Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Jason goes to Midnites for Maniacs for a tribute to Arnold and Sly

Call it COM-RAMBO night. And call me a sucker for some mid-80s tough guy action flicks. Or call it time to reexamine these films, and find something new in them.

COMMANDO (1985): Okay, first up is Arnold, at the top of his muscle-bound, wise-cracking, ass-kicking game. Although it starts with a common theme of the night--soldiers who don't really want to fight anymore. But that all goes out the window when he is blackmailed into doing the bad guy's dirty work or risk his daughter's life (Alyssa Milano, in nearly her first role ever.) Of course he fights back, in an escalating series of incredible action pieces, obligatory detective work, and snappy one-liners. This isn't his most famous film, but this might be Arnold at his most Arnold-iness, and it's some damn good fun.

Between the movies, our host Jesse Ficks expounded on his theory of Arnold and Stallone being the Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin of action flicks. And darn it, the theory actually works. Arnold is Keaton--if not the Great Stone Face, at least the cool, clever calm in the center of the storm. Stallone, on the other hand, is the Tramp, the emotive character who is often down on his luck and wears his heart on his sleeve. Which brings us to...

RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II (1985): It's accepted wisdom that FIRST BLOOD (1982) is a good dramatic movie that devolved into mindless violence with its sequel. And it's time to revisit that, with first acknowledging one simple fact--Rambo doesn't want to fight. In fact, that's largely an over-arching theme to Stallone's career (spoiler alert for my upcoming CREED review)--that life is a brutal struggle that's not necessarily of your own making, but there's dignity and honor in that struggle. Rambo is now plucked from prison for a simple reconnaissance mission, and double-crossed and left for dead. But of course, he doesn't die. In fact, he finally wins the Vietnam War and beats the Russians (don't think too hard about what the Russians were doing in Vietnam, it was the 80s, Russians were everywhere.) At least, that's the Cold-War-Fantasy interpretation of the movies, that it's post-Vietnam military wish fulfillment. And that interpretation simply overlooks glaring plot points like how the U.S. military brass are the bad guys in the film and Rambo only fights to rescue abandoned POWs. For an alleged pro-USA military fantasy, this is a pretty anti-American plot. At least, anti-American leadership. It might be time to reexamine the entire Rambo series as much more complicated and nuanced than I remember them.

Total Running Time: 186 minutes
My Total Minutes: 411,756

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