, and an action fans long held fantasy, the coming together of most of the legends. The Expendables brought together a grouping that seemed impossible. Egos and muscles aplenty but it happened and it was a smash hit. Now with the impending release of the sequel, audiences will be treated to a film featuring Sly, Arnold, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham and Jet Li. It seems almost fantastical to even say those names together, but it happened. Sly made it happen.
This week however, tragedy struck Sylvester Stallone with the shocking and saddening passing of his son Sage Stallone. Sage, Sly’s oldest child, shunned the chance for hand-me-down superstardom following being given a lead in Rocky V opposite his dad. Instead Sage had strived to forge his own career and own name in cinema. A great appreciator of cinema, particularly Grindhouse flicks from the 70s and 80s, Sage worked on restoring and releasing forgotten cult classics (including Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond with the help of Quentin Tarantino), whilst he also showed an interest in stepping behind the camera, having directed a short film, Vic. In his own right though, Sage proved himself as a more than capable actor.
Here is the Sly Stallone Rampage, starting with the Sage Stallone memoriam…
Success in films means sequels, and by the time a fifth Rocky film rolled along, the first four movies had made huge sums of money. Sometimes though you can have one sequel too many, and Rocky V proved to be this, before taking a sabbatical and returning triumphantly with Rocky Balboa in 2006.
Rocky has retired following the pummeling he took from Ivan Drago. Fighting again could kill him so this film has Rocky, after poor financial management, going bankrupt and then returning to the streets he grew up in. The film sees Rocky and his son Junior (Sage Stallone) trying to bond. Things get complicated when Rocky begins training a young boxer Tommy. His attention then gets taken away from his son. Inevitably things go awry with Tommy and father and soon have to rebuild their bond again.
Rocky V is not good. It’s schmaltzy, hackneyed and just never feels right. Sly’s performance has an air of desperation and a sense he knows it’s not up to scratch. Returnees Talia Shire and Burt Young phone in performances. Shire really seems like she doesn’t want to be here, perhaps exemplified by the fact she chose not to be in the final film (to its benefit, opting to kill off Adrian and add a new arc for Rocky).
The best part of the film is Sage Stallone. A lot of the movie has to rest on his young shoulders. He comes across as natural and the obvious father and son chemistry from real life father and son adds something to that side of the movie. The film remains watchable despite its silliness and rote finale. Despite miss-firing here, Sly’s passion for the character and the franchise still comes through.
Do the brain cells in Rocky’s skull count? That aside, no one dies in this Rocky film.
This sees Sly during his mid-90s period where he tried to step away from the Rambo-esque roles and play more grounded, vulnerable characters in his action films. The scripts never matched the ambitions sadly, and Daylight is a perfect example of this.
Filled with every disaster movie cliché you can think of, Rob Cohen’s film has as much subtlety as you’d expect from a Rob Cohen film. It’s heavy handed, melodramatic and a bit dumb but well made enough to remain watchable. The ever worsening situation also makes for some good set pieces.
Sly is decent here. He puts his all into this even if it feels a bit like he’s trying too hard to be less larger than life than normal. The other cast members are pretty good too. Viggo Mortensen appears and is typically charismatic. Sage Stallone has a small role as a young criminal. He does a decent job and blends in well. Without knowing beforehand you probably wouldn’t guess he’s Sly’s son. We’ll forgo the fact he disturbingly chats up a girl who’s about 14 in the film, but that aside it’s a standard sub-role for this sort of film that Sage injects more than the usual level of delivery to.
Criminals fleeing cops in a stolen car are chased through the New York tunnel. It goes wrong and they crash into a truck with explosives loaded on it and blow up, destroying the tunnel as well. FUBAR.
This oft forgotten Stallone action thriller is one of the Italian Stallion’s more under-appreciated movies. Coming at the end of that 70s period of William Friedkin, Don Siegel etc. thrillers, it’s certainly something different from the shirtless cartoon heroics that would dominate Sly’s action career throughout the 80s and 90s.
Stallone, looking like Serpico mated with Grizzly Adams, plays a hard edged cop who doesn’t like authority, partnered with Billy Dee Williams, a hard edged cop who doesn’t like authority. Both join a task force set up to try and stop dangerous terrorist Wulfgar (Rutger Hauer).
