The undisputed king of action cinema, the icon who made going to see action movies a must, the Austrian Oak himself, Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger. For 32 years he’s been an incomparable force in the action movie business, delivering more hit movies and more classic one-liners than any other action star on the screen, delighting cinema goers all around the world with his blend of humour and his urge to brandish guns and break bones, so it seems time to look at the silver screen history of the man we all lovingly know as Arnie, starting from his first major screen classics and catching up again after his 10-year break from headlining Hollywood action blockbusters to check out his recent comeback. Let’s start with his first big screen hit…
Conan The Barbarian (1982)
After years of heavy lifting and entering bodybuilding competitions, Arnie chose a new career, the movies. And after a few failed attemtps to strike lucky (Hercules In New York anyone?), along came Conan, a warrior with a thirst for vengeance and an awful haircut, who set out for revenge against a socercer responsible for the deaths of Conan’s parents and his fellow tribe. Also starring James Earl Jones as Doom, the evil sorcerer Conan pits himself against and the legendary Max Von Sydow as the King who hires Conan to rescue his daughter from the clutches of Doom’s cult army, the movie was a risky move for Arnie, a then unknown actor trying to pave his way in the business alongside two Hollywood giants. But it paid off, as Conan The Barbarian struck a chord with fans of mythological adventures and fans of Arnie in his bodybuilding competition days, and became a huge cinema hit, leading to countless spin-off comics and TV shows, a second adventure, Conan The Destroyer, with Mr. S again taking up the sword and once more in the 1985 movie Red Sonja, this time going by Conan’s alternate title Kalidor. Conan again saw life in 2011 in a poorly performing reboot/remake, this time with Jason Momoa taking on the legendary character. While i’ve personally never been fond of the Conan movies, i can’t deny the enduring legacy of the character and the cult status of the original movie, and with Arnie rumoured to once again take up the position as the violent warrior in an upcoming sequel, The Legend Of Conan, only time will tell if there is more life in the franchise yet.
The Terminator (1984)
This is, at least for me, where Arnie is truly born on the silver screen. A then unknown director, James Cameron, wrote an insane script about a future war between man and machine, a self-thinking system of computer technology which would wipe out the human race and take control of the planet, but in order to do so, needing to send an assassin robot disguised as a human being to execute a young woman who will later give birth to a child who grows to become the man who saves the human race from being wiped out, but not counting on mankind to send back a genuine human being, a wartorn soldier who not only is assigned to protect the mother of man’s saviour, but who just happens to be the man who becomes the father to this woman’s future child. On paper, it sounds so absurd, and to many studios, it was, as Cameron hunted high and low to gain any kind of budget to make it. But once he did, he needed an actor to play his robot assassin, so he turned to Schwarzenegger, hot off the back of Conan. And that’s where action movie cinema changed forever, as not only would the movie be completed, not only would it be released to an audience so enthralled by it that it became a major success, but it would also make icons of both Schwarzenegger and James Cameron, propelling them to dizzy heights and bringing them fame and fortune they never thought possible from such a low budget, silly sounding movie. The Terminator works on every level, the action scenes are wonderful, the special effects considering the time and budget constraints are incredible and Arnie himself is irreplaceable and unbeatable as the title character, filling his every scene with epic shootouts, extreme violence and for the first time the immortal quip “I’ll be back!”, which has gone on to become one of cinema’s greatest quotes. The Terminator does have minor problems as it struggles to balance itself between the action and plotline, to the overly long sequences of other leading characters Sarah Connor (Played by Cameron’s future wife Linda Hamilton) and Kyle (The unappreciated legend that is Michael Biehn), professing their love for each other, but none of it stops the movie from being an absolute action/sci-fi classic, one of the most rewatchable movies ever made, and the movie that gave us the Arnie we all know and love. And also the James Cameron we all know and love.
