Monday, January 12, 2009
The 80's were a true renaissance era for American action movies. Dynasties were established (Rambo, Predator, Die Hard), stars were made (Shwarzenegger, Van Damme, Seagal), and asses upon asses were kicked, beaten and/or completely blown away. Today's action movies, aided by immense budgets and shitty-looking CGI EVERYTHING really just can't compare to the sincerity, rawness, and sheer BRUTALITY of films in this genre from 25 years ago. Being a huge fan of 80's action movies and their heroes (and heroines), I've decided to give you THIS, MY LIST OF TOP 10 ACTION MOVIE PROTAGONISTS OF THE 1980'S. I usually keep it to a Top 5 but there's no way it was gonna happen here.
10) FRANK DUX (JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME): BLOODSPORT (1988)
Marketed as being "based on a true story", "Bloodsport" was the story of American martial artist Frank Dux and his trip to the Far East to compete in (and, of course, win) the mysterious Kumite mixed martial arts competition. Immediately called out for being a poser and a liar (receipts were produced showing that his "Kumite trophy" was actually purchased at a shop near his L.A. home), Dux was mired in controversy after the release of the film, although to this day it stands as a fine example of awesome, cheesy, late 80's action. Dux the Storyteller is portrayed as being a man unafraid to punch his opponents in the balls, do the splits ALOT, and bone down on vapid female reporters with crimped hair. The corniness of this movie just adds to its greatness, and JCVD really is in top form, especially when being blinded by magic dust or flying into a homicidal frenzy (final scene: GOLD). Donald Gibb (Ogre from "Revenge of the Nerds") also shows up as Ray Jackson, Dux's beer-swilling, large-nostrilled, tough-guy sidekick, and is a major highlight.
Never explained during the course of the film: Why does the American-born Dux have a Belgian accent?
9) NADA ("ROWDY" RODDY PIPER): THEY LIVE (1988)
WWF villain "Rowdy" Roddy Piper made his film debut in this John Carpenter classic, losing the kilt and dropping the Scottish accent to become Nada, a down-on-his-luck construction worker who accidentally stumbles onto a planetary alien conspiracy. Piper kicks, punches, shoots, and deadpans his way through hordes of adversaries, human or otherwise, along the way participating in one of the longest, most grueling fight scenes ever committed to film. Although not above the assistance of a pistol or a shotgun, Nada's greatest asset is a hulking physique and a Wolverine-like ability to endure pain, and even a whole planet full of evil aliens don't stand a chance against him.
One of the greatest lines ever spoken: "I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass... And I'm all out of bubble gum."
Brilliant, but I prefer: "I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass... And I'm all out of ass."
8) CONAN THE BARBARIAN (ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER): CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982)
Okay, maybe not so much an "action" movie as a "sword-and-sandal" flick, "Conan" undeniably had its share of awesome action sequences, from gladiator death-matches in the slave pits to Arnie drunkenly punching a camel. Shwarzenegger was unstoppable throughout the 80's and 90's, a thickly-accented, heavily-muscled box office golden boy who never hesitated to smash someone's face in, unprovoked.
"Conan", in my opinion, was some of his best work, a part he was born to play, a match made in Valhalla. The Conan character, around for decades upon decades in pulp novels and comic books, could have found no better actor to portray him than Arnold, a massive, violent beast who was a living picture of the word "Barbarian".
Below: Conan, lashed to the Tree of Woe, snacks on a manly portion of Vulture Tartare.
7) ASH WILLIAMS (BRUCE CAMPBELL): EVIL DEAD (1981) & EVIL DEAD II: DEAD BY DAWN (1987)
Okay, okay, okay. So the "Evil Dead" movies aren't EXACTLY action movies either. But I HAD to get Ash on this list. Never has a film protagonist done so much gory battle with so many undead freaks, and you have to give the guy some extra points for lopping off his OWN HAND and replacing it with a FUCKING CHAINSAW! How badass is that?!
The "Evil Dead" series, especially "Dead By Dawn", upped the ante infinitely in the action/horror/slapstick comedy realm, thanks in no small part to Bruce Campbell's bug-eyed heroism. Campbell has become an underground megastar due to these roles, and deserves every bit of adulation he receives. I've actually met the guy twice, and he's the nicest, most down-to-Earth, anti-Hollywood guy ever. Hail Bruce, hail Ash, hail Gore!!!
Below: A shot of Ash from 1992's "Army of Darkness". Great film, but not made in the 80's. Next case.
Trailer - "Evil Dead":
Trailer - "Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn":
6) JOHN RAMBO (SYLVESTER STALLONE): FIRST BLOOD (1982)
A gritty, realistic film released the same year as the epic fantasy "Conan The Barbarian", "First Blood" introduced us for the first time to former Green Beret John Rambo, a name that would become synonymous with violence, bloodshed, and America. But this, the first of four Rambo movies, is surprisingly critical of the American Dream, as Rambo is scapegoated, beaten, and hunted by lawmen in the same country he risked his life serving. A complex, quiet anti-hero, John Rambo goes feral when backed into a corner, and the film's intensity multiplies exponentially as he plummets further and further into his long-forgotten, violent ways. "First Blood" is a far better movie than it gets credit for, there is some real socio-political commentary going on and the multi-dimensional characters are all driven hard by their own inner demons.
But DAMN, look at Stallone handling that M-60!!! Jesus Christ!!!
Posted by Shelby Cobras at 12:34 PM