To fully appreciate Sylvester Stallone and his gang of creaking, aching senior citizens in The Expendables, you need to know the 1980s.
Heard of that era?
Michael Jackson was still a black guy then, Saddam Hussein was America’s best pal, and Rambo was so pi**ed off about something in First Blood (1982) that he kept shooting his machine gun and flexing his man-breasts.
That was a time when men were he-men, biceps were hipper than bicycles, the green screen was just a piece of furniture in a Chinese restaurant, and dumb, tongue-tied guys with bulging appendages were knocking out more people in the movies than at a Paris Hilton party now.
These days, of course, anybody with a stunt double, body wire, gongfu tips from Corey Yuen, and at least three insurance policies, can be an action star.
In the 80s, things weren’t so girly then. They were DIY practitioners of the blow-them-up-to-kingdom-come brand in the bad old days when steroids could explode a man’s neck to a size bigger than a whale’s haemorrhoids.
The two biggest whales in those days were Sly Stallone and his Terminator-Governator pal, Arnold Schwarzenegger. For a crazy period before Michael Keaton wore fake muscles as Batman, they were icons of a meaty age.
Go ahead – ask the saggy has-been in the corner of your gym. I guarantee you they were his heroes when that fella was pumping iron from Monday to Sunday, while in between sucking in his growing gut and encroaching hernia.
In The Expendables, Sly and Arnie meet in a funny scene with their ex-Planet Hollywood buddy, Bruce Willis, talking tough like vitamin salesmen in an energy convention. They give each other the evil eye because that’s the only body part they could still reasonably move.
The whole thing looks like a Rocky-Rambo-Terminator-Die Hard-Let’s Kick Ashton Kutcher’s Punk A** reunion. Man, the testosterone-level in that scene was so high, tight and dry (in the dried-up, middle-aged uncle sense) that you knew that in the supermart of cinematic bulls**t, you’d be smack in the middle of the red-meat section.
That’s the thing about yesterday’s action heroes, you know. They’re fun, they’re used and they’re really authentic. When they’re in need of a shower, you can smell the 1980s all over them.
Badass rating (out of five stars)
Ignore the little fact that in the very funny White Chicks, he thought the black Wayan bros were white babes.
Looks positively evil. What Julia Roberts would look like if she were a man.
In movies like Transporter and Crank, he makes you forget Englishmen are usually sissies.
How can anybody be so nice to his ex-wife (Demi Moore) and the guy who married his ex-wife (Ashton Kutcher)? We don’t get it.
Iconic in the WWE. Fans love his don’t-give-a-rat’s-ass-about-anything attitude.
Original He-Man in 1987’s Masters Of The Universe. Seems like a lunkhead but is actually the smartest of the lot (awarded a scholarship to study engineering at MIT in the 1980s).
His wushu moves are real. With Jackie Chan, you break out in laughter; with him, he could break your bones.
Still fighting in mixed martial arts. Ex-pro wrestler Austin was apprehensive about taking him on in the movie.
Terminator? Predator? That’s nothing. He’s the Governator. Politics is far, far, far more dangerous territory.
Just for putting The Expendables together, grandpa Sly has proven to be very indispensable.
Baddest badaass of them all. Why? Because while everybody acts it … he lives it. In the last 25 years alone, he’s been a pretty boy, boxer, over-the-hill, under-the-dump and still made a comeback even as the guy-most-in-need-of-a-good-shower.