The film is well made and benefits from the cast and some effective action. Sly and Williams make a good team, however it’s Rutger Hauer who steals the movie. He’s fantastic in his first major Hollywood role.
Wulfgar is an imposing villain. He’s intelligent, ruthless and always seems to be one step ahead of the good guys. However he lets himself down when he actually falls for a heavily bearded Sly Stallone dressed like a woman. Sly promptly kills Rutger for such foolishness. Still when you’ve had a few too many beers, we’ve all made similar mistakes haven’t we? Haven’t we? Oh.
In one of the movie that really put Cannon films on the map, Stallone takes out the trashy in this pretty bad but thoroughly entertaining action fest.
Cobra is ridiculous and cheesier than a truckload of Stilton. Stallone plays a guy called Marion. That alone sets the tone for how ridiculous the rest of the film is. Add the name factor to the silly outfit he wears and ridiculous glasses, and matchstick in the mouth accessory and we have ironic gold (though unintentionally).
There’s loads of action and it’s relentlessly destructive. It’s Rambo 2 out of the jungle and into the streets. Bad guy after bad guy appears for Sly to wipe out. The finale half hour is really good and loaded with awesome stunts.
Sly spends most of the film posing. Brigitte Nielsen is terrible whilst bad guy Brian Thompson and his gang of goons all look ludicrous.
Sly finishes off Thompson by attaching him to a giant hook. Nicely done Sly.
Sly takes on Wesley Snipes in one of his best outings of the 90s. The sci-fi angle is a little different to the Sly norm and whilst the view of the future is a little silly, the film has tongue firmly in cheek.
There’s plenty of big budget and explosive action here and Sly is on top form. The film’s biggest strength, aside from the expertly crafted set-pieces, is the cast. Alongside Sly is a pre-superstardom Sandra Bullock who’s effortlessly charming in that way that she was in the mid-90s. Nigel Hawthorne hams it up to the hilt as the man responsible for the new found “perfect society” that Sly finds himself in when unfrozen from cryo-prison. Denis Leary is excellent as a typically fast talking and acerbic sewer dwelling rebel, but it is Wesley Snipes on villain duty who really steals the movie. Snipes is fantastic as Simon Phoenix, getting the choice lines and the opportunity to upstage Sly during their scenes together.
When Simon Phoenix is frozen solid, Sly takes the opportunity to kick his head clean off before it falls to the ground and smashes into a zillion pieces. Expertly done.
Tango and Cash:
Sly teams up with fellow action man Kurt Russell in this vintage 80s action buddy cop film. This may not be as iconic as Lethal Weapon or 48 Hours, but Tango and Cash remains a firm action favourite amongst fans.
There’s great banter between the constantly bickering, reluctant (of course!) pairing of Sly and Kurt. The film is loaded with quotable one-liners. There’s also a great array of action and a suitably action packed finale. Despite the silly plot it ticks all the boxes you’d want from a movie like this and is one of most easily entertaining movies from either Stallone or Russell’s CV, outside their most iconic roles.
The support cast is decent. Teri Hatcher appears before her TV fame, and reliable action baddies Bryon James and James Hong also appear. However the real standout from the support players is Jack Palance who takes the art of over-acting to a whole new stratosphere of awesomeness. He chews so much scenery he’s in danger of ingesting the whole universe! That is not an exaggeration.
The distinct jaw line of Robert Z’Dar (Maniac Cop) gets a little crispy when Sly manages to fry him in a bunch of electrical wires.
Sly does The Shawshank Redemption. Or not… This rather illogical but entertaining prison flick sees Sly pretty much playing Rocky in prison. He’s a stand-up guy (aside from being a prisoner that is), against the odds, who takes everything that’s thrown at him with humility.
The Rocky feel of the film is aided by Bill Conti’s score. The film sees Stallone targeted by a sadistic prison warden with a vendetta against him, played by Donald Sutherland. Sutherland is evil incarnate here and hammier than a pig farm. Sonny Landham also offers suitable menace as a prisoner who takes an instant dislike to Sly.
Death by bench press, as a gang of vicious crims kill a young prisoner befriended by Sly.
Next up: The Arnold Schwarzenegger Rampage.