Arnold vs. Sly: King of the Action Heroes (part 3 of 4)
There are actually a few ways to categorize this. If you’re talking abilities only, Stallone takes it in a landslide just by virtue of being an actor/writer/director/producer.
It gets a little trickier when you get into questions of genre, however. While both guys can do action films, Stallone can do well for himself in dramatic roles such as Rocky and Cop Land. He was also fairly decent in F.I.S.T. and Victory, even if the films themselves weren’t exactly classics of modern cinema.
But put Stallone in a comedy, and while you may not end up killing yourself, you will give it some serious thought. I suppose Oscar is tolerable, but Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot is so bad it gives other crappy movies a bad name. About the only times when Stallone is legitimately funny are on the odd occasions when he has a good one-liner, or strangely enough, when he’s being interviewed.
Arnold, on the other hand, can be good in a comedy, provided the script is good. It also helps that his action movies tend to be pretty damned funny in their own right, which in turn makes his performances that much more amusing.
Twins is the perfect example of the successful combination of Arnold and a good script, as it remains not only one of Arnold’s best movies, but the only pure comedy he’s done that truly works. It has pretty much everything going for it: a clever premise, a solid director in Ivan Reitman, a good comic partner who can also act in Danny DeVito, some genuine heart, and a knowing self-awareness of Arnold’s persona.
On the flipside, Arnold’s other comedies have been less than stellar. Kindergarten Cop is the best of the three, and even then, it’s a high concept bit of fluff. I do like the opening few minutes when Arnold is in tough guy mode, though. Just something about warding off potential car burglars by racking the bolt of a shotgun and saying, “My name is John Kimble, and I love my car!” just makes me smile.
As for Junior, the less said about that one the better, and I believe I’ve already made my seething hatred for the all-encompassing shit storm that is Jingle All the Way fairly apparent.
Stallone takes this one, simply because he’s been slightly better when playing outside of the action genre than Arnold. Both have made bad movies (dear lord, have they ever!) but Stallone is just a little bit better outside his comfort zone than Arnold.
Arnold takes it here by sheer volume alone. I could easily rattle off about ten one-liners from his movies and you’d be able to guess which film each one came from. “I’ll be back”, “I let him go”, “You’re fired”… the list is endless. Pretty much every one of his films from Commando on down to Eraser has at least one really good one-liner.
Commando is probably the biggest source of great lines, as it seems almost every person he kills gets at least one joke before or after the kill. It’s pretty damn impressive, actually.
Stallone, however, tends to be a man of few words (with that voice, you can’t blame him), with only the occasional line sticking in the public consciousness. There are a few in Rambo 2 and 3, and Cobra has some decent ones, but for the most part, the supporting players get the really good lines in Stallone films. See my article on Tango & Cash for a great example.
“I’ll be back” is one of the most iconic lines in film history, to the point where using it today kind of makes you look like a schmuck. Ever try quoting lines from a Stallone movie? Most of the memorable ones don’t really work out of context, and in most cases are spoken by supporting characters. The fact that Arnold’s quotes tend to be repeated verbatim, while Stallone quotes are usually more along the lines of imitating the character also helps give Arnold the nod here.
9. Forgotten Gems:
Not every movie on an actor’s resume is well known or respected. Both of these guys have been in movies that have been sadly overlooked.
In 1981, Stallone made a decent thriller called Nighthawks. Co-starring Billy Dee Williams and Rutger Hauer, it’s a gritty little flick about terrorism that serves as a nice bridge between the relatively low key, more realistic action films of the ‘70s, and what Stallone and Arnold would bring to the genre in the ensuing decade.
One Arnold film that unfortunately went unnoticed was Eraser. A nice throwback to Commando, this 1996 film is a pretty fantastic flick, with a great supporting cast and some really good action. I’d go into more detail, but I plan on doing an in-depth recap of it at some point.
I have to give it to Arnold here. The lesser known titles in Arnold’s filmography are generally movies that were either lost in the shuffle, or were merely blandly inoffensive. Eraser, Raw Deal, and oddly enough True Lies fit that mold. But apart from Nighthawks and Cop Land, there aren’t too many hidden gems among Stallone’s films. Unless you consider shit to be a valuable item, in which case you should seek psychiatric help. Spy Kids 3-D isn’t too awful, but Get Carter and Driven are just terrible.
10. Biggest Misfire:
For Arnold, Last Action Hero should have been the huge follow-up to Terminator 2. Instead, it ended up being an utter fiasco with an inflated budget, horrible reviews, and not much of a point.
Do you really need to see anything other than the title and the poster?
Sly actually takes it by a huge majority here. I can find some nice things to say about Last Action Hero if I think real hard, honestly. The premise is amusing, and if it weren’t for the kid being written as a complete douche who spends his entire time in Movie World trying to convince Arnold’s character that he’s not real, it might have been a passable movie. I swear, every time that little shithead opens his mouth, I want to punch it shut. Goddamn, that kid pissed me off!
Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, though… Jesus Christ. It’s not even funny in a strange way. Stallone pretty much spends the whole movie looking bummed out that he’s in scenes with Estelle Getty. I really don’t think that was acting.
Why this movie over any of his other bombs? Well, I can sort of see what they were going for with Rhinestone, because Stallone and Dolly Parton were pretty big at the time (ahem). The other bombs, I can also sort of justify as reasonable career choices, but a buddy cop film with Estelle Getty? It makes Over the Top seem like a surefire blockbuster!
11. Biggest Misfire that Still Worked:
Let’s face it, folks, Arnold’s follow-up to Commando is pretty damned crappy. It’s overlong, oddly dull in parts, and some damn fool felt it was a good idea to give Arnold lots of dialogue. It’s also pretty much a retread of Commando in the last act, with the exception of a horrifically sappy last scene, which works against the film in pretty much the same way the last scene of Rambo: First Blood Part II works against that movie’s third act.
In spite of all this, Raw Deal is still pretty entertaining, in a mindless sort of way. You can throw it on and not be pissed off while watching it, but you more than likely won’t remember much after the credits finish rolling.
Somehow, some way, Cannon Films was able to get Stallone to agree to do a couple of movies for them. They worked with Warner Brothers on the hilariously awful Cobra (which I’ll get to soon) in 1986, and in 1987, they released the family-friendly arm wrestling drama Over the Top. I’ll say that again: it’s a father and son story featuring Sylvester Stallone and competitive arm wrestling. What the hell?
Both of these movies are endlessly entertaining for all the wrong reasons. Cobra is basically Dirty Harry on steroids, and Over the Top is… Well, the title proves that there is such a thing as truth in advertising sometimes. It’s one of those movies I honestly don’t even know how to talk about, since it’s just such an amazingly idiotic premise.
You can’t beat a movie that has the balls to try and be a touching father and son story, as well as an arm wrestling epic. Rocky IV is also one damn fine piece of “so bad it’s good” filmmaking.