Action Stars — Arnold Schwarzenegger

Posted: August 9, 2010 in Film, Martin Keller, News
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


[Posted by: Martin Keller]

Over the Top: Profiles in Action Movie History
Leaving my local multiplex the other night after seeing Dinner for Schmucks, review found here, I saw an almost life-size display for Sylvester Stallone’s upcoming cavalcade of action stars, The Expendables.  It got me thinking back to simpler times when my friends and I would go down to the video store and rent the bloodiest, most shootinest action flicks we could find.  Growing up in the 80s and 90s was the prime time for watching the peaking action careers of Willis, Schwarzenegger, JCVD, Stallone and many others.  Ahh, the blood and carnage take me right back.  So due to my undying love for a genre that is rife with plot inconsistencies, bad acting and things blowing up for no better reason than that they should, I will be profiling some of film’s best action stars.  I will chart their highs and lows, where they came from, where they are now, and why we love them so much.  So strap yourself in and don’t forget, “If it bleeds, we can kill it.”
For the first installment I’ll be profiling one of the big three, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Profile:  An icon, if there ever was one, he is it.  As with Coca-Cola or Marlboro, most people in the world know Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Schwarzenegger has been successful and present in the world’s conscience, especially in the U.S., for the past forty years.  He parlayed an amazingly successful bodybuilding career (he won Mr. Olympia seven times) into a successful acting career and then parlayed that into a successful career in politics.  He is one of the big three action stars, along with Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone.  (Both of whom will be profiled in this column in the weeks to come.)  And what’s more is he has pervaded the entire cultural infrastructure.  His movie quotes have become part of the national lexicon, forever to be associated with him and him alone.  Although I am sure that some time in the distant future a lone voice will utter the words, “Hasta la vista, baby,” and those around will not consider its source; it will just be.  Along with an iconic action career, Schwarzenegger expanded his fan base with family films like Twins (1988), Kindergarten Cop (1990), Junior (1994) – which was nominated for an Oscar and two Golden Globes – and Jingle All the Way (1996).  He has parodied himself in Last Action Hero (1993) and True Lies (1994).  And there are two bands dedicated to music concerning only his films.  Arnocorps is a hardcore band that released their first EP in 2000 and has released three subsequent albums.  Austrian Death Machine is a death metal band created by Tim Lambesis from As I Lay Dying with Chad Ackerman and Josh Robert Thompson providing the Ahnold vocals.  They released Total Brutal, their first LP, in 2008.  At this point, Schwarzenegger as parody has equaled, if not superseded, Schwarzenegger as action star. 
Quote:  “I’ll be back.” – The Terminator 
Defining Role:  While Arnold had many memorable roles as a muscle-bound bad-ass, they are all overshadowed by the role that made him: The Terminator.  Never had he, nor has he since, delivered lines so perfectly.  It was the role he was meant to play.  Their have been films of his that were seemingly written for him, or just well scouted by his agent, like Twins and both Conan’s, but he did not shine, or even seem believable for that matter.  In Total Recall (1990), he is out-acted at every turn, even by characters with on-screen time totalling less than five minutes.  Not only did he succeed as the Terminator, he defined the role.  Even in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, when the Terminator has had his balls cut off, metaphorically speaking, he still manages to make you hold your breath.  And squaring off against Robert Patrick’s interminably creepy T-1000 certainly doesn’t hurt.
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Best Action Moment:  This has definitely been the most difficult category to define.  There are a seemingly innumerable amount of great action clips from Schwarzenegger’s repertoire.  And I have been tempted to go with the ‘hasta la vista, baby’ scene or one of the many scenes from Predator (1987), but I could not, in all good conscience, deny the best and bloodiest of all Arnie’s flicks:  Commando (1985).  For those of you unfamiliar with this exploration into what a man will do if you kidnap his daughter, I present the piece de resistance.  Liam Neeson ain’t got shit on this. 
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Best Non-Action Turn:  Schwarzenegger has very few forays outside of the action scene.  They are mostly comedies and, although successful, are pretty crappy.  That’s not to say that his action films are cinematic masterpieces, but Arnold as gun-toting, invincible force to be reckoned with is easier to swallow than Arnold as a kindergarten teacher or a pregnant man.  For me, the best non-action Arnold flick is the documentary Pumping Iron (1977), which chronicles the road to the 1975 Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia.  It featured bodybuilding greats such as Ken Waller, Franco Columbu and Lou Ferrigno.  This was America’s introduction to Arnie, and while he is one of the “villains” of the film, it is mesmerizing to watch him at the top of his game, doling out advice to fellow bodybuilders with unflinching confidence, and showing not the slightest bit of fear at the mention of Ferrigno or Columbu.  (At that point in time Schwarzenegger had won the Mr. Olympia competition five times.)  While he may have had a great acting career and political career, this is Schwarzenegger in the one place where there is no question of his superiority and charisma, albeit narcissistic.  After seeing this it is not surprising that he was able to make the jump to acting.
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As I said from the outset, Arnold Schwarzenegger is an icon.  Love him or hate him, you cannot escape him, especially not the people of California.  And so I leave you with this:
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  1. […] of action stars, The Expendables (2010). He is carrying on the tradition pioneered by the likes of Schwarzenegger, Willis, and […]

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