Sylvester Stallone’s career took off. Not only was he a household name, but he even got to briefly dance like a butterfly at the Academy Awards that year with the self-appointed Greatest, Muhammad Ali.
After two mostly forgettable Rocky sequels, Stallone’s next big cinematic outing in 1982 was another largely dramatic turn that focused on the plight of a drifting Vietnam veteran mistreated by an unjust legal system. It was a meditative, pathos-driven sleeper hit called First Blood, but everyone just calls it Rambo. I remember seeing it for the first time a few years ago, and being surprised that it was actually pretty good. Stallone remained active in a developmental role by co-writing the screenplay, but he wisely chose to alter the source material’s original ending and let John J. Rambo live. Can you imagine otherwise?
The Rambo films deteriorated, of course, into fantastic wish-fulfillment on the part of every threatened American ego that wanted to see not only Vietnam won, but open war with the Soviets, in this case via the liberation of Afghanistan. It’s by now common knowledge that the seeds of al Qaeda formed during this war, but it’s even more startling to think Rambo and Osama bin Laden were once fighting on the same side.
Anyway, the third Rambo installment was laughable, ripe for parody, and turned into one of my favorite parts of Weird Al Yankovic’s underrated UHF.
Next, after turning down the starring role in Beverly Hills Cop, Stallone helped adapt another story for the screen that became 1986’s dated-ly awful Cobra. Note Cobra’s enigmatic use of scissors on cold pizza. Then there’s some stuff with Brigitte Nielsen and robots.
In the next clip, Stallone sits for an interview with Barbara Walters. She presciently asks if he will just continue playing known and loved characters like Rambo and Rocky into old age, sequel after sequel. I watched the whole interview to see if he would cry. He doesn’t. He does paint, though.
Obviously Barbara Walters wasn’t 100 percent right, though, because who could forget Stallone’s next larger-than-life character, Joe Bomowski, when he appeared alongside Estelle Getty in 1992’s timeless classic Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot?
Joking aside, Stallone did prove that he can expand his repertoire every now and again. After another slew of miserable dreck, he starred (and held his own) alongside Hollywood heavyweights DeNiro, Liotta, and Keitel in 1997’s excellent Copland, written and directed by James Mangold. WARNING: The following clip is the final scene. It’s awesome, but if you haven’t seen the film before, this will ruin it.
It seems that Stallone can’t stay away from the fan favorites for too long, though, which may be just as well. Last year’s Rocky Balboa was well-received, and filming has wrapped for next year’s John Rambo, directed by Sly himself. Coincidentally, the film concerns our reluctant hero saving captives in Burma, and wrapped filming just weeks before the monk-led protests against the military junta. Although he claims disinterest in politics, Stallone has once again made a very time-sensitive action filmone that may serve as wish-fulfillment for everyone who’d like to see monk-killers get what none of the world’s government’s seem eager to give them. WARNING: The following trailer is insanely violent. So much so that Rambo appears to punch some guy’s head off. I’m not kidding. It’s totally ridiculous. The whole thing’s in poor taste, but remarkably so. Enjoy!