Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Film Review: STONE COLD (1991, Craig R. Baxley)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 92 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Brian Bosworth (ONE TOUGH BASTARD, THREE KINGS), Lance Henriksen (ALIENS, NEAR DARK), Arabella Holzbog (CARNOSAUR 2, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE), William Forsythe (EXTREME PREJUDICE, THE ROCK, OUT FOR JUSTICE), Richard Gant (ROCKY V, THE BIG LEBOWSKI, "Hostetler" on DEADWOOD), Evan James (HARD TO KILL, PENTATHLON). Produced by Yoram Ben-Ami (LONE WOLF MCQUADE, 3 NINJAS KICK BACK), Moshe Diamant (TIMECOP, HARD TARGET), Gary Wichard (BLACKOUT, C.O.D.), Walter Doniger (also the writer), Michael Douglas (BASIC INSTINCT, FALLING DOWN), Nick Grillo (YOUNGBLOOD, GODS & GENERALS), Udi Nedivi (BLOOD RUN, SUPER 8), and Rick Bieber (FLATLINERS, DOUBLE IMPACT). Stunt coordinated by Paul Baxley (ACTION JACKSON, PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER), with some stunts by Al Leong (LETHAL WEAPON, DIE HARD).
Tag-line: "He'll burn you cold."
Best one-liner: "This reminds me of my father's last words: 'Don't son, that gun is loaded!'"

Vast, ominous technological forces seem to have aligned against your experiencing my recommendation of STONE COLD until today. But that's just fine. STONE COLD can wait. It's capable of "burning you cold," anytime, anywhere.

Allow me to paint you a vivid picture. Imagine if a freak industrial accident resulted in the unholy fusion of COBRA, ROAD HOUSE, and DEATH WISH 3 into one movie. Now imagine that this movie is written and directed by ZZ Top in a parallel universe where they went to film school instead of recording hit songs like "Tush." Now imagine that it stars ex-NFLer-turned-thespian Brian "The Boz" Bosworth, and you have a rudimentary concept of what the STONE COLD experience is like.

Let me put it this way– within the first five minutes of this film, we have Ritz crackers getting machine-gunned to hell,

a poor man's Tom Cruise taking a girl with massive orthodontia hostage and telling her to keep quiet, "TINSEL TEETH!",

we have The Boz (clad in a leather-fetish-wear version of Sherlock Holmes' jacket-cape and possessing an incredible two-tone, wavy-molded mullet) calmly shopping for bananas,

then the bad guys taken care of by The Boz with the aid of several random grocery items (including vegetable oil, pastries, and canned goods), followed by a one-liner about a "clean-up in aisle four,"

a completely ludicrous "bikers behaving badly" montage, whereupon William Forsythe gets William Tell'd and basks in the pinwheeling glory of gun-blasted beer foam,

I'm sure I could come up with a one-liner about too much head in the beer or something, but incidentally, this is only way that Forsythe imbibes, on or off a set.

followed by Forsythe pulling the same trick on another biker with an Uzi, a crazed act which results in a random car explosion and glorious peals of frenzied Forsythe laughter– no sir, this is not garden variety lunacy.

Oh yeah, and in case you've forgotten, I'm still working on the rundown of "things that happen within the first five minutes of STONE COLD." Finally, we're treated to the following tableau, that of a shotgun-toting biker who looks like a Dick Tracy villain

crashing the party at a baptism and blowing away the Reverend

who flies backward twenty feet, through a stained-glass window, revealing an army of bikers, poised to take over the US of A, one defenseless pastor at a time.

Why, you ask? Hmmm... Well, you know what, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that your mind isn't even capable of asking 'why' at this point– there is literally so much shit happening, you're liable to bust a synapse or risk an aneurysm if you try to do anything except allow the glory of STONE COLD to wash over you.

So let's talk about "The Boz." I'm reasonably certain that no one has ever risked brain injury while contemplating "The Boz." "The Boz" plays one tough cop who's on suspension for, typically, being too good at his job. But while the dangerous biker gang/army/nation The Brotherhood roams the American Southeast, no one is safe. Before you can say "You've logged more biker-related arrests than any other officer in Alabama," "The Boz" is recruited by the FBI,

who are represented as a bunch of square-headed pencil-necks who definitely aren't cool or tuff enuff to infiltrate a dangerous biker gang on their own. Now The Boz's acting expertise lies somewhere between "child excited to be starring in a home movie" and "Rowdy Roddy Piper," and as far as I'm concerned, that's a good thing. You can sense a genuine, babyish excitement beneath everything that he does: he is damn happy to be in this movie, and consequently, you are damn happy to be watching him.

BEHOLD: The Boz constructing a zany milkshake out of bananas, candy bars, and random bric-a-brac

So that's what the bananas were for!

which he feeds to his pet Komodo dragon! And, of course, he does it all in macabre exercise-wear perhaps purloined from the set of PERFECT.

