Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Van Damme. These are the names that are commonly mentioned when discussing action heroes. Big, beefy, muscular men who throw out witty one-liners after snapping a bad guy’s neck. They starred in some of the best action movies of the 80s and 90s. “First Blood”, “Rocky”, “Commando”, “Predator”, “Time Cop”, “Bloodsport”, “Sudden Death” (a personal favorite because it was filmed in my hometown). But come the year 2000, these guys disappeared for a decade. So what happened?
Sylvester Stallone stopped being relevant in 1997, barely holding his own in “Cop Land” against the likes of Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel and Ray Liotta. His career went into a steady decline with the remake of the Michael Caine classic,”Get Carter”. It wasn’t until he decided to revisit two of the classic characters that made him a star, that his career has had a mild resurgence. But anyone who thinks that a geriatric boxer almost a decade removed from boxing can last two rounds with a heavy-weight champion half his age is as misguided as Stallone was when he decided to write and star in Driven. Same goes for thinking a retired US soldier eligible to collect disability can wipeout an entire army of ruthless killers.
Arnold Schwarzenegger became the strongest governor of California ever. So while he stayed in the spot light, he didn’t necessary end his acting career on a high note. “Collateral Damage” and “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” did not contain the right amount of one-liners and therefore were absolutely horrible. But he more than made up for it with many soundbytes over his seven year reign of terror (don’t be an economic girly man!).
Although he wasn’t as popular in the United States as Stallone and Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme deserves to be mentioned amongst them because he was “Timecop” and that meant something to Ron Silver. Plus he roundhouse kicked more ass than Chuck Norris and his beard, for proof see “Kickboxer”, “Bloodsport” and “The Quest”. His career stalled when he return to the Universal Soldier well too many times. He came back with “JCVD” in 2008 which was called the second-best performance of the year (after Heath Ledger as the Joker in “The Dark Knight”). Since then he pretty much has been waiting for Stallone to call him to be the bad guy in his newest (and soon to be irrelevant) “action movie.”
All three of these gentlemen will be seen next in “The Expendables 2″. A sequel to a movie that sounded great on paper but was terrible in execution (like Communism!) but here’s hoping it brings back these giants of cinema into relevance.