Skipping ahead a little, we move onto Arnie’s next classic actioner, the hilariously over the top and immensely enjoyable Commando. This time, Schwarzenegger is a military killing machine, a former Commando called John Matrix, who is 99% immune to bullets, can murder a man on a plane and then jump from it completely unnoticed and belts out one-liners like it’s his last day on Earth. Is there anyone dumb enough to mess with this man? Of course there is. Freddie Mercury’s overweight son, Bennett (Played by Aussie psycho Vernon Wells), who is out for revenge against Matrix, having been let go from the Commando’s team for being nutjob, and also may have a slight crush on the one-man army, so kidnaps the daughter of Matrix (The magnificent Alyssa Milano) to blackmail him into murdering a president of a country i always forget the name of, and if he doesn’t within 12 hours, his daughter will die at the hands of the chain vest-wearing Moustache Man. Commando is completely stupid, that needs to be known. One hundred soldiers armed to the teeth chasing one man, all along shooting directly at his back, not one of them hits him. That’s just a taste. But the stupidity is what makes it so much fun, it’s like watching a God with magical reloading guns just blasting the hell out of every guy who crosses him, it’s just all so over the top. Did mention the toolshed scene? Did i? It’s fantastic. And that score from James Horner that takes it all so serious, and actually is one of the best action movie scores i can think of, it just adds so many levels to Arnie’s carnage. Commando is a wonderful action movie, these days considered a classic, and adored by every Arnie fan, rightfully so too. I don’t know about you, but my childhood would have been less fun without it.
Raw Deal (1986)
Arnie then followed his 1980s run of action thrillers with a far less grand, but still impressive Raw Deal, which saw him take on the role of an FB agent-turned Sheriff of a small town who is persuaded by his former FBI chief to go undercover to bring down a major mafia cartel in Chicago, the men responsible for the death of the chief’s cop son. And as the tagline goes, “Nobody gives Schwarzenegger a Raw Deal!” as he shoots and drives his way through a small army of hoods to bring down the organisation. While not quite the box office smash as his previous movies, Arnie still rocks the screen with slick hair, leather jacket and more guns than Charlton Heston, delivering many thrills in a very underrated and very enjoyable action movie from John Irvin, director of the classic war movie Hamburger Hill. If you’ve not seen it, you should. And listen out for yet another great Schwarzenegger movie score.
And faster than you can say “Get to da choppa!”, Schwarzenegger smashes movie goers across the face with another movie that would go on to become not only a box office smash, but a cult sensation which would garner one of the biggest movie fanbases in the world, the undeniable classic that is Predator. Set in a South American jungle, Predator sees the Austrian Oak pitted against a hunter from another planet, a creature capable of tracking and destroying any human who could pose even the slightest threat or challenge. But this alien assassin bites off more than he can chew with our Arnie, as the big guy, the last surviving member of his soldier team, tackles the Predator through the deep jungles in an all out battle of strength and survival. Predator delivers more thrills, more spills and more classic one-liners than most Schwarzenegger movies, making it not only one of his most successful and beloved movies, but a cornerstone in filmmaking, which would lead to two sequels, two spin-off movies featuring an earlier 20th Century Fox legend, Alien, and even a massive collection of toy action figures down through the years. Schwarzenegger was earlier made a star with Conan and Terminator, but with Predator, his name was carved into cinema stone forever, making him one of the biggest stars on the planet. Predator reaches 27 years of age this year, but in my opinion, has yet to show the slightest age, still remaining one of the greatest movies ever made.
The Running Man (1987)
Schwarzenegger kept his run of sci-fi action thrillers rolling with his next offering, The Running Man, a movie directed by Starsky himself (Starsky & Hutch) Paul Michael Glaser, and loosely based on a novel by Stephen King, which had our favourite action hero face off against a bunch of colourful psychopathic killers on a survival TV gameshow, ran by a maniac ratings hungry host, who broadcasts the show live to millions of viewers across America. Again, while not reaching the dizzy heights of The Terminator or Predator in terms of box office earnings and fandom, The Running Man has always been a stunning piece of Arnie sci-fi action, with brilliant fight sequences, fantastic special effects and as we all expect, Arnie throwing out those quips like they’re jelly babies. Sadly underrated and even unknown by some, this is a movie that has always brought me a lot of excitement, i’ve nothing but love for it.