GAZE UPON: Lance Henriksen's performance as "Chains," the master of The Brotherhood. "Chains" should probably have gone by the name of "Chuckles" because the ratio of Lance Henriksen giggling malevolently to that of Lance Henriksen beating people with chains is approximately eight-hundred thousand to zero.

Seriously, Chains' main character trait is indeed to react to nearly everything with near-psychotic glee and the accompanying degree of bemused chuckling. Lance, naturally, manages to make this work beautifully, and delivers another nuanced, genuine, scary-good performance.

Highlights include Lance's secret biker handshake, soon followed by the threat to "peel your skin off with a knife dipped in shit!"

Lance laying waste to a courtroom while wearing a priest's cassock (which naturally makes me think of Rutger Hauer's priest disguises in SURVIVING THE GAME and WEDLOCK),

and use of priceless, well-delivered Henriksen one-liners such as "TAKE THAT FUCKEN HARMONICA DOWN THE PARKING LOT, MAN!!!" and "WELCOME TO MY SLAUGHTERHOUSE!"

SEE: William Forsythe in rare form (though not quite eclipsing his no-holds-barred portrayal in OUT FOR JUSTICE), brawling like a nut-kicking madman,

and calling out The Boz for what he is:

BE SUBJECTED TO: Involuntary and generally shameful personal displays of head-banging, courtesy of a soundtrack featuring selections by "Saigon Kick," "Wire Train", "Cryer," "Martin Block," and sweet God in heaven, "The Doobie Brothers."

BEAR WITNESS TO: More unnecessary biker lady nudity per capita than in any comparable film, nearly as many senseless car explosions as in DEATH WISH 3, a club named "Club Salsa" (shades of Club...SALSA?), a man flinging a switchblade into the buttcheeks of a pin-up photo...of buttcheeks, bikers showering a fallen comrade in Jack Daniels and Domino's pizza; and a man shot off of a motorcycle as he rides through a marble colonnade in the hallway of a statehouse building, whereupon the motorcycle flies out the window and takes out a helicopter, which falls to its fiery death and explodes some vehicles on the ground.

Yes, this is a five star movie, and yes, I will defend this ruling to the death. I never knew I could be burned so cold.

-Sean Gill


Henry Swanson's Glasses said...

I was mildly annoyed at myself that I haven't heard anything about this film, as I consider myself not only a Henriksen fan, but a Forsythe one as well.

But I grew genuinely pissed off with my neglect the more I read of the violent execution of Ritz crackers and baptisms of exploding beer. And ANY comparison to the bizarre majesty of Death Wish 3 is something to behold. Thank you, sir, for bringing this to my attention - seems like a spectacle I must indulge in.

Brian said...

This is something I've been wanting you to review for a while. Such an awesome movie! Favorite parts include the brawl between The Boz and a biker at the bike rally with The Boz's magically-disappearing-and-reappearing vest and gloves, and the "motorcycle v. helicopter" finale where the helicopter explodes before the motorcycle touches it. Stallone needs to seek out Boz for The Expendables 2.

Sean Gill said...

Henry Swanson's Glasses,

Based on your comments, I think it's safe to say that you will enjoy basking in the glory of STONE COLD as much as I did. It's really something special.

Brian Collins,

Glad to oblige. And you're damn right- we NEED The Boz to join the lineup for EXPENDABLES 2. He'd have to get his mullet back into shape, though.

PrimitiveScrewhead said...

In the summer of 1991, STONE COLD was the king of action films. It was better than TERMINATOR 2. It was better than POINT BREAK. It might be better than OUT FOR JUSTICE, but the jury is still out on that one. And I consider all of those movies to be action classics. I'm sure there are more action films from that year I've forgotten. God I miss those times.

Anyway, here's why:
1) Bosworth's mullet

'Nuff said. Arnie, I love ya, but you're beat here. Bosworth's mullet could singlehandedly defeat you.

2) Plenty of kickass one-liners

Again, 'nuff said.

3) Lance Henriksen

I don't know what the fuck happened to this guy's career after MILLENNIUM (which I never really watched, anyway) but it's a damn shame. This guy plays his role with such gleeful evilness it's awesome. In most people's hands they would fucking fail. But Lance plays it like it's who he is.

4) William Forsythe

Luckily they didn't restrain this guy like they did in THE ROCK. Forsythe is best at his most unrestrained. Forsythe was also in OUT FOR JUSTICE of the same year. EERIE.

5) Gratuitous nudity

There's one part where the camera just pans past a bunch of ladies showering in public. Like it's the natural thing to do. Awesome.

6) Over-the-top violence

Unlike T2, in which Arnie was told by bratty John Connor that killing people was wrong and not to do it, and POINT BREAK, which was more about adrenaline-fueled action than gunfights, STONE COLD simply revels in bloodshed. STONE COLD and OUT FOR JUSTICE would actually make a decent double feature (hell, William Forsythe is also in both). NOBODY IS SAFE IN THIS MOVIE, FUCKING NOBODY, which leads me to my next point...

