Editor's note: When the first Expendables came out in 2010, the general consensus seemed to be "this is great seeing all these perfectly aged action stars come together for one preposterous, over-the-top testosterone explosion, but how could they have left out Liam Hemsworth?" Luckily, The Expendables 2 comes out this week to right its predecessor's wrongs. Join us as we celebrate the careers of the most illustrious ensemble cast to hit the big screen since New Year's Eve.
Training 62 Years (2009)
Mark Lisanti: If you type "Stallone training" into YouTube, you'll suddenly find yourself at the bottom of a very deep, very dark Sly-hole. It's taken me 14 hours to climb my way out of this one. (The trick: Eschew the rope when you get to the ledge; you have to make a leap of faith to reach freedom.)
This is not the highest-quality of the Stallone training videos on offer. It's not the most recent. But it is the one with the most:
- Pedaling a stationary bike with his hands
- Stretching a giant rubber band while emitting a silent, primal roar
- Leg lifts in front of a framed Charles Oakley jersey
- Power crunches involving the optional self-crucifixion bar
- Chaining a 30-pound weight to his testes while doing pull-ups
- "Eye of the Tiger" on a six-and-a-half-minute loop.
And this was from 2009. Imagine how much harder Stallone can work out now that he's three years stronger.
Crank: High Voltage (2009)
Alex Pappademas: Near the end of Crank: High Voltage, hit man Chev Chelios (played by Jason Statham) chases Triad gangster Johnny Vang (Art Hsu) into a power plant. Chev thinks his heart, which Vang's crew harvested from his body for implantation into the body of an elderly crime lord named Poon Dong, is in the red cooler Vang is carrying, although it turns out that the cooler actually contains — oh, screw it. I've seen this movie eight times and I can't remember if his heart is actually in the cooler or not, and neither will you. The point is, Chev gets knocked into some live wires, absorbs a massive jolt of electricity, and hallucinates a fight scene in which he's a giant rubber-suit monster version of himself, battling a giant rubber-suit monster version of Johnny Vang, in Godzilla vs. Mothra–style slow motion. It's a nice tribute on the part of directors Mark Neveldine and Bryan Taylor to kaiju cinema, but it's also a distillation of something elemental about Statham himself. Caricatured in foam, looking a little like Mac Tonight, a little like one of those puppets from the "Invisible Touch" video, and a little like Gwar's entertainment lawyer, he stands revealed as what he actually is — a child's-logic-defying fantasy of an indestructible action hero. Every movie should end like this — with two major characters turning into rubber-monster versions of themselves and duking it out. Not every action movie — every movie. That Daniel Day-Lewis Lincoln movie should end with Lincolnzilla throwing slow-motion haymakers at Mecha-Frederick Douglass as a to-scale cardboard Washington, D.C., crumbles beneath their feet. "Rubber Monster Fight" should be a required step in the Hero's Journey.
The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)
Charles P. Pierce: If you're going for the gold, you have to have the masters bring it. In The Forbidden Kingdom, Jet Li and Jackie Chan have at it in the battle to free the Monkey King. (I also picked this so I could have a reason to type the words "The Monkey King.") Both Chan and Li play dual roles, and one of Chan's is The Drunken Immortal, which is even cooler than being The Monkey King. There's a stretch in the middle where neither one of them lays a fist on the other, but there's so much damn grace in the misses that it becomes a kind of psychic dance between the two. This film also kicks off in Southie, for reasons I will never understand.
Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991)
Michael Weinreb: This is a highlight reel from a 1991 Southern California/kung fu/yakuza/gangland/tattoo/Tia Carrere film called Showdown in Little Tokyo. I watched it quite frequently in college; I think I may have even recorded it to VHS. At one point, Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee enter a sushi bar where wealthy Japanese businessmen are consuming sashimi off the torsos of unclothed females. I mention this only because it adds context to the subtle callback at 4:07, but before you get there I recommend freezing the frame at roughly 4:02 for the face that inspired everything Rainier Wolfcastle ever accomplished.