Red Heat (1988)
The now unmatchable and unstoppable Schwarzenegger returned in 1988 with the spectacular Red Heat (Directed by legendary filmmaker Walter Hill, director of 48 Hrs/Another 48 Hrs and The Warriors, and also producer of Alien), playing a Russian cop sent to the USA to track down a notorious druglord who flees his county, but this time he’s got a partner, James Belushi (Brother of late great Blues Brother John Belushi), a foul-mouthed Chicago cop with a bad attitude and no understanding of his new assignment, Arnie’s Ivan Danko. Together, the team race against time to bring the ruthless criminal to justice, leading to one of the best action movie finales i’ve ever seen. Red Heat, like some previous Schwarzenegger movies, has rarely been given the praise and attention it deserves, but in my book, stands as one of his most exciting and enjoyable movies to date, a real jewel in his career. A must see.
After starring in so many action movies, Arnie decided it was time to take on something more comical, something that would bring more chuckles to his audience. And so… He decided to play a twin brother to Danny DeVito, although not an identical twin (Did you know that?) in Twins, a tale of two genetic experiments… One, Julius, created perfectly with superior strength and intelligence, but lacking all knowledge of surviving in the real world… The other, Vincent, the so-called “Side-crap”, a man with no strength, intelligence only used for his crooked ways and not the tallest or best looking man you can find, but with enough street smarts to get him through some sticky situations. So when Julius and Vincent finally meet and get to know each other, they start out on a mission to find their birth mother, but as expected, they run into trouble, as Vincent is driving them both in a stolen car, attempting to bring an experimental fuel injector system to a high bidder, but being followed by a scheming killer, also desperate to claim the amount of $5 million for himself. Directed by Ivan Reitman of Ghostbusters (And also director of two more Arnie movies i’ll get to soon), Twins is a hilarious, heartwarming movie that showed not only could Schwarzenegger be a larger than life action hero on screen, but he could also tackle something wth far less guns and explosions. And with a proposed new sequel, Triplets, starring again Danny DeVito, and this time joined by Eddie Murphy, we’ll be hearing plenty more of Twins over the next couple of years.
Total Recall (1990)
So with 1989 seeing no new Schwarzenegger release, 1990 comes creeping in. And what do we get? We only get yet another immortal sci-fi action classic, Total Recall. And who did Arnie team up with this time? Only RoboCop genius Paul Verhoeven, who brings back that same magic he spewed around the globe with the iconic first RoboCop movie, to drag Arnie kicking and screaming into the 90s with a non-stop, spectacular thrill fest, the beloved Total Recall, which has garnered itself a massive fan following since it’s release, becoming a cult classic and one of Arnie’s most popular and exciting movies. Total Recall, based on a short story by sci-fi master Phillip K. Dick, see Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid, a bored husband, who takes a trip to Mars as a secret agent, a trip he believed he had purchased from a company called Rekall, who implant feelings and memories from any destination a customer requests directly into their brain. But during the procedure, it all goes wrong and Quaid believes he has had his mind tampered with before, not knowing that the people who wiped his memory are now hunting him to silence him forever. Quaid must get to Mars and save it’s mutant alien population before the villians get to them and wipe them out. Co-starring everyman dream Sharon Stone as the loyal and loving wife (?), with Ronny Cox (RoboCop, Beverly Hills Cop 1 and 2) and Michael Ironside (Starship Troopers, also a Verhoeven movie, and Top Gun) as the bad guys, and Rachel Ticotin (Con Air, Falling Down) as the woman who aids Quaid on his mission, Total Recall has always been a popular movie, winning over many different types of movie goer with it’s amazing visual effects, massive action sequences and it’s delving into many different styles of sci-fi. The three-boobed hooker has also gathered quite a following through the years. Recently, it also saw a remake of sorts, with 2012’s Totall Recall starring Colin Farrell and Kate (Be still my beating heart) Beckinsale, a horribly underrated action thriller that ditched the Mars storyline and went closer to the original short story, but still tons of fun and very well made, but could never top the original Total Recall, a wonderful movie, standing right up there with the Schwarzenegger greats. Was this to be his last sci-fi action classic? Or was there another to come along shortly after and that would turn the world of action cinema on it’s head and become his biggest and most popular movie ever made? You know it!
