Sylvester "Sly" Stallone

A few years ago I was sitting around with a couple of self proclaimed movie-buffs and they asked me what my favorite movie was. I thought for a second and then said, "First Blood". They were all snide and aghast as if I had just insulted their very soul with the mention of a Sylvester Stallone film. One of the guys says something like "Really, First Blood? You can’t think of something a little more….. relevant?" Feeling like someone who was just asked their favorite novel and replied "The Cat in the Hat", I was embarrassed at first, then a little angry. My retort was the basically the following.

"I’m sorry guys, I thought you just asked my favorite movie. The one I enjoy watching the most. Not the one that most changed the world. Not the one what awakened everyone to world hunger. Not the one that ate the most film or had the deepest impact on my misguided sensibilities. I thought you were referring to which movie I could sit through for the ninth time and still be entertained. I thought you were referring to a movie that you catch on TNT and drop the remote because you enjoy it, no matter your mood, no matter the time of day. I must have been confused by the question."

They backtracked a little and now the conversation switched from the more "cerebral" films like "My left foot" and "The Piano" to ones that actually entertained us guys, like "Predator" and "Rocky".

So the subject of this review is Sylvester Stallone, admittedly one of my heroes growing up. He was the muscle bound, one-man army that was impossible to kill, trained like a machine, and pounded everyone from Hulk Hogan to Ivan Drago in the ring. I always left the theater in the mid 80’s and early 90’s feeling pumped-up and ready to start my own training. So he overused the infamous "montage" in his films. How else are you going to prepare to fight a nine foot Russian that just killed your buddy? You’ve gotta remember, and remember well. Plus, nothing sets off a self-pummeling revenge montage like Frank Stallone music, so he had that covered as well.

Now for a little devil’s advocate. He has made some real crap. I refuse to go to IMDB to remind myself, but yeah, Judge Dredd, Oscar, Driven, Daylight, and Death Race 2000 are painful to say the least. I’ll give you that, but we have got to look at him as a whole and remember the films he has created as we saw them for the first times. He has written, directed, and stared in some classics. He wrote "Stayin' Alive" which shows his versatility, because my mother loves that one and our taste in movies is as polar opposite as physically possible. Aside from his other work, the Rocky and Rambo franchises alone merit major kudos. "Cobra" and "Over the Top" gave us some classic one-liners too. "Ya got no power Hawk! " I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used that one.

If you think that I am living in the past and neglecting the present, I’m working up to his latest. The latest Rocky and Rambo were fan-damn-tastic . Rambo was brutal and raw and a perfect way to end the series. Some of the scenes were shocking, but it is about war. War is shocking. Rocky Balboa was also a fitting end to the uneducated, punch-drunk guy from Philly who won’t stay down, which was what Rocky was always about. Heart my friends, it’s all about heart. It also really helps me pretend Rocky 5 never happened. Well done, Sly. You finished these legends the way you started them, with some substance. Rocky and Rambo pretty much define Stallone’s career whether anyone likes it or not. So neglecting some crap in the middle, and for looking better at 60 than I looked at 20, I give you mad Meatwad props.

"Have you ever walked, alone at night, a Man against the world?

No one takes your side, a boat against the tide. When your faith is shaken,you start to break, and your heart can't find the words.Tossed upon the sand, I give you a man, Against the World

All the people cheer, 'til the end is near and the hero takes a fall.

Then they'll drag you through the mud, you're only flesh and blood."

Leave it to Survivor to write lyrics that completely define "Rocky" in their song "Man against the world" from Rocky 4.

Just as Meatwad could watch First Blood repeatedly, I could drop everything to watch Rocky 4 in the middle of the night on a Saturday. It has everything - montages, tragedy, domestic disputes, a talking robot, and yes the great line "I must break you."

I only wish Stallone's other movies held up as well. Yes the Rambo movies started off great, but Stallone has been a victim of Sequels. Even now as he tries to make a comeback he relies on the glory of his older movies. Rocky Balboa was alright, and only needed to exist to erase the travesty that was Rocky V. The new Rambo was awesome, but that could have been due to the excessive Gore-nography. I have never seen a single bullet tear someone in two until I witnessed the bloodletting of Rambo.

If you're gonna make sequels Sly, you oughtta do some for "Stop or My Mom will Shoot!" and re-team with Estelle Getty. Wait, I think she passed away. Well, you could get Bea Arthur or the mom from Everybody loves Raymond. Or perhaps you could make a sequel to "Tango and Cash." Heaven knows Kurt Russell needs the work.

Suffice it to say that Sylvester Stallone hasn't done many great roles in the last twenty years, though Demolition Man is a guilty pleasure. I don't blame him though. Sadly the action star persona has died. People don't want to see Jean Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, or even Arnie anymore. He probably should have quit while he was ahead and before his face started falling off.
Aside from his many flops, he has captured the underdog spirit that we as a people can associate with. Not to mention the analogies shown in Rocky 4 as the fighter from America conquered the hearts of the Russian public by defeating their enormous fighter.

Sylvester Stallone single-handedly won the Cold War for America and for that he gets 3 former action stars.

Stallone is literally one of the icons from my youth. I grew up on the Rocky and Rambo series. I grew up saying "judge, jury, and executioner."
But does being an icon make you a good actor? Was I a good judge of movies in my youth? The Goonies and Point Break made up my 2 favorite movies for nearly 10 years.

Is Stallone hit and miss on his movies?? For every Cliffhanger, there is a Stop or my mom will shoot. For every Demolition Man, there is a Driven. In fact, the Cobra's and Over the Top's start to outweigh the First Blood's.

Don't get me wrong, if you run across Rocky 1-4 on cable, you must stop regardless of time/place/circumstance. First Blood was great too. In fact, my favorite Stallone movie was one where he actually acted--Copland. It was fantastic, and he was very believable.

Unfortunately, Stallone didn't show his acting talents very often. There was generally 4 phases to his acting:

Punching/getting punched
Looking strained like he needs to let loose on the toilet.
Saying phrases like someone who's on hidden camera, but knows they are on hidden camera.
(for example, a guy would brush his teeth, and then state clearly and loudly--"I love to brush my teeth. It is healthy." It's just not believable.)

Go watch Spy Kids 3-D. He uses the 4rd phase of his acting throughout the whole show.

So, what's it going to be? Do I rate Stallone on his fairly poor acting, or do I rate him on his movies? Let's meet in the middle, and throw down a 2-star gauntlet for the old guy. I mean if they can erect a statue of a fictitious character, I can at least give him a passing star-grade.


Anonymous said...

Two words for all three of you: Cop Land. I think this was one of Sly's underrated performances and would give a rating slightly higher than iMDB did. That said, out of all the reviews, I agree with Meatwad's: the last Rocky was great, and while I have yet to see the last Rambo, it's in my queue on Netflix and I can't wait to see it. Because of y'all, I might just move it up and take a break from Battlestar Galactica Season 4.

I Hate Commercials said...

The Rambo movies are the best movies ever made in my opinion. Google the Rambo stat list it is hilarious. It has all these ridiculous stats from each Rambo movie, it is out of control.

MeatWad said...

I checked out the Rambo stats and you're right, that is hilarious. Those stats alone should jump him to 5 stars!

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