They’re unkillable, unstoppable, unflappable and irresistible. They’re the masters of the outrageous, racking up unfeasibly high body counts, smirking in the face of danger, always ready with a sly quip right before they blow the shit out of absolutely everything. Charismatic, stoic and determined, these Spartans never give up, overcoming unbelievable odds and despicable villains to save the day. They’re cinema’s greatest warriors, titans who walk among us, proving time and time again that there’s no problem, however big or small, that can’t be solved with a hearty fistful of dynamic, pulse-quickening, edge-of-your-seat violence.
They’re living legends. They’re Hollywood’s Hardest Bastards.
But who is the hardest action hero of them all? Which of Hollywood’s toughest, most grizzled wisecracking bullet-dodgers is more insanely badass than all the rest?
This is my quest. From January 1st 2013 I have been analysing at least one film each day from the back catalogue of Hollywood’s ten toughest hombres, in order to determine, once and for all, who is the greatest living ass-kicker of them all. Never mind which star has made the most films or earned the most money. This is about determining, film-for-film, which rock-hard, chiselled champion stands head and shoulders above the rest. Aside from TV shows, kid’s films, made-for-TV movies, cameos and uncredited appearances, I will be watching EVERY film these guys have made, fairly assessing the Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoots right along with the Commandos.
Each morning for one whole year, I will pick one film at random from my Celebrations Tub of Death and rate each Hard Bastard’s performance according to my own carefully considered set of criteria:
INDESTRUCTIBILTY – A real action star displays a superhuman, tenacious bouncebackability that sets him apart from the pack. Put simply, he cannot be stopped.
COMBAT SKILLS -These hardmen dispatch their prey with grace confidence and a sleeknes. Be it by kung fu, household implements or just a bloody big gun, extra points will be awarded for bloodshed that involves a healthy dose of aesthetically pleasing, expertly choreographed imaginative creativity.
ATTITUDE – Real, courageous heroes cut a swathe through red tape and bureaucratic bullshit to do what’s right, no matter how difficult it may be. More often than not these hardy hotshots do all this with a smile on their face and a killer wisecrack on the tip of their tongue.
OUTRAGEOUSNESS – whether leaping from great heights or taking out helicopters with speeding automobiles, these Hard Bastards leave their mark, delivering the kind of insane, inspiring action that makes you leap from your seat and punch the air with a hearty ‘HELL YEAH!’
BODY COUNT – Plain and simple, a true action star gains his stripes by offing a whole heap of bad guys, and I will be counting each and every kill in every movie. Points will be awarded appropriately, determined by kills-per-minute in relation to the standard set by Stallone in Rambo (2008) with 87 kills in 92 minutes(!) It’s science, folks.
Who would have ever believed that a brash, quick talking Austrian bodybuilder would become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and one day become the Governor of California? A distinguished Hard Bastard.
After appearing in the Mad Max and Lethal Weapon series, Aussie Gibson solidified his credentials as a wild-eyed, hard-nosed action warrior. A mad Hard Bastard.
Became immensely popular as a tough guy via a string of Sergio Leone movie westerns and the Dirty Harry franchise. Gritty performances in films like Gran Torino remind us there’s still some fight in the old dog yet. An old school Hard Bastard.
The wisecracking star of TV’s Moonlighting, Bruce hit movie screens with a bang in 1988 with Die Hard and his status as a bona fide movie star was minted. He’s been kicking ass and taking names ever since. A cocky Hard Bastard.
A former Olympic diver, Jason Statham found his path in the film industry through his work in action pictures like The Transporter and Crank, soaring to become one of the most popular actors of the genre. The young upstart Hard Bastard.
Seagal skyrocketed to fame in 1988 with an action-packed debut in Above the Law, but long before then, he was known to martial arts insiders as the first Caucasian to open his own aikido dojo in Japan. Also an accomplished and celebrated musician. A cultured Hard Bastard.
JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME
A celebrated martial artist, ‘The Muscles From Brussels’ emigrated to the States in 1982 to pursue a career in film. His skills, highlighted by his ability to deliver a kick to an opponent’s head during a leaping 360-degree turn led to starring roles in movies like Cyborg and Universal Soldier. A roundhouse-kicking Hard Bastard.
Chemistry graduate and former European karate champ Lundgren’s breakthrough came when he starred in Rocky IV in 1985. Since then, the Swede has starred in over 40 butt-kickin’ action roles. So hard, masked burglars abandoned a robbery after realising they were in his house. Smart thieves, and a smart Hard Bastard.
Chuck Norris studied martial arts in Korea in the 1950s while serving in the U.S. Air Force. He stood toe-to-toe with Bruce Lee in 1972’s Way of the Dragon and the rest is action movie history. Chuck Norris doesn’t call the wrong number. You answer the wrong phone. A legendary Hard Bastard.
Stallone got his start writing and starring in Rocky, going on to become one of Hollywood’s highest paid actors, usually playing monosyllabic, anti-society, downtrodden heroes and also known for his impeccable machismo. The underdog Hard Bastard.
So, there you have it. It’s going to be one hell of a year and God knows how I am going to manage to squeeze in an action flick every single day but it’s going to be fun finding out! By this time next year, I will hope to have proven, once and for all, who is the toughest, Hardest Bastard in the universe.
Join me, won’t you?