Kindergarten Cop (1990)
Here’s where things become a little tricky for me. Following from both the comedy smash hit Twins and the magnificent Total Recall, Arnie had a heavy task of following on with another movie. But Kindergarten Cop is a bit of a harmless mess. It is a fun movie, yes, it’s got some great scenes, and the story could have been used to a little more effect. But instead, the movie just doesn’t know what it wants to be, and sadly as it appears, it never wanted to be much of an action movie, giving only a slight taste of what we’ve become used to with Arnie movies. Schwarzenegger plays a tough undercover cop, John Kimble, who is desperate to catch a vicious drug dealing criminal and put him behind bars. But after some failed attempts to nail the bad guy, he is brought in and told that the criminal has a son who attends a kindergarten, but the woman who had been assigned to go undercover as a teacher at the school has fallen sick, so Kimble must take her place. But not only is the drug dealer’s son attending the school, the mother of his child is also a teacher there, and Kimble find both in an attempt to bring the thug to justice, only to then fall for the mother. What follows next is some incredibly cheesy stuff. While the classroom scenes with Arnie trying to control a bunch of rowdy kids are a delight, the romantic plot thread is just so weak, and above that, the criminal’s awful mother is right in there, making the whole movie even more bizarre. While i do like Kindergarten Cop, it’s not one of my favourite Arnie movies. But what came next is stuff of legend, so everyone had long forgiven this silly harmless comedy. Interestingly enough, Ivan Reitman of Twins (And of course, Ghostbusters) also helmed this movie, and goes on to helm a far better but very unappreciated comedy, which i’ll get to later.
Terminator 2 : Judgment Day (1991)
OK, Conan The Barbarian made Schwarzenegger a name, The Terminator made him a star, Predator made him a superstar and by Total Recall, the man became an icon. But T2 made him a God. Seven years after the stunning original Terminator movie, James Cameron came back with a far bigger script, far bigger budget and far bigger movie when he rejoined with Arnie and then wife Linda Hamilton to create the first sequel to his 1984 creation. With the arrival of T2, James Cameron had also become a hugely respected name in the movie business after The Abyss and spectacular smash hit classic Aliens (A sequel to Ridley Scott’s Alien), but this time he outdid himself in every way, untilizing state of the art visual effects, a far more complicated (Although horrificly flawed) story and action sequences that laid waste to almost every single blockbuster movie that came before it. As for Arnold himself, T2 pushed his fame to a limit so high that, aside from perhaps one more hit movie afterwards, completely killed his career, for reasons i’m unsure of, but would compare to people who win a Best Actor Oscar these days, who also seem to lose all popularity, due to people maybe expecting them to reach such heights again. And with Arnie this time around, he just gives it his all, he just gives a “No expense spared” performance, giving everything a Schwarzenegger fan could ask for with increased volume… Far more action, way cooler clothes and countless more one-liners that we love him for (Hasta La Vista, Baby! anyone?). The man is just a complete joy to watch, he commands every scene he’s in and just looks like he’s genuinely having a great time. The problems, of which i have many… The story? Rubbish… Sarah Connor attempting to kill the man responsible for creating the technology behind Judgment Day, the Skynet system? And if she kills him? He never creates Skynet, there’s no future war, there’s no Terminators, no technology to send anyone back to 1984… Which means Kyle Reese would never travel back, conceive John Connor with Sarah, she’d be none the wiser to anything, the future from 1984 continues with Dyson (Skynet creator played by Joe Morton) still alive, creating Skynet and destroying mankind (Sarah never kills him in 1991)… With NO John Connor to fight the war… There’s plotholes, then there’s just holes. That, my friends, is a hole. Then Linda Hamilton, many like her in T2, i personally don’t, i like her in the original, but this time around she’s too darn annoying, screaming and shouting, constantly desperate to look strong but just looks insane, and she generally just lost the humanity she had in The Terminator. But thing is, i can accept her… What i can’t accept… Edward Furlong as John. Him i detest. A terrible young actor, his voice is grating, his constantly shreaking “MMMMOOOMMMMM” in that chain-smoking high pitched tone of his is just horrible, and he looks hilariously bad, he looks like a cartoon extra from Beavis And Butt-head. Just completely the wrong choice. Moving onto Robert Patrick, an actor i’ve a lot of love for, for years i’ve never really believed he was the right choice for T-1000, reason being he just never seemed a legitimate threat to Schwarzenegger, i’d see them both together and think “I don’t buy this, he’s too young and a little too girly”. Now over the last maybe 2-3 years, i completely withdraw my opinion on Patrick as T-1000, as i now understand that the goal was not to have a physical match against T-500, but to have an advanced machine that didn’t need to look tougher, but to be faster, leaner and far more advanced, and for me, they couldn’t have made a better decision, Robert Patrick fits perfectly. There are more problems i have, one of which is the constant use of police vehicles in major action scenes (Car, Van, Chopper, Bike), but putting aside any negatives, Terminator 2 is still one of the great movies, one of the cornerstones in filmmaking, and although the technology used for effects has been far outdone since, the liquid metal T-1000 scenes are still an absolute thrill to watch (Hence the two Oscars for visual effects, and also two more for makeup and sound, the same team who would go on to further create movie history with Jurassic Park. May the wonderful Stan Winston rest in peace, we’ll never forget him), and the stunts are glorious. A real action masterpiece, and just like the original Terminator, a movie that can be rewatched again and again without ever becoming stale. There are movies that deserve their hype, many that don’t, and T2 will always belong in the first category.
