Movie of the Day: Stone Cold (1991)

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The Film: Stone Cold (1991)

The Principles: Craig R Baxley (Writer/Director). Brian Bosworth, Lance Henriksen, William Forsythe

The Premise: A suspended Alabama redneck cop with a specialty in mafia joined biker gangs goes vigilante under the guise of the FBI in arguably the inspiration for Sons of Anarchy.

Is It Good: Not really, but it never attempts to be. This was the tail end of the over the top testosterone crazed renegade action hero era that seemed to dominate the late 80s, early 90s box office. Willis was still fresh into the picture as a quippy rebel with only the first couple of Die Hards and Arnold was at the top of his career. On the other hand, Norris had turned to TV, Sly attempted comedy and Hollywood was looking for the next big thing. They tried many things to fill in the gaps including Vanilla Ice, Patrick Swayze and former NFL linebacker and the star of Stone Cold, Brian Bosworth.

Bosworth does mildy ok in this, but his character is written so shallow that all he really does is fight and smile at the camera. He has one of the worst on screen mullets you will ever see, as it is frosted blond with black sides (his NFL trademark) and he wears a complementary wardrobe of scaled leather trenchcoats and a dangly earing. This makes the movie timeless though as the story take place in Alabama, and not to offend anyone from Alabama, but he fits into most the environments I have been to in Alabama.

The plot of the film has something to do with the FBI needing Bosworth to infiltrate a biker gang so that they can do what the white house told them, shut them down. There are fights all over the place, to the point every time a plot hole starts to show, there is a fight to take your mind off of it. If they didn’t have a reason to punch someone, they shot someone, and if that didn’t happen, they would touch a vehicle and it would blow up. Auto and Motorcycle manufacturers have to be glad their standards are better than this film would leave you believe. In this film, if you hit a pothole you are likely to go up in flames. If you are on a motorcycle, not only will you become a fireball but your bike will turn into a projectile weapon taking out everything but Brian Bosworth.

Is It Worth A Look: Hell yeah. This is ripe for a peak. The villain pair of Lance Henriksen and William Forsythe alone demand your acknowledgement. Henriksen was in his heyday, playing the villain in one of my favorite roles by the iconic veteran. This is a guy who was a lead in Near Dark, Aliens and Jarmusch’s Dead Man. Honestly, this is the role that I always picture when someone brings him up. He makes the perfect biker captain. His low voice and devilish smile captivating the members enough that they don’t care that he is leading them right to their sure death or life imprisonment.

This was also the first time I remember seeing William Forsythe. He’s been in everything and done every type of role. He overacts perfectly in his crazy biker bad guy role, and brings an evil Martin Riggs (Gibson from Lethal Weapon. His costume isn’t any better than Bosworth’s. He also sports a shoulder length ponytail, a shirtless leather vest and a jet black beard that strangely focuses attention on a gap in his front teeth. His character alone could have posed enough of a threat to carry the movie, but once again, due to the lack of good writing they needed more people to fight with and that meant two main bad guys.

The cast is rounded out by a who’s who of character actors that you have most likely seen, some in pivotal roles (Sam McMurray and Richard Gant). The lead Actress struggles much more than Bosworth in her limited time.

The thing that damned a large box office for this movie wasn’t just Bosworth acting skill, but what I think may be the biggest appeal to watch again. The movie was unforgiving and other than Henriksen and Bosworth, almost everyone else bites it before the finale. Characters that appeared like leads are only around half the film, and it even garnered a NC-17 rating for violence according to IMDB. If they threaten to kill someone, they die. The main story has to deal the with bikers wanting to off a senator for pursuing the death penalty. When they take the capital hostage, that means that most films would have Bosworth get there in the nick of time to save the day. Not here. While Bosworth is under cover, he gets attacked by the mafia. The next scene shows Henriksen and Bosworth delivery the guy’s head to the Mafia (you think the FBI would have stepped in and got the gang then, so when in doubt they threw a cronie on the screen to fight and let them off the hook). The violence itself isn’t graphic most the time, but it is in abundance. Much more tame than Cobra or First Blood.

Stone Cold is a fun and outrageous to the point of distracting you from the bad. To me, it will always be diamond in the rough, so much better than the movies that took themselves too serious. It’s a little over 90 minutes of explosion filled cartoon like violence that helped put a nail in the proverbial action hero coffin.

Random Anecdotes:

Brian Bosworth actually built the motorcycle he rode in the film.

Bruce Malmuth, the director of Hard to Kill,Nighthawks and Pentathlon was replaced a month after shooting began.

Cinematic Soulmates: Die Hard, Last Boyscout, Beyond the Law, Sons of Anarchy, Cobra, Roadhouse

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