7) The bad guys technically win

Actually, you might really say there are no real winners. But whatever.

8) It's Craig R. Baxley's best

Let's face it... ACTION JACKSON was alright... I COME IN PEACE was great... but Craig's entire career was culminating into that one perfect note: STONE motherfucking COLD. It's a shame this bombed at the box office. I guess people were afraid of the Boz's mullet.

9) It's got some pretty dark material but it's FUCKING FUN

10) It's pretty much un-remakable

I mean, sure, Hollywood has been given less excuse to rape previous material. But could you imagine they made or remade this today? First off, they'd somehow make it PG-13 and intentionally "dark" and "moody". STONE COLD was great because, yes, it was violent as hell, and dark in its own way, but it still had this air of lightheartedness and fun.

And just who the hell would they get to star in this? Who's got the awesome stone-faced mullet power of the Boz? Who's got the sleazy evil gleefulness of Lance? No-fucking-body. It's the same reason why a film like FACE/OFF seems un-remakable.

11) Motorcycle into helicopter

When they did a similar stunt in that new DIE HARD movie, it was almost cringeworthy. You could tell it was CGI and it was so poorly done and ridiculously over-the-top. But in a bad way. You just wanted to punch the screen. STONE COLD was over-the-top, too, but it was ust so gleeful about it, like it was just natural for a motorcycle to ram into a helicopter during the course of the movie. In fact, you would have been fucking disappointed if it DIDN'T. In DIE HARD more people seemed disappointed that it DID.

12) The Boz kisses his pet lizard

HOW ROMANTIC. Seriously, he's got some Sheryl Crow song on, he's making the best breakfast concoction until END OF DAYS would one-up him, and it's for his pet lizard.

13) The rest of the 90 or so minutes

I can go on and on about how awesome this movie is, and how underrated it stands among the action films. If you are an action fan, watch this immediately. You will not be disappointed.

Sean Gill said...

Mr. Screwhead,

I deeply appreciate your treatise on the greatness of STONE COLD. I also live in a world where STONE COLD is King of 1991. I guess OUT FOR JUSTICE is Queen. And COOL AS ICE and TERMINATOR 2 are probably Dukes or Earls or something. GHOULIES III: GHOULIES GO TO COLLEGE has got to be around somewhere, too.
And you're so right about them taking the piss out of Forsythe in THE ROCK. Let 'em do his thing, unrestrained!
Agreed on DIE HARD IV's lame attempt at recapturing STONE COLD's helicopter exploding greatness.

And Boz and the lizard– damn good stuff.
One of the greats.

PrimitiveScrewhead said...

Don't forget Van Damme's DOUBLE IMPACT. Jean-Claude playing two versions of himself in one film is always comedy gold. They could be the Court Jesters.

Anyone else notice how STONE COLD, while about bikers, also echoes the rise of the militia movement in the States in the 90s? No, I'm not saying the bad guys are full-fledged militia. The point I'm really getting at is that there are few action films in which the bad guys have as dark, diabolical and in-your-face of a scheme than STONE COLD. And the fact that they succeed in carrying in out their objective; kill the Supreme Court and turn the courthouse into their own personal playground. That's seriously the kind of shit that goes on in Colombia or some other third world country (see the Palace of Justice siege).

Yeah, that's right. I just compared the bad guys to militias and their scheme to an unrelated incident in Colombia. That's how awesome this film is. And another reason why this film is seemingly un-remakable in this day and age. It's just politically incorrect, no? Seems like there's no place for this kind of extremity, especially in the aftermaths of the Oklahoma City bombing and, of course, 9/11. There is not a moment in this film where anyone attempts to pull any punches.

They say the Devil was a rebel angel.
That's why they kicked him out of Heaven.

Sean Gill said...


Indeed, I mustn't forget DOUBLE IMPACT. I think I'm due for a re-viewing of that particular gem.

You're right about it not pulling punches; the bikers here are nearly a secessionist/quasi-revolutionary movement!

When I first saw it, I was in the middle of reading Thompson's HELL'S ANGELS– a combination which I wholeheartedly recommend.

Bernard said...

I first watched this movie when I was 12 to 14 years old (can't remember the exact age) - I'm 34 now. I had this on VHS, and the tape was worn out so I couldn't watch it again... And I don't own a VCR player anymore, so I bought this on blu-ray for 30 so bucks. Man, best 30 so bucks I ever spent. 1991 gave us some awesome movies (Point Break, T2, Out for Justice, People Under the Stairs), but this one, is one of the best. First, Lance Henriksen, just like Gary Busey, makes a movie 175% better just by being in it. Second, The Boz, in his first movie, is a genuinely great discovery. I would have watched the shit out of his action movies if he'd have played in other films of this type. 1991 was like a revival year of the best of the 1980s, and this movie is top shit. Buy it.

Sean Gill said...


Thanks for stopping by! We're agreed in our enthusiasm for STONE COLD––I've yet to see it in high definition but hope to change that soon.