Last Action Hero (1993)
After the juggernaut that is T2, Arnie had a lot to live up to, he needed something that could follow such a huge movie, but hold it’s own. Sadly, Last Action Hero was not to be that movie. It bombed. Majorly. It just did not find an audience, very few responded with anything positive. And it practically ended Schwarzenegger the name. Now to me, as a longtime fan of our Arnie, i had wanted to see the movie for ages, i’d heard bad, but when your a kid, you won’t hear a bad thing said against one of your heroes. I sat down, i watched the movie, a copy taped for me from a premiere on television. And i absolutely adored every single second of it. The story, the amazing action, the hilarious gags, the countless movie references and special guest appearances (Including T2‘s own Robert Patrick and another of my biggest movie heroes, Jean-Claude Van Damme) and the fun of seeing a character (Jack Slater) come from a movie screen and end up at the premiere of his own movie, with the actor who plays him actually there in person also. And then the villians from that movie arriving in the real world to battle the hero? Fantastic. The whole thing from start to finish just works, every bit of it. Arnie is wonderful, the boy is terrific (I tend to dislike kids in Arnie movies, but Austin O’Brien just nails it, he’s brilliant to watch) and the action, as i mentioned, incredible. I’m just crazy about the whole movie, it’s a perfect send-up of the action genre and a great tribute to the world of movies (Ian McKellen also features, as Death). And with a legend like John McTiernan behind the camera… Die Hard, Die Hard With A Vengeance, The Hunt For Red October and Predator … you can’t go wrong. Oh, and lest i forget, a top tune from AC/DC. Could this movie HAVE anymore packed into it? A real gem that demands respect.
True Lies (1994)
After the disgusting and unfair kicking given to the wonderful Last Action Hero, Arnie needed a hit movie, and fast, so once more teamed up with Terminator genius James Cameron to take on a whole new project, a James Bond-style action adventure that would bring Arnie fans galloping back to the screens. And by Jobe, True Lies did it, it brought movie goers in their millions to see the third epic blockbuster from Schwarzenegger and Cameron, the team who could do no wrong. In True Lies, Arnie stars as Harry Tasker, a boring man, a lousy husband and a nerdy computer salesman. Or so his wife, Jamie Lee Curtis, thinks. Harry is actually a super spy working for the government, hunting down terrorists with a faithful fellow collegue (Tom Arnold, who i think is very funny, i don’t care what others say of him). But when he gets caught up in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a terrorist hell bent on unleashing nuclear warfare against the United States Of America, his wife, who just happens to be hungry for some adventure and excitement in her life, and daughter (Eliza Dushku), who has zero respect for him, get, caught up in the battle, Harry will do everything he must to protect his family and stop the impending nuclear strike. True Lies, as usual with Arnie at this stage, is a spectacular movie, packed with incredible action, death-defying stunts, cracking humour and one liners and a finale you have to see to believe. Yes, for me, it has problems. Or problem, singular, the entire middle section which is devoted to Curtis as the wife who gets sucked into a farce ‘adventure’ of her own, when a sleazy car salesman (Long-time Cameron collaborator Bill Paxton) takes a shine to her and pretends to be a secret agent in an attempt to seduce her. It’s just too long, i get the novelty of it, she wants excitement, wanders off with a fraud agent, wheras her husband is actually a world-saving agent, it’s funny, but it takes something away from the movie when you’re forced to sit through a half hour of it, at least. And the strip scene? Jamie Lee Curtis stripping? No, thanks. But once that’s over with, the action kicks back in, bigger and better, with a top notch finale. Always a thrilling movie to watch, and a very worthy title in Schwarzenegger’s filmography, i don’t know an Arnie fan who doesn’t love it.
