With Expendables 2 out in the cinemas, I decided to do a brief review of the life and work of its creator Sylvester ‘Sly’ Stallone, instead of the film itself. Don’t get me wrong…I did see the film, it was enjoyable as hell, but it seemed pointless applying a critical eye to a film not taking itself too seriously. The film wasn’t even screened to critics, which is usually a bad sign for most films, with studios shielding the film from criticism. But with the Expendables franchise you don’t need the critics to put bums on seats. The names of the action heroes themselves – Stallone, Statham, Schwarzenegger, Li, Willis, Norris, Lundgren and Van Damme – can bring the crowds without a critic’s approval.
This past decade has not been kind to these aging action heroes. The Lucky ones have been fortunate to dominate the straight-to-DVD market, while others have not fared so well and battled with alcohol or drug addiction. Stallone, however, has managed to keep himself more or less relevant throughout. He revisited two of his most popular franchises, with Rocky Balboa and Rambo, giving his fans one last hurrah, resulting in a profitable pay day for him and the studios – Proving that this aging stallion could not be counted out, just yet. But as they say: “Many hands make light work”, so Stallone has assembled his action hero colleagues to help him out. Or maybe he’s the one helping them out…
Stallone, like his infamous character Rocky, seems to have a big heart and you can view him as the older brother of the pack. Like he’s on some sort of epic rescue mission – Stallone has waded through a Cambodian river, knife griped in teeth, to infiltrate the POW camp and free his brothers from the DVD bin of obscurity. Fortuitously, I received a screener of Dulph Lundgren’s new film Stash House. It seems like Stallone’s compadres are all cashing in on their resurgent fame, while news of Stallone and Schwarzenegger reteaming for another film called The Tomb seems well under way. During the production, the pair of them ended up in hospital together, needing surgery on their shoulders. –They probably shouldn’t have high fived so hard, but it made an awesome photo op.
The stereotype for most of these guys is that they’re slow and stupid. Stallone and Lundgren quash those ideas, while Schwarzenegger proved he could be more than an actor, by running the state of California. Stallone wrote and directed the four time Oscar winning film Rocky and completed his BFA at the University of Miami – Spending some of his early college years in Switzerland. If you watch the in-depth interview he did for Inside the Actors Studio, you can see that ‘ol Sly is no dumbbell. As he demonstrates his love of art, writing and reading, you begin to see that there is more to the man than you might have first imagined.
Lundgren is also a mind fuck in his own right, gaining his Masters Degree in Chemical Engineering from MIT on a Fulbright Scholarship – Hearing him speak you’d think he could barely count to ten. Same goes for Stallone, although his slurry speech can be blamed on complications his mother suffered during labour. Forcing her obstetricians to use forceps during his birth; misuse of these accidentally severed a nerve and caused paralysis in parts of Stallone’s face. If Stallone hadn’t suffered the paralysis, would the line “Yo Adrian!” still be as powerful?
It almost seems appropriate that Stallone was born in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. He’s a representative of the true American story, the underdog, rising from the bottom to the top. He’s got the eye of the tiger – super cheesy, but true.