Thursday, December 9, 2010

Stallone binge

(1986) * * *

Cast:Sylvester Stallone, Brigitte Nielsen, Reni Santoni, Andrew Robinson, Brian Thompson, Art La Fleur

Stallone stars as Marion “Cobra” Cobretti, a shirt ripping, match chewing, (80s) shade wearing one man army cop who protects a supermodel (Nielsen) against a gang of night slashers who kill at random so that a new order can be born. Suffice to say Stallone keeps butting heads with liberal cop (Robinson) and his superiors (La Feur) who finally just give him the okay to just go out and do what he does best, and what does Cobra do? He packs a machine gun with laser sight, fires tons of ammo and just kicks ass and takes name in this enjoyable actioner that makes Death Wish 3 seem restrained and A-political at times. As far as plot goes, Cobra doesn’t have a lot of credibility, for instance the whole point of spreading chaos and spreading a new order (Which is this violent militia’s goal) would mean to have witnesses, so why they hunt Nielsen is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile the fascist overtones and ridiculous final monotone about the court systems all add up into a highly charged political debate that makes little sense but to provide violence. Cobra is very well put together, the action sequences are spectacular and exciting. Indeed Stallone is even less animated than usual, as he makes Rambo seem whiny by comparison. In terms of Death Wish rip offs (And this is a Death Wish rip off, more so than a Dirty Harry rip off) Stallone knows how to sell it well, and in that Cobra is one of the better bodycount movies of the genre.

Tango & Cash (1989) * *

Cast:Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Jack Palance, Teri Hatcher,Michael J. Pollard, Brion James, James Hong, Geoffrey Lewis

Forgettable formula cop stuff has Stallone and Russell as the title cops who end up joining forces to do battle with crime boss named Yves Perret (Palance) after setting up our two cops on a bum rap, Tango and Cash clear their names with wholesale slaughter. The action is only adequate but frequent enough to make it at least somewhat watchable, the thing that sinks Tango and Cash is the forced comedy. Stallone in particular has no idea how to deliver a Schwarzenegger one liner, indeed Stallone isn’t funny, he worked fine with Demolition Man, but when he is actually asked to make jokes the result is just painful. Russell overdoes it as well, and the problem is that Sly Stallone and Kurt Russell really don’t have chemistry, indeed it is so forced. Jack Palance though is generally great as is Brion James and Michael J. Pollard, Tango & Cash is just not fresh enough to work. They can’t all be Lethal Weapons and this one sure as hell isn’t.

Demolition Man (1993) * * *

Cast:Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock, Nigel Hawthorne, Benjamin Bratt, Denis Leary

Directed by Marco Brambilla

Super cop John Spartan (Stallone) is unthawed from suspended animation to take on a super criminal Simon Phoenix (Snipes) who has escaped from the prison, seems that the new society is politically correct, and everything that is bad for you is illegal, indeed you are fined for profanity, suffice to say Phoenix is a bad guy that nobody in this world can take, Spartan meanwhile finds it hard to adapt to the new P.C life and finds out that there is a conspiracy to bring Phoenix out to take out a rebel underground led by Leary. Demolition Man is one of Stallone’s better efforts by far. The action element is sort of overblown (though well staged) but it’s the comic element that make this so fun. In fact the Utopian society that Stallone wakes into provides a great backdrop to contrast against Stallone. Demolition Man also features Stallone in good form. Indeed where as he was awful in Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot, here Stallone does comedy effortlessly. Bullock also provides solid back up with an inspired performance and Snipes provides a great villain with a sense of humor. Demolition Man then is more entertaining than people made out at the time is one of Stallone’s underrated flicks.

Assassins (1995) *
Cast:Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Banderas, Julianne Moore

Directed by Richard Donner

With this much talent involved, Assassins should’ve been a classic, the director of Superman and Lethal Weapon 1 and 2, teaming up with Rambo and El Mariachi in a film that is no doubt the lowest point in their collective careers. Assassins revolves around an assassin (Who wants out of the biz, as no cliché is left unturned) who starts a bitter rivalry with an upcoming assassin and in the process joins with a computer hacker (Moore) Ugh what a stinker this movie is. There is hardly any action and what there is comes from the bigger is better school of thinking, making it that much more mindless and boring. The movie leaves no assassin cliché unturned, there is no element here that wasn’t done better in the Charles Bronson classic The Mechanic. The mid 1990s were a low point for the action genre and movies like Assassins are why. The biggest tragedy in all of this is that this from people who know better and so when this movie bombed big time at the U.S box office, it was seen as an act of mercy.


  1. All of these films are outside the normal scope of what we do at the DTVC, especially since I've done away with the Wild Card post. Cobra, though, was a lot of fun (Tango and Cash too when I was-- doesn't stand the test of time anymore, though). The Expendables brings home just how much Stallone meant in the action world in the 80s-90s, though, but as you said, some of these aren't exactly his best work, while Demolition Man and Cobra are pretty fun. My favorite line from all of them, Wesley Snipes's from Demolition Man "Cold as Haagen Daas!"

  2. I have to respectfully disagree with you on Tango and Cash. I think this is the finest example of a Buddy Cop Movie from the 80's mostly because it is ALL cliches and Buddy Cop banter and one-liners. It's so over the top (another great Stallone movie)that it works both as a parody of the genre and as a genre movie itself. It's full of self-referential humor ("Rambo is a pussy") and genuinely awesome action (the prison escape scene is great) that it transcends the confines placed upon the genre and becomes one of the Greatest Movies in the History of the Human Race.

    As for Assassins, I think it's an interesting failure. Like most of Stallone's mid 90's work lik The Specialist and Daylight, it's heavy on "drama" and Stallone actually trying to "act". I do like the scene where Sly gets Antonio so flustered that he leaves his sniper's post and goes inside the bank for a man-to-man talk. It's a very Michael Mann-ish or even Leone-ish scene; mortal enemies who have to speak to each other one last time before going toe to toe. Of course, the whole movie drags like a sumbitch and could've used another round of editing but it almost works. ALMOST.

  3. I knew I was gonna catch flack for Tango and Cash. This would've been a great buddy flick if the comic lines weren't so bloated. Stallone doesn't do comedy well and Kurt Russell felt like he was trying too hard. I also loved this a lot when it came out.

    As for Assassins...I can see your point as trying something different but the problem was I was just bored. I would say that Copland was by far Stallone's best late 90s flick, but that this, The Specialist and Daylight were pretty bad. I mean compare this to Cobra or Death Race 2000, or indeed The Expendables and Rambo. Not in the same category. Also Banderas was totally wasted. You'd be surprised how boring it is. Like they try to create suspense by having Stallone sitting in the bank trying to drag Banderas out and then there is a double doublecross and it just stinks.

    I do love Cliffhanger and Demolition Man though. Tango and Cash though, you know how you said the reporter in Universal Soldier got you mad, well Russell's overdoing it on the jokes did the same thing for me. Anyway on vacation for a few days, I'll address more when I get back.

  4. I've always thought Stallone's comedy works best when it's unintentional- when he tries to write it, he's never been funny. His humor I've always found immature and not to my tastes (much like Jackie Chan as I get older). As far as 'Demolition Man' goes, one can only wonder if Jackie had swallowed his pride and taken the Wesley Snipes part Stallone originally offered him.