After three huge action blockbusters, Arnie goes back to comedy, this time in Junior, reuniting with Twins star Danny DeVito and Twins/ Kindergarten Cop director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters… I’m sorry… If i say Ivan Reitman, i have to say Ghostbusters, it’d be a crime not to). Now picture this… Arnold Schwarzenegger… the greatest action hero on screen… The Terminator himself… playing a… pregnant man? Yes! Just yes! Arnie stars as a doctor who, with two more doctors (Danny DeVito and Emma Thompson) decides to take part in a science experiment after a test for a new pregnancy drug ends badly, so with all further funding denied and no one to experiment with, the doctor is convinced to try the drug himself, which then leads him to become pregnant, with the symptoms that come with a woman’s pregnancy. But as the experiment continues, he begins to bond with his “Inner child” and is determined to give birth to his first child. Obviously, once again, Arnie took a critical hiding for Junior, people with just no real sense of humour decided it was a terrible movie, savaged it and sadly these days it’s rarely heard of it, which is a shame, because i’ve always enjoyed it, it’s great fun, and lovely to see the two men back together again six years after Twins. It was a brave choice, especially to follow True Lies, but despite how people feel about it, it is a really sweet and fun movie, if you haven’t seen it, do.
As with all Arnold Schwarzenegger fans, we each have our favourite movie of his, although we may love the majority of his movies. So i come to my own personal favourite, the 1996 smash hit Eraser. Following on from the family-friendly and very funny Junior would be a tough act for any action movie superstar, so Arnie needed something with punch, a real blockbuster feel, something that combines the most popular aspects of his previous classics, but also adds something more. So he teamed up with Charles Russell, director of the hilarious Jim Carrey comic book superhit movie The Mask (And also went on to direct Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in Mummy Returns spin-off The Scorpion King) to create his next big screen success. Arnie takes on the role of John Kruger, a Witness Potection agent who’s job it is to place trial witnesses, into FBI protection and wipe out every trace of them, giving them a chance to evade whoever wants them dead. But when he’s given an assignment to protect an employee of a weapons manufacturing corporation, he discovers that the witness he’s protecting, a woman, Lee Cullen (Played by the beautiful actress and singer Vanessa Williams) who assists the FBI in gathering evidence against the company she works for who are secretly creating futuristic weapons and selling them to overseas terrorists, is in danger from men working his own Witness Security led by his long time mentor (Played by legend James Caan), Kruger makes it his mission to hide her from not only the law, but from everyone he works with, including his boss (The late great James Coburn) until the trial in which she is to give evidence. Along the way, he seeks the help of people he had previously placed in witness protection with the bad guys hunting him and his witness every step of the way. And with Arnie, of course you know he’ll take down the bad guys in various different ways and win the day, but with Eraser, the writers went several steps further, to create spectacular action set pieces we hadn’t seen in a Schwarzenegger movie before, including a alligator attack at NYC Zoo, an incredible aeroplane shootout with Arnie’s Kruger hanging from the side of a burning plane and then plummeting through the sky ‘after’ his parachute, to an all-out firepower finale when the hero finally gets to try out the futuristic killing machines on the many bad guys. Eraser met with a mixed response upon release, some praising it as yet another Arnie action classic, others panning it for various reasons, but for me, it’s always been my favourite Schwarzenegger movie, it just has everything i’d want from an Arnie movie… Massive action, great sense of humour, those classic Arnieisms (“They caught a train!”) and a beautiful woman standing by his side. The special effects are incredible, the stunts are spectacular and the story is right down my street – Smart enough to out-do most action movies, but simple enough to be followed very easily – and Alan Silvestri’s score always leaves me with goosebumps, real superhero music going on right through the movie. It’s got it’s harsh critics, but no Arnie movie tops Eraser for me, it stands as one of my all-time favourite movies.
