Thursday, August 26, 2010
What happened to macho movie star?
I saw a ridiculous film called The Expendables last evening. Such movies are saved, if they're saved at all, by the quality of the action scenes (which was not very high in this case) and the charisma of their stars. The stars of The Expendables were mainly fifty- and sixty-somethings, their faces warped and twisted by time, steroids, and an overdose of the good life. Sylvester Stallone, Mickey Rourke, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li (who's just short of 50, and doesn't have a warped and twisted face, but looks more like a banker than an action hero).
And I asked myself: what happened to the macho Hollywood star? Which actors today could carry a franchise like Rocky or Terminator? The last one was probably Vin Diesel, though he never became a megastar in the Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis category. This summer's blockbusters told a depressing tale. The star of two major franchises is a five foot six inch former coke addict called Robert Downey Junior. Now he's a fine actor, one of the best of his generation, and therefore manages to fit the roles of Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes, but macho he is not. The youngest of the stars of The Expendables is Jason Statham, who did a series called The Transporter. But he's a Brit. We had the Aussie Russell Crowe playing Robin Hood. Crowe had his macho moment in Gladiator a decade ago, and is now too fat and too old for the job, though, like Mickey Rourke and Robert Downey Junior, he's a good enough actor to seem almost right for it.
The top action star right now is Matt Damon thanks to the Bourne series; Matt Damon, remember, the pretty boy of Good Will Hunting, the cerebral, pacifist, left-winger. No wonder the producers of the biggest budget action flick of this summer, The Prince of Persia, felt the sensitive, brooding Jake Gyllenhaal could make the action hero cut. Next year, we'll have Ryan Reynolds playing the Green Lantern, which is going to be like Ben Affleck playing Daredevil.
Speaking of pretty boys in action films, one mustn't forget Orlando Bloom in Pirates of the Caribbean, alongside a fey Johny Depp. Keira Knightley was probably the most macho thing in those films. It's not surprising the makers of Salt, a role written for a male star, felt able to substitute him with Angelina Jolie in the spy thriller.
(While mourning the death of the macho star, I should add parenthetically that I much prefer the Bourne trilogy to the Rambo movies).