Stallone! For this entry of my Streaming Selects ongoing series, I picked 3 films starring the Italian Stallion himself, none of which have the name “Rocky” or “Rambo” in the title – which means you’re probably not as familiar with them. There are few actors that can gracefully deliver a tongue-in-cheek but not overly comedic take on the action genre, and Stallone is definitely one of them. I picked one movie from the 80s, one from the 90s and a pretty recent one, from 2013. All of them have Stallone sharing the spotlight with another action icon, which means they’re definitely worth a watch (or rewatch).
So let’s get to it!
Tango & Cash (1989)
Available on Hulu and Amazon Prime
Starring: Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell
Directed by: Andrei Konchalovsky
I was surprised to see that this film had a very troubled production that resulted in the director getting fired, because it really feels like a joyful film – probably thanks to the incursion of the great Kurt Russell as Stallone’s fellow cop in this ultimate “buddy cop” film. The elements that you’ve seen in so many movies that came after it are there (e.g. when the sister of one of the cops is the other cop’s love interest, also seen in “Bad Boys II”, “Hobbs & Shaw”, etc.), and they work really well in a story that knows exactly what it is and doesn’t bother trying to be anything else. The story is barely important, because “Tango & Cash” is mostly about two seemingly opposite cops that have to learn how to work together, and that’s all you need to know.
Also great is the fact that Jack Palance plays the villain, and he’s entertaining whenever he’s on screen. He doesn’t get a lot to do, though, because most of the movie is filled with hilarious interactions between Stallone and Russell doing what they do best, which is all this film needs. The quips, the action, the explosions are all here, and this is the perfect escapist action film for the weekend.
Demolition Man (1993)
Available on Hulu
Starring: Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes
Directed by: Marco Brambilla
“Demolition Man” is one of those films that remained on my watchlist for numerous years, but I kept forgetting to get to it. I recently watched it for the first time, and I absolutely loved it. It’s an unpretentious action film with a little bit of a social commentary that appears to be more relevant today than it probably was when it first came out. It’s interesting to see how veganism or police defunding are hot topics debated between what are now the sociopolitical “left” and “right”, but the movie plays them off as silly. Stallone and Snipes embody what would perhaps be catalogued as the “right” today, but their interactions with what is now the “left” are fun to watch, no matter what side of the argument you’re on. Meaning, the film worked well back then, and it works really well now.
Featuring a hero named John Spartan (Stallone) and an extremely entertaining villain named Simon Phoenix (Snipes), “Demolition Man” is a perfect example of the kinds of action films from the 1990s: a modern aesthetic (at least for the time), a high-concept based (at least vaguely) in science fiction ideas, two of the biggest action stars of the decade, and, of course, lots of violence. It’s definitely a relic of a time well past, and that’s exactly why it works so well. I hope we get back to these kinds of action films one day.
Escape Plan (2013)
Available on Tubi
Starring: Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger
Directed by: Mikael Håfström,
My assumption here is that you probably heard about this film, but did not bother watching it. Unfortunately, it tanked at the U.S. box office, but it was very successful internationally and even sparked some direct-to-video sequels that (of course) I have not seen, nor do I have the intention to. All in all, “Escape Plan” is a back-to-basics film that teamed up Stallone with the fantastic Arnold Schwarzenegger (maybe I’ll make a watchlist for him soon, too), and they both seem to be having a lot of fun in their respective roles. It’s weird to see that we had to wait so much for them to team up for a film that is not really “action” in the conventional sense of the word (even if it does have a lot of action), but that works really well as a popcorn film.
Something that I’ve always found funny (and maybe that’s just me, because, let’s face it, I have a weird sense of humor) is the fact that Jim Caviezel, known for playing Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ”, plays the very evil prison warden/villain in this film. He sells it well and seems to be having a lot of fun in the role, but it’s been hard for me not to think about him as “the guy who played Jesus”.
Either way, I would seriously recommend this film, if only to watch these two icons go off on one another and remind us of better times for the action genre – which would bring us back to films like “Demolition Man” or “Tango & Cash”. So, if you think about it, it all comes full circle.