Jingle All The Way (1996)
So by now, you all know Arnie is unstoppable, right? You know he just cannot be beaten, right? He’s kicked Terminator ass, alien Predator ass and shot an alligator in the mouth! But can he find the world’s most wanted toy on Christmas? Of course he can… not. The legendary silver screen action giant plays a hard-working father who spends very little time with his wife and son, he’s so caught up with work that he rarely even makes it to his son’s karate classes. But one night, after missing yet another class, he begs his son’s forgivness by promising that he will have the talking action figure of his biggest hero, Turbo Man, for Christmas. But alas, having been asked by his wife to pick the toy up well in advance, what does he do? Yup… He forgets. So he sets out on Christmas Eve morning to buy the toy and tuck it other the tree, but as luck would have it, Turbo Man is the biggest toy ever and is completely sold out all across the United States, leading him into a desperate race against Christmas time to find a Turbo Man, from meeting sneering toy store staff, to encountering crooked Santa Clauses (Briefly reuniting Arnie with his Red Heat co-star James Belushi), to a finale that blew even me away first seeing it as a child. Jingle All The Way garnered yet more largely negative criticism on release, many critics feeling the the movie is silly, overblown and not fitting of the great Schwarzenegger. But once again, i disagree strongly, i’m personally a fan of the movie, i think it’s one of Arnie’s strongest, and one of his best. Every parent knows the struggle of finding a best-selling toy at Christmas, i’m even betting that many a parent out there had a nightmare getting a Playstation 4 for their child (Admit it, lots of you struggled and more than likely failed), so who better to see challenged with such a task as the the king of action movies? Jingle All The Way works, every bit of it… The story, the script, the supporting cast (Of course James Belushi, Rita Wilson, the late great SNL legend Phil Hartman, Sinbad and Jake “Anakin Skywalker” Lloyd), the gags are fantastic and the finale is wonderful, it really is. And Arnie himself just relishes the whole thing, you can see he’s loving every minute of it. One of the best Christmas movies i know, and as i mentioned, of my fave Arnie Schwarzenegger movies. Horribly horribly underrated. As Arnie’s movies have sadly become at this point. Damn the stupid critics!
End Of Days (1999)
OK, i know what you’re thinking… I’ve skipped past Batman & Robin… But not because i dislike it, i do like it, a lot (Aside from Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy *Shudders*), but as it’s not as such a Schwarzenegger starring vehicle as it is a Batman movie, i’ll move on. It’s the end of the 90s at this stage. Having ended the 1980s on a high note with the hilarious Twins and the spectacular Red Heat, and entering the 1990s with an eruption of movie greatness Total Recall and Terminator 2, it’s time to wrap up another decade of Schwarzenegger movies. After almost 20 years since his first hit, Conan The Barbarian, after fighting robots, aliens, alligators and toddlers (Hilarious ball pen scene in Jingle All The Way always makes me LOL… “I am not a ppppuuurrvvvuuurrrtttt!”), who else was left for Arnie to fight? Who could be a greater challenge than Turbo Man ? There’s a meeting you’d want to be at… “Schwarzenegger destroys everyone, who can we pit him against now?… You with the hand up! What do YOU think?… – Ehhh… Satan?”. Of course. With the millennium ending, with fear on the rise, with legends of Satan’s return to Earth after 2000 years, a Schwarzenegger movie with the Devil seems fitting. Arnie, for the last time in the 90s, stars as Jericho Cane (The best character name Schwarzenegger ever had in a movie, never mind what anyone else says! And of course very Biblical), a suicidal cop who can’t live with the memories and loss of his wife and young daughter who were brutally murdered in their home, who is given the job of protecting a Wall Street banker, played by our very own and very wonderful Gabriel Byrne. But this is no ordinary banker, this is the man inhabited by the father of pure evil, the Prince Of Darkness… Ozzy Osbourne. OK, no… The Devil himself, Satan! Desperate to find a young woman destined to carry his child, Satan brings hell upon New York City on New Year’s Eve 1999, determined to create his legacy on Earth, to father a child with a human and rule the world forever more. But as Jericho discovers who’s he really been protecting, he realizes that he must find the woman, again cleverly named Christine York – Christ In New York (Robin Tunney) and keep her from Satan until the passing of the final moments of the millennium, as the hour leading up to midnight is when she must be impregnated by the Devil for him to rule with his son, or he will be banished back to hell. End Of Days, in a continuing form for critics, was absolutely shredded to pieces, it just didn’t stand a chance against the people determined to destroy Schwarzenegger’s