By the dawning of the 1980s Schwarzenegger was a famous body builder champion and Stallone an acclaimed writer/actor and director, Bruce ‘Moonlighting’ Willis wasn’t even in their peripheral vision.
Ah the 80s some fun and at times serious rivalry between these two box office heavy weights, there wasn’t a dull moment in Hollywood-land. Both suffering from career lulls, Schwarzenegger’s heart-attack and vocation change, Stallone making some bad films they looked liked history, but Stallone pulled a decent Rocky and Rambo out of the bag and Arnie finished his Governor duties.
The balance appears to be somewhat restored and the guys are (well at least one of them is) returning to form and with them both appearing in (the average) Expendables 2 and the up and interesting looking with equal-ish screen-time The Escape Plan, there’s life in the old guys yet. There’s a tonne of information on them so I won’t bore you any further but here are a few thoughts on their fresh offerings:
The Last Stand (2013)
With the FBI hot on his tail an escaped drug cartel heads for the Mexican border, where the only thing to stop him is a sheriff and his untested deputies.
Arnold Schwarzenegger spews the out one liners and chunks of exposition where necessary from a variety of screen writers. There’s guns, explosions, stunts, raging action sequences and blood – lots of blood from a talented director Kim Jee-Woon. The city setting in contrast to the hot desert town adds some needed atmosphere and it’s genuinely edgy and graphic at times.
Forest Whitaker is there to take up screen time as possibly to ease Arnie in as Ray Owens. Notable is Eduardo Noriega who is impressive as the bad guy Gabriel Cortez with solid character Peter Stormare actor adding a further back bone. Although not required Johnny Knoxville and Luis Guzmán provide almost the right balance of comedy and in-jokes.
In amongst the paint by numbers twist and setup it’s a High Noon (1952)/ High Plains Drifter (1973), Sudden Impact (1983) to name a few western type concept from Andrew Knauer with a climatic Commando (1985) – like showdown.
All in all a decent film but without Schwarzenegger it would just be another action film and a viewers raw deal.
Bullet to the Head (2012)
With the unlikely alliance with a cop a career criminal sets about to exact revenge after he is double crossed.
Far more memorable than Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand, writer Alessandro Camon’s screenplay (based on Alexis Nolent’s graphic novel) and director Walter Hill don’t try to reinvent the action-wheel and to the films credit Sylvester Stallone successfully goes against his usual casting playing an unsavoury character namely James Bonomo (Marion Cobretti, Stallone’s own “Cobra” would have certainly despised him).
Despite clichés, some unnecessary flashbacks, over exposition, even repeating plot points just in case you missed them the first time around Bullet to the Head is reminiscent of the Fast and Furious in style with a touch Red Heat with the leads conflicting opinions and one-liners. Vetran director Hill proves he still knows how to direct a solid action film with kinetic axe, gun and fist fights. Christian Slater has a memorable cameo with Jason ‘Conan remake’ Momoa proving he’s more than just a Arnie alternative.
It’s an old school action with a modern slick delivery, worth a watch.