Flashback: Action heroism requires huge characters, muscles

wrestlersvsforeigners1

Much has been made of the eternal struggle between professional wrestlers and mysterious foreigners. In this edition of “Flashback Fridays,” Goat and DRock debate the strengths and weaknesses of both groups as it relates to the action world. Is JCVD truly superior to Hulk Hogan? Could The Rock lay to smack down on Seagal? There’s only one way to find out…

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Greetings, loyal readers. In our triumphant return last week, we presented you with our very own set of action laws. As with almost any column we write, the feedback was positively immense. People from all over the country wrote in telling us that they wanted to hear more of our action laws. And while it would be the polite thing to do, we’re going to be saving those for another column down the road.

Which brings us to the question we’ll try to answer with this week’s column: What makes a great action hero? Readers continually ask us to define the makings of a true action hero — a question we typically avoid addressing. After all, how does one really define what makes Picasso a great painter, Kennedy a great orator, Van Damme a great ladies‘ man or Seagal a great ass-kicker? But the time has come to lay this beast to rest, to put some true effort into figuring out exactly what qualities make for true action legitimacy. Without further ado, let’s get down to the dirty.

lah3goat

You know, I’ve been thinking about this one for a long, long time. People are always asking me why exactly I enjoy action movies. Is it the explosions? Nah. Is it all of the senseless violence? Probably not. Is it the over-the-top characters? Hmmm … we might be onto something here.

An action movie just isn’t an action movie without larger-than-life stars. Would Norris be anywhere had it not been for years of beating down bumpkins and businessmen alike as Walker, Texas Ranger? I think not. And why would I care in the least bit about Van Damme if he’d never shown true heart and athletic prowess as Lyon Gaultier (I am pretty sure we’re related)? Simply put, I couldn’t care less about a film unless it features some incredibly unique characters. And where is there a veritable treasure trove of unique characters? Professional wrestling.

Yes, professional wrestling. I am making the argument — and it’s a damn solid one — that professional wrestlers happen to make the very best action stars known to man. They are typically already incredibly buff, able to speak relatively well and have a bountiful supply of one-liners. Plus, they are already quite skilled at the art of making painless moves look absolutely excruciating.

Let’s look at the list of accomplished grapplers that successfully made the transition to film stars: The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Triple H, The Undertaker (check out “Suburban Commando”), the Big Show and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. As if that weren’t enough proof, this Friday marks the opening of “The Marine,” starring none other than current WWE Champion John Cena. While Cena’s rap album left something to be desired, his first foray into action movies could prove much more successful.

“The Marine” stars Cena as John Triton, an ex-Marine who returns from battle to spend a little quality time with his wife. Things go awry when he and his lovely lady go out for a trip to the beach, and his wife is kidnapped by criminals and it’s up to Triton to get her back. According to the trailer, plenty of action ensues, including dozens of giant explosions and many, many beatdowns — needless to say, it looks somewhat promising. And while this plot might hit a little too close to home for “Commando” buffs, that’s not necessarily a bad thing: What’s to lose by basing your film off of one of the greatest action movies of all time? Respect? Please …
lah3drock1Goat, next time you write a column, go blow into the Breathalyzer attached to the ignition of your car, because either you are drunk or completely off-base on this one, and I’m inclined to believe it’s a combination of the two.

Yes, professional wrestlers seem like a natural fit for the genre and wrestlers like The Rock and Jesse Ventura have starred in some action classics, but true action stars are typically a little creepy, a little curious, a little unknown to the average Joe, and they don’t look like us, act like us or talk like us for the most part. Yes, the history of the action genre shows true stars share the same characteristics as foreigners.

Look at JCVD. The muscles from Brussels (Brussels ≠ America) packs a non-American accent, non-American muscles, he assimilates into American culture seamlessly as any European would traveling from country to country, and unlike any American action hero, he has relentlessly stuck to the action genre throughout his entire career. Then there is Seagal.

The man’s ethnic background is about as clear as Vin Diesel’s. He adheres to the strange religion of Buddhism that finds its roots across an ocean. Seagal is also practically Japanese with his oil-slick black hair and the only foreigner ever to own and operate an Aikido dojo in Japan. He also has a foreign name in “Master Take Shigemichi” as he was once chief instructor as the Aikido Tenshin Dojo in the Japanese city of Osaka. The only thing remotely American about Seagal is his affinity for Mountain Dew and his ass-kicking of terrorists in the “Under Siege” series.
lah3goatCome on man, how can you argue that foreigners make better action stars than wrestlers? When I call you D-rock I typically don’t mean “dumb as a,” but you’re starting to make me wonder. The day that Balki Bartokamous and Co-sin Larry make a better tag team than Hulk Hogan and The Rock is the day I retire up my official LAH Sean John.

You know that’s a joke, simply based on the storied history of wrestling icons in action films. I mentioned The Rock earlier in the column — this is the very same man you always tout as the “future of the action genre.” I completely agree with you, but do you really think that “The Most Electrifying Man in Sports-Entertainment” would have been any good at action flicks straight out of college? He had the build, but Rocky’s years of toiling in the squared circle and mesmerizing millions — and millions — of fans with a microphone were what really helped mold him into the action legend he someday might be (provided he stays away from both Xzibit and Disney). And you’d argue that Borat has a better chance at action legend status than someone like Triple H? I certainly beg to differ.

But let’s get back to your point that only foreigners make the best action stars — provided I could actually call it a point. By arguing that only foreigners make the best action superstars, you’re completely overlooking the fact that a lot of action legends come from the States. Sylvester Stallone? New York bred. Vin Diesel? Also from the Big Apple. Wesley Snipes? Straight outta Florida. When a good chunk of action legends happen to come from the United States, I have a hard time buying into your foreigner argument. The only possible way you are right would be if you’d been referring to the band Foreigner all along, in which case you would be quite correct — there’s simply nothing more action-packed than “Cold as Ice.”

Of course, there’s only one real solution to our problem: a foreign wrestler. If Mr. Fuji ever manages to rise to prominence in the action genre, it will be a mighty day indeed.

lah3drock1Goat, have you been getting your goose on like Maurice Clarett? You still amaze me at your lack of action knowledge. True action heroes are not one-time stars in action movies. If that were the case, Richard Gere would be an action hero because of his role in “The Strike Force.”

True action stars epitomize the genre, and that is simply not possible through one of two or maybe three movies. Yes, Triple H, Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker had respectable roles, but unless they put out a more bountiful supply of action films, they fall into the same category as Richard Gere, Charlie Sheen and less prominent actors who do not specialize in the action genre but happened to appear in one at some point.

Look at all the action stars who have left an impact on the genre. Dolph Lundgren (Stockholm, Sweden) — about as American as Rosh Hashanah. Arnold Schwarzenegger (Thal, Austria) — his Americanism ends with his governorship, while his blunt attempts to seduce women are reminiscent of the Looney Tunes’ Pepé le Peu (French). Jean Claude Van Damme (Brussels, Belgium) — as American as the famed Kazakh journalist Borat. Finally, we have Sylvester Stallone (New York, NY) — an American-born citizen, but also goes by the Italian Stallion and happens to live in the classic gateway for the greatest wave of immigration ever to hit the United States. The same can be said for Vin Diesel (New York, NY) whose ethnic background has been the subject of controversy ever since he began starring in action films that also happen to star foreigners in “XXX” (Europeans) and “The Fast and the Furious” (Hispanics).

In the action genre, if you don’t have a connection to a green card then you had better go packing for Broadway.

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