Stone Cold (1991)

Looking back over “Stone Cold” and the amount of stuff that happens in it, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was three hours long; but it’s a trim and super action-packed 90 minutes, and not only that, it’s really good! While no-one would mistake Brian Bosworth for an actor, neither would they for Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal or many other of the action stars Bosworth was competing with at the time, and if this film hadn’t been such a flop, meaning he wouldn’t make another movie for five years, missing the end of the straight-to-video action movie boom, then who knows where his career might have gone?

There was some debate among my viewing companions about whether this “badass stops criminals in a supermarket” scene was better than a very similar one in “Cobra”, and while opinions were split, it’s safe to say they’re both great. The star being super-cool, an incredibly good fighter and a nice guy (also, Bosworth respects the property around him a little more than Stallone did), is what’s established here, as we meet Joe Huff, a cop who just can’t play by the rules (!), on suspension but taking any opportunity to bust some bad guys’ heads.

 

Huff, due to his love of bikes and magnificent, A+ grade mullet, is tasked by the FBI with the job of going undercover in The Brotherhood, a biker gang, and doing a number of things, really. Firstly, they’re interested in killing the District Attorney because he’s got one of their senior members locked up on a murder charge, but there’s also stopping their drug dealing (there’s some weird new drug on the streets) – it seems biker gangs are worse than Satan in this particular world, given the number of newspaper headlines there are about them. His undercover name is John Stone, which is a fine name for an action hero.

The introductory scenes for the Brotherhood are just amazing, and although you’ll have seen something similar a hundred times before (a ton of beefy dudes with big beards, wearing leather, and women gyrating around, mostly undressed) the way they do it here is a good indication as to the level of crazy you’re going to get. One of the gang’s main lieutenants, Ice (the great William Forsythe) and another guy are playing William Tell, with beer cans and guns. After a few rounds, one of them whips out a submachine gun and sprays it liberally around – hits the beer can but nothing else! There are hundreds of people stood around!

 

“Stone Cold” really looks after the cast, all the way down. Huff’s FBI handler is Lance, played by Sam McMurray, who’s better known for comedy and voice acting but is excellent here. Chains, the boss of the gang, is Lance Henriksen, who loves playing badass villains and does a great job again. Richard Gant, a fine “That Guy” actor, is the FBI boss, and Paolo Tocha (“Bloodfist 7”, “Bloodsport”, “Predator 2”) is “The Bolivian”, who Huff has to kill in order to be accepted into the gang (he just puts him on a plane to Mexico and borrows an ear from a corpse and pretends it’s his).

I could just recap all the stuff that happens in this movie and this review would be 5000 words long, and no-one needs to read 5000 words about this, as you should just watch it instead. Heck, I could spend a few thousand waxing lyrical about Bosworth’s mullet, so magnificent is it. So I won’t, but get ready for the final scene, a shootout of such over the top nonsense that you can’t help but be entertained. It’s set in Alabama but filmed in Arkansas, and when the producers asked if they could borrow the state capital for the day, flying a helicopter down the street and having bikers drive all over the courthouse, Arkansas was all “please do!”, meaning the ending definitely has a visual style that some other movies can’t match.

 

I mean, it’s very definitely not original. You’ll recognise the beats from dozens of other “undercover cop” movies – the gang guy who doesn’t trust the cop and warns everyone, the boss’s girlfriend who falls in love with our hero, the wacky comedy relief cop sidekick, they’re all there. But few of them are as absolutely relentless with almost no slack time as this one is.

 

I did kind of want to discuss a problem that the movie never really brings up, and that’s how good Huff’s police work is. He certainly inflitrates the gang, but does he stop them from doing…anything? Their plan, to bust their friend out of court when he’s on trial for murder, works pretty much perfectly, and Huff’s involvement comes right at the very end, with a couple of sweet fight scenes and some shooting. Imagine “Die Hard”, but instead of working to save the hostages and stop Alan Rickman from doing his thing, Bruce Willis just hopped out of the building at about the two-thirds mark, joined the cops stationed outside and just fired at the baddies on their way out? Okay, it’s not quite that bad, but when you start thinking about it, it’s a little curious – Huff doesn’t even save the woman who agreed to give evidence against her own gang!

There are a couple of interesting credits, too. First is the writer, Walter Doniger. He was born in 1917 (putting him in his early 70s when this movie was made) and is best known for being a writer and director of TV shows in the 50s and 60s (“Peyton Place” and dozens of western shows). He’d effectively retired by the mid 70s, with one credit in 1983 and then nothing until this (which was his last movie). It had, perhaps, been sat on a shelf for 20 years and was pressed into service by a studio looking for a quick starring vehicle for that former NFL guy they had? It bears a passing resemblance to 1968’s “Hellcats”, for example.

 

Then there’s director Craig R Baxley. He worked as a stunt coordinator on “The Warriors”, “Predator” and TV shows like “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “The A-Team”, and he’s still working as a director now, mostly in TV. But he gave us some gems before doing that – “Action Jackson”, “Dark Angel”, and “Chameleon 2”, to name a few. This was his last big-budget movie, sadly.

 

I hope I’ve persuaded you to give “Stone Cold” a go, although I assume you’re smarter than me and saw it years ago. From the good old days when an unknown star and a properly violent script could get major studio backing!

Rating: thumbs up

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