Welcome, combat fans, to part two of my epic, foolhardy crusade! This week, Chuck Norris is icy-cool in Lone Wolf McQuade director Steve Carver’s stylish revenge thriller An Eye For An Eye (1981). Chuck is Sean Kane, kicked off the police force for karate kicking a guy out of a window, instead of reading him his rights, following the murder of his partner. Out for revenge, Kane cruises about in a kickass speedboat, dispensing vigilante justice and inviting tidy female reporters back to his lakeside gaff.
Exceptionally hard, Kane shows off his martial arts moxie, pulverising legions of white jumpsuited minions, while evading a machine-gun packin’ helicopter. Whether leaping off ships or high-kicking a light-bulb so the sparks ignite a room full of fireworks, Chuck is consistently dashing and dangerous. As if to underline this, when Christopher Lee’s head baddie enquires ‘I hear you no longer carry a weapon,’ one of his terrified goons remarks, ‘He is a weapon!’ Solid (31/50).
Hot on Chuck’s heels is Clint Eastwood, directing and starring in 1992,s gritty Oscar-winning western Unforgiven. Clint is Will Munny, a washed-up mercenary who puts the ‘Old’ in Old West. Frailties exposed, Clint is superb, his Munny cutting a poignant figure, struggling to get back in the saddle after many years retired. Yet, despite protestations that he ‘ain’t like that no more,’ when his partner Ned (Morgan Freeman) is gunned down by Gene Hackman’s brutal sheriff, Munny reminds everyone of his reputation as a ‘a rootin’ tootin’ son of a bitch, cold-blooded assassin.’
An astonishing climactic saloon shoot-out sees Munny unleash the demon within, that familiar Eastwood growl spooking out every miserable straphanger in the joint. Roaring, ‘I killed everything that ever walked or crawled!’ while executing anything that moves, it’s a scorchingly badass moment. Clint suckerpunches the audience, revealing a character far more frightening than we could ever have imagined (28/50).
Next up is Mel Gibson, swaggering through a post-apocalyptic Aussie outback, righting wrongs and smacking evil in the face in George Miller’s Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985). Butting heads with Tina Turner’s sadistic desert outpost ruler Aunty Entity, Mel is reliably gritty, wild-eyed and entertainingly fair dinkum.
An unfortunate series of events sees Max battle a bollock-tighteningly gargantuan masked bruiser in the Thunderdome, an ingeniously designed colosseum where combatants bounce about on bungee cords, mangling each other with assorted pointy things. It’s thoroughly ridiculous and quite brilliant and though things get considerably duller once Max hooks up with some annoying kids, the film’s all-action car chase finale makes up for it.
A squadron of monstrous, souped-up off-road trucks are written off in spectacular fashion as Max leaps from car to speeding car, skelping the drivers between pulling off sick stunts. Our hero proves so hard that Aunty spares him out of respect for his massive balls. Not bad (30/50)!
Considerably less fearsome is Clint Eastwood’s turn as a prospector who ends up sharing a wife (!), with rascal Lee Marvin in 1969’s overblown musical Paint Your Wagon. As the man known only as Pardner, Clint barely lifts a finger in anger, instead attempting to quell our thirst for violence with his surprisingly sweet crooning.
Disappointingly placid, one scene sees Ben wail on him for making eyes at his missus, yet Pardner, respectful of their burgeoning bromance, just takes it. Clint is a bit of a wet blanket in this one, and though affable, charming and one hell of a chanter, he is anything but hard (15/50).
Next up, it’s Dolph Lundgren in 2000’s low-budget post-apocalyptic adventure The Last Patrol, AWOL director Sheldon Lettich’s muddled, disappointing film about the survivors of a devastating Los Angeles earthquake. Dolph has little to do as hardassed peacekeeper Preston, his magnetic presence seeming wildly out of place amongst terrible, mugging actors in a mind-numbing plot about psychic powers, plagues and tectonic plates.
After what seems like an age, the big guy eventually gets to show off his action chops, leaping from a speeding jeep onto a runaway horse in the film’s most exciting scene. An all-action prison-set crescendo offers plenty opportunity for Lundgren to blow shit up, but makes the cardinal sin of forgetting to have him square off against cackling chief baddie Jesus (Juliano Mer-Khamis). Dolph sadly loses points just for agreeing to be in this DTV dross (20/50).
Much more agreeable is Chuck Norris’ rugged turn in Lance Hool’s gripping Missing In Action 2: The Beginning (1985). Shot down over ‘Nam, Col. Braddock (Norris) and his team are tortured in a brutal P.O.W camp, with the brilliantly resilient, rat-munching Colonel eventually escaping to embark on a daring rescue mission. Stalking the jungle like a super-stealthy Solid Snake, Chuck is fantastic, showing little remorse as he snaps necks, torches his captors with a flamethrower and leaps from trees like a tooled-up spider-monkey.
Evil Colonel Yin (Soon-Teck Oh) even acknowledges Braddock’s mightiness by confessing he only kept him alive so they could determine who is the ‘better man,’ leading to a colossal final ruck full of kung-fu flips and righteous sweeping kicks. No prizes for guessing who emerges triumphant (35/50).
Seeing us out is Bruce Willis, as gutsy, cocky Lt. John McClane in the epic Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990). Action maestro Renny Harlin takes the reigns as McClane battles terrorist dicks who seize control of a Washington airport…at Christmas!!! Eternally the ‘wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time,’ McClane tears through bureaucratic bullshit to save the day, ensuring a rollicking, riotous ride as plenty of aeronautical shit goes BOOM.
Crazy stunts ensue, including an electrifying scene where, trapped in an aeroplane cockpit filled with live grenades, Mcclane uses an ejector seat to escape in the nick of time, just as the fuselage erupts in a thrilling, arse-singing fireball.
Whether blinding baddies with icicles, leaping across the snowy landscape on a runanaway snowmobile, or battling trained mercenaries on the wing of a moving jet, Willis’ bloodied, wisecracking, eternally grumpy MClane is loveably human, yet enduringly supercool. In hot pursuit on a helicopter, he remarks that he doesn’t like flying. When asked why he’s there, he admits, ‘I don’t like to lose either.’ Amen, brother (36/50).
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