I have noticed a very scary trend in Hollywood, and I’m not sure what to do about it. The new breed of action stars are all P*****S!
It used to be if you saw an action movie you would see Arnold Schwarzenegger cocking his shotgun with one hand as he blazed through a wall of fire on a Harley. Or Sylvester Stallone mowing down a legion of armed guards with his machine gun as he dodged a hail of bullets. At the very least you would see Steven Seagal kick the crap out of some terrorist after single-handedly taking over a battleship. But, with a combined age of 152 these three aging, classic action stars can’t fill these roles forever. In fact, they can barely fill them now. Schwarzenegger’s last actioner, End of Days, directed by journeyman filmmaker (hack) Peter Hyams was kind of a swan song. It felt like a throwback to Arnold’s early films of the eighties complete with ridiculous action sequences and terse (sometimes unintelligible) dialog. Sure, it was cheesy, Arnie taking on the devil, but it was classic and it reminded me how much I miss Sly, Seagal and Schwarzenegger. Even though I know these three currently guzzle geritol, I still have no doubt they could easily kick my a*s. When it comes to today’s supposed action heroes, I’m actually not so sure. The modern action star is more of an everyman. He lacks the convincing precision with weapons, he lacks the brawn and he may not even lift weights much less work out. Sure he’s got the quick-witted one-liners, but he’s also got a hairpiece. I’m not sure if one of these new action “stars” has what it takes to take on an army of thugs much less sustain an action movie career spanning decades.
I can pinpoint for you exactly when the trend toward the modern, sensitive, less muscular action hero began. It was 1988. Tim Burton was making a highly anticipated movie about a comic book legend in England. He was casting the lead for his movie which called for a dark, intimidating figure well versed in martial arts to fill the cloak of Batman. And he cast Michæl Keaton. I could kick Keaton’s a*s! Lucky for Michæl that Tim had a “muscle suit” made for him since the diminutive comedian clearly lacked the weight, much less the chin, that one would think the role required. The casting was a point of controversy at the time and had fanboys in an uproar. It’s funny that in retrospect, Keaton stands out as the best Batman. Who knew?
But we’ve entered a new millennium and we need new heroes. Now let’s take a look at the rundown of today’s action stars: You’ve got Will Smith (Wild, Wild West, Independence Day, MIB) who can crack jokes so well he doesn’t even need a sidekick. But ultimately it’s the Fresh Prince saving the world.
Then there’s Nicolas Cage (Con Air, 8MM, Face/Off) and in certain shots he actually looks like he has the muscular chest but whenever he runs away from a looming explosion, I genuinely fear for his hairpiece. Will his toupee get burned off? Will the glue continue to hold it in place? Is the rug bullet proof?
Of course, the most unbelievable new action hero has to be el Schmaltzo himself, Ben Affleck, the star of Armageddon and Reindeer Games. (Reindeer Games doesn’t even sound like an action movie. It could be an animated holiday special for children.) The Oscar-winning screenwriter was at his most frightening as a bat-wielding bully in the 70s teen film Dazed and Confused. But since then his presence is about as imposing Jake Lloyd’s rendition of Darth Vader. Let’s face it, Ben’s a goofball.
And how can we forget the king of the monosyllable, Keanu Reeves? The star of Speed and The Matrix has actually proven himself a good student when it comes to martial arts. (Or were those the computer effects, I couldn’t tell?) With two more Matrix movies in the pipeline, Keanu is sure to kick some a*s (with a little help from computer digital effects) but I can’t get over the “Whoa.” Whenever he does the “Whoa” thing I giggle.
I’m not really sure if any of these guys really stands a shot. I mean can you honestly picture… Will Smith wielding a sword in Conan. “Get you’re toga-wearing, ancient butts outta here before I slice y’all!”
Nicholas Cage as Judge Dredd. “Huh-ha, I am the law.”
Ben Affleck playing Rambo. “Listen buddy, I’m your worst nightmare.”
Keanu Reeves as the next Terminator. “Whoa, I’ll like, be back and stuff.” Oooooh, I’m so scared.
I miss our heroes of old. If they’re going to retire from action movies, can the next generation at least go on a weight gain program and hire a trainer? I know three guys who might be available.