Let’s be honest. Most of us won’t be hanging off an exploding car or engaging in a gun battle when we are 69 years old. We will be suffering through a lawn mow or making coffee before we digest the paper and make a 56th attempt to fight the computer keyboard. On Monday, Sylvester Stallone, one of the best action stars who ever lived and the owner of an Academy Award, turns 69 years old. He’s the king of blow it up and talk about it later but probably most remarkably known for Rocky Balboa, the ultimate underdog.
In the spirit of recommending, I am going to provide 6(serious number territory) underrated movies of Sly’s for you to watch.
A tense nerve racking thriller to this day. Renny Harlin’s “Sly on a mountain” action adventure pitted our 5 foot 10 inch hero against the ruthless criminal John Lithgow and more importantly, ice cold temperatures up in the Rocky Mountains(really, Rocky?). From the unsettling opening death scene to the ending fight off a cliff with a plunging helicopter as their base, this movie never lets up and works all of the action hero’s strong suits to perfection. For a movie that’s 22 years old, it still holds up well.
5. Cop Land
Care to see Sly really act? He separated himself from other gung ho heroes like Arnold, Seagal and Van Damme when he gained some weight around the waist and played this slow thinking noble cop who starts smelling corruption in a small New Jersey town. James Mangold had an idea when he cast Stallone as the weary badge. Let’s put our muscle bound hero in a different role and look, and see what happens. The result was powerful and a slow burn ending that works just right. When Freddy Heflin loses his hearing late, it sets up a 15 minute finale that still plays well today. Are you catching onto the still plays well theme?
4. Get Carter
Yes the remake that nobody liked was an action flick that I digested like a medium well cheeseburger on a hot summer day. Stallone as the suit from Vegas coming back to his hometown to bare knuckle brawl anyone who helped his brother meet an early demise. Decked out in Sinatra like tailor made suits and sporting a goatee that could cut somebody, Sly fit right into Stephen Kay’s dark gritty moody world of bad men doing bad things to the wrong people. The western tinged score worked perfect because it set our guy up as the underdog, like we know and love. Add in Mickey Rourke playing the big bad and the original Carter Michael Caine and the stage was set. 15 years later, I can catch this on cable and lose a portion of my day to Stallone action breathing.
“I won’t turn around, Jack.”
3. Lock Up
This 1989 thriller pitted sadistic Donald Sutherland’s sadistic prison Warden Drumgoole against our wrongly imprisoned staineless white tank top wearing Italian Stallion, Frank Leone. One setting, one man, against all the odds and lots of sweating. Featuring character actors like Tom Sizemore, John Amos and Sonny Landham, this indie styled action thriller was proudly B-movie material and didn’t rely on special effects. An outdoor prison football football game makes Longest Yard resemble a preschool toss around, and a scene in the laundry room with electricity and hot water still creates the shakes decades later. This was back when Stallone was skinnier, less weathered and scrappy or basically, 43 years old. If you can find it, get a Little Caesars pizza and soak it up.
2. First Blood
The first and BEST Rambo story featured our hero, doomed by post traumatic stress disorder from Vietnam and isolated in a small town, getting tortured by a few cops at a police station before he escapes to the woods and mountains and takes the fight to them. This 1982 gem threw one of the best working actors, Brian Dennehy, against John Rambo and also featured the unforgettable climactic scene between Richard Crenna and Stallone, which still stands as Sly’s best work. A former soldier lashing out at the rage he can’t get rid of and the anger that stems from it. This movie was more than an action film. It was a sentiment to all the soldiers who returned from war with a piece of themselves gone. It was superbly directed by the relatively unknown Ted Kotcheff.
1. Rocky IV
While it wasn’t the best film or most memorable, the 4th chapter was the most entertaining and fun. Come on. The death of Apollo Creed sparking Rocky back into action. The Russian beast(played by Swedish action star Dolph Lundgren). The cold weather training. The Stallone beard. The training montage. The fast car/night drive montage. All kinds of awesome 80’s like montages. Yeah baby!!! Soak it up. Ivan Drago tries to break our Philadelphia champ and it’s on. Tidbit: When director Stallone told Lundgren to really hit him, Dolph ended up putting Sly in the hospital. Bad idea buddy. Rocky 4 holds up like a snicker’s bar left out on the kitchen counter if not unwrapped all the way.
Today, celebrate Stallone and watch one of these gems. They didn’t win any awards and don’t need to. Some of the best films don’t own a single award and for good reason. They know how good they are so why show off?