The Delta Force (1986)
Chris Ryan: Man, this kind of makes Homeland look like a bag of Touched by an Angel scripts on fire, doesn't it?
Old Spice Commercial (2012)
Rembert Browne: Terry Crews is essential to the cast of The Expendables because he's one of the few who I feel is a very real threat to my life. Sure, they could all shoot me with their automatic weapons, but in a bare-knuckle fist fight I'm taking my chances with the likes of Arnold, Bruce, Lundgren, and Stallone and just running away. There's no chance any of those dudes can catch me. Crews, on the other hand, is weirdly in the best shape of his life, as evident by his series of shirtless Old Spice spots, and could easily chase me down, pulverize me, and then let Sly and Arnold shoot me repeatedly until it was time to utter a catchphrase. Great to see Terry involved — he needs all the help he can get now that The Newsroom has turned him into a "serious actor," or whatever the liberal media's calling it these days.
Bill Barnwell: The Expendables is a movie with a (fantastic) cast full of people who look a lot tougher than they actually are, which is why it's odd that Randy Couture's included. Couture, an elite college wrestler and multi-time UFC heavyweight champion, is a legitimately tough guy whose calling card is his grotesque cauliflower ears. (Imagine how weird it would be if the first auto-fill on Google Image Search for your name were "Randy Couture ear.") Couture's a humble, polite guy, characteristics that don't often come up in his movie roles. While his most notable work is probably as Toll Road in Expendables, Couture's career has stretched from action movies to video games to lower-budget action movies. Here, in a scene from the straight-to-video Hijacked, Couture appears to disarm a gunman in a rec room before plotting out his next move with Dominic Purcell. Couture is admittedly bad, but the editing is even worse.
The Last Song (2010)
Emily Yoshida: This is a "romance featurette" from the DVD of The Last Song, a.k.a. the film in which now-engaged Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth first met. Alls I gotta say is there better be some major props during the toasts at their wedding for director Julie Anne Robinson, who apparently lit the first spark between the young lovers by yelling "KISS! KISS!" at them during an improvised scene, then threw them in a shark tank just to keep things interesting (not kidding, watch the clip). The shared trauma is probably the only thing keeping them together at this point.
Sudden Death (1995)
Jonah Keri: The following clip contains three minutes and five seconds of Jean-Claude Van Damme fighting with the Pittsburgh Penguins mascot. In that brief time, our hero nearly bites it in the following ways:
1. Meat slicer to the face
2. Grill to the face
3. Deep fryer to the face
There's so much more, so I won't ruin it for you. As for the rest of The Expendables ... thanks for playing. Sorry you didn't have any to-the-death scenes WITH THE PITTSBURGH PENGUINS MASCOT.
The Last Boy Scout (1991)
Rafe Bartholomew: Never mind that this movie begins with Billy Blanks playing a running back who scores a touchdown by pulling a gun and shooting his way through the defense, then turning the pistol on himself (he had no choice; he was under pressure from an underworld gambling syndicate). And never mind that it has Taylor Negron doing weird Taylor Negron things as an evil genius named Milo. The Last Boy Scout is Bruce Willis at his badass apex, and he proves it here by letting underrated "that guy" actor Kim Coates (Bad Boys, Waterworld, Black Hawk Down) deck him once, then warning him that if he did it again, he'd kill him. Then, when he does it again, he punches Coates in the face and Coates dies, giving birth to the Mobb Deep lyric "rock you in your face/stab your brain with your nose bone." This is a fact.
SCHWARZENEGGER CHARISMA CARPENTER
Veronica Mars (2006)
Sean Fennessey: Bet you didn't see this coming! That's right, ole Charisma (her first name is Charisma) Carpenter is a brief but essential XX chromosome shot in Stallone's mouth-breathing weapons-porn barbarian terrarium, returning as Lacy, girlfriend of Jason Statham's Lee Christmas. (Lee Christmas! This series is excellent at character names.) In honor of her, here is a particularly snippy moment from the dear, departed Veronica Mars. Lacy is a two-by-four with hair compared to Kendall Casablancas. The Expendables 2 = not a safe space for strong women.