As the 80’s faded into a spandex clad, cocaine dusted memory, the action genre was in a state of flux. It’s holy trinity of guiding lights known as Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Willis were looking to extend their cinematic reach into other genres such as comedy and drama (when they weren’t opening more branches of Planet Hollywood that is) and the explodey vacuum left in their wake was struggling to be filled by the likes of Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal before actors like Keanu Reeves and Nicolas Cage rudely took their spots. But who was filling their vacant spaces in the realms of B-List, direct to video action? History hasn’t exactly been kind to forgotten but prolific also-rans Oliver Gruner and Gary Daniels, but it was possibly even worse for former Seattle Seahawks linebacker, Brian “The Boz” Bosworth, a man whose gleefully idiotic debut signified possibly the last gasp of the 90’s wannabe action hero.
Suspended Alabama cop Joe Huff gets an offer to get reinstated if he goes to Mississippi and infiltrate a brutally anarchic biker gang known as the Brotherhood, who’s drug trafficking is heading into the next level when once of their members blows away a priest during a baptism. As Joe is the sort of guy who is built like a concrete buffalo and who’s lifestyle has him banging physically perfect specimens of women nightly while preparing meals for his pet monitor lizard, this job seems specially made for him and sure enough he gains entrance absurdly easily. Taking the alias of John Stone, in surprisingly short order he meets with the Brotherhood’s charismatic leader Chains Cooper, a man who is blatantly one Harley short of a Davison and his brutal number two, Ice – who essentially resembles an orc in a leather vest – and starts to try and gain their trust by living the outlaw life while dressing like Schwarzenegger’s Terminator has joined Prince’s entourage.
Slowly turning Chain’s old lady, Nancy, into becoming an informer with the sheer sexual magnetism of a jawline that can plane wood, Huff/Stone has to avoid the jealous, steely glances of Ice while maintaining the precarious balance of staying on Chain’s good side, but things become complicated when the Brotherhood’s real plan is uncovered to bust out their member from his appeal to have him put on death row and assassinate the man responsible: district attorney Brent “The Whip” Whipperton.
The only was Joe/John can stop them from “cracking the whip” is by killing more bikers per square mile than drink driving and drug overdoses combined – but will even his undeniable manliness be enough to stop Chains contacts within the local military?
A beer drinking, face breaking, hoe screwin’ time capsule of a throwback action movie, Stone Cold is an uproariously absurd example that they truly don’t make ’em like the used to where the lead character is so unashamedly “masculine” it ends up tumbling down the rabbit hole of becoming coated in hilarious homoeroticism. Everyone in this film seems to be compensating for something with their constant, sweaty tough-talk and almost wall-to-wall threats that usually escalates into flamboyant knife or gun waving and ends in throaty laughter, a beer and an offer of “take one of my old ladies for the night!”.
Despite wielding a wardrobe full of outlandish clothes that words simply don’t exist for to describe, “The Boz” isn’t actually half bad at the whole cynical action hero thing, but what really makes the movie fly is the aggressively realised biker world we’re dropped into that makes Sons Of Anarchy seem like a nice, calm fishing programe (Sons Of Anchovy, anyone?). Fronted by a truly magnificent performance by Lance Henriksen as Chains (which he claims he ad-libbed a ridiculous 100% of) and backed up by the ever-dependable William Forsythe who, with the role of Ice and his genuinely unhinged performance as Richie Madano in the Steven Seagal vehicle Out For Justice both surfacing in the same year, had a fucking banner year for playing maniacal psychos.
While I’m not so hot on the term guilty pleasure (if you love a movie then there shouldn’t be any guilt attached in my opinion), Stone Cold is a film that wonderfully doesn’t seem to give an absolute shit whether you’re laughing with it or laughing at it and the more holes you pick in it, the better it gets. This starts the moment you realise that the title of the movie is not even based on the main characters real name and is in fact bafflingly based on his alias (I guess no one’s gonna watch a film called Huff Cold – but then no one watched this one either) and ends with peals of laughter as the end credit roll as he triumphantly strides away from a ruined courthouse as if he’s actually accomplished something. Seriously, Joe Huff may actually be the single most ineffectual action cinema has ever seen as he spectacularly fails to save a single person during the impressively huge final act shootout. With countless jurors and judges fatally riddled with bullets, not to mention the female lead, Nancy, “good” biker Gut and even Brent Whipperton himself enthusiastically riddled with lead, it seems that no one in the entire movie actually realises that the Brotherhood has blatantly won, albeit posthumously.
But what does it matter when a film insists on giving it audience so much unfettered craziness; helicopters explode thanks to a random flying motorcycle, bikers shoot beer cans off each other’s shoulders with automatic weapons just for fun and totally be prepared to spit-take your beverage when you see that Forsythe gets an awesome viking funeral as his already charred body sits propped on his motorcycle atop a funeral pyre. On top of this, keep an eye out for Xena: Warrior Princess actress Rene O’Connor in a bit part as a young hostage with braces dubbed “TinselTeeth” in the credits.
This much lunacy should really have been worshipped as the cult gem it is, instead of crashing and burning as the U.S. box office and then vanishing without a trace; and it’s director (Craig R. Baxley, an ex-second unit guy who also gifted us with the glorious trash epics of Carl Weathers’ Action Jackson and Dolph Lundgren fighting an alien drug dealer in I Come In Peace) surely deserves some sort of statue or tax rebate for creating something so awesomely stupid and stupidly awesome in one pumped up, idiotic package.
If (for some reason) you hate films where average cars explode like they’ve been soaking in gasoline for eight straight weeks then Stone Cold obviously isn’t for you; but if you desire to temporarily return to a time when action movies where desperately trying to find their place in 90’s cinema and over-compensating spectacularly, then slip on a leather vest, rev your engine and strap yourself in for a dollop cult nirvana that you’ll forgive, even if the Brotherhood doesn’t.