career. And once again, but this time on a far larger scale, i disagree completely with every negative view ever thrown to this movie. End Of Days stands as an incredible, mind blowing blockbuster, bigger, badder and far more gutsy than anything that has come before in Arnie’s history of movies. Teaming with one of my favourite filmmakers, Peter Hyams (Sudden Death, Timecop, 2010, Outland, The Presidio, the sadly uncompleted A Sound Of Thunder and the recent Van Damme thriller Enemies Closer, which i will review sometime, i really enjoyed it, brilliant movie), Schwarzenegger gives his bravest performance yet, ridding himself of all the past glory of appearing as a big strong tough fun movie star, to a weary tired frail human being, playing Jericho with real heart and making him very believable, someone we pity but constantly root for. There’s scenes in the movie that, while i know that it is a movie, made me cry on first seeing it, for example the scene where Jericho relives the awful murders of his family while he watches on helpless at the hands of the Devil, and the ending which i won’t spoil for anyone who may not have seen the movie. And Gabriel Byrne himself, i can’t do anything but praise him for his performance. Over the years, i’ve seen many actors take on playing Satan, but i’ve never had the chills i still get from Byrne, he’s just perfect, never over the top, never flinches, never becomes Al Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate where you just constantly laugh at him, he just keeps it calm and quiet, rarely raising his voice, rarely making any big moves, just plain and simple evil… I’ve always respected Gabriel Byrne as an actor, but this was the first time i looked at him and though “Wow, now HE’S a movie star!”. End Of Days is pure movie perfection, every single thing about for me is a success, from Arnie and Gabriel (And let’s not forget Robin Tunney who is also great in her role… You’ll know her from TV’s The Mentalist and Prison Break) to the incredible special effects which shower ever action scene and the spectacular finale. And John Debney, i had to keep him for last, the man who made it all work with his incredible score, filling the whole movie with even more fear and horror, timing everything perfectly with his small haunting melodies to his epic terrifying clashes, Debney is a true master. Who interestingly enough also scored The Passion Of The Christ for Mel Gibson, again showing his complete and utter genius for music. I’ve nothing but love for End Of Days, it’s in my top 5 Schwarzenegger movies.
The 6th Day (2000)
After the absolute mayhem and horror of End Of Days, Arnie kicked off the new millennium by going back to his sci-fi action roots for the brilliant The 6th Day, yet another Schwarzenegger movie to be completely savaged by critics and loved by me. The 6th Day follows Adam Gibson, a pilot for a futuristic helicopter service, who one day arrives back home, to find an exact double of himself celebrating his birthday, with his family. Shocked and confused, Gibson sets out to find the truth behind his identical double, leading him to an illegal corporation responsible for human cloning, and making him the number one target of the company’s owner who is determined to make sure the truth of his experiments are never known. Gibson fights for his life with a army of assassins out to kill him and eventually turns to the only man he can trust… Himself. The 6th Day carries on Arnie’s unbeatable run of lavish sci-fi thrillers, with amazing special effects, non-stop action, and those classic quips we Arnie fans adore. The world of the future in The 6th Day is something truly incredible, it gives a totally futuristic but almost realistic look to what our world could become in the future should technology advance beyond it’s capabilities. Roger Spottiswoode, director of the fantastic James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies, as well as early hits Turner & Hooch, Air America and Sylvester Stallone’s Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, does a top job at combining the elements of such a project together, handling the action brilliantly (As expected from a man who made one of the best Bond movies ever) and the dramatic scenes, including legendary actor Robert Duvall as a doctor working with the corporation creating clones, but using the technology to clone his dying wife. A fantastic movie, again horribly cast aside by people who just at ths point refuse to enjoy a fun Schwarzenegger blockbuster. Thank God for his massive fanbase.
Collateral Damage (2002)
Arnold Schwarzenegger at this point could’ve cured every known disease in the world and still not get any praise from the film critics of the world. Collateral Damage, yet again, ripped apart, given miserable reviews and blah blah blah. By now, we, the Arnie fans, do not care. Arnie, for the second last time before he became Governor of California and gave up headlining movies, stars a firefighter who’s wife and son are killed in a terrorist attack carried out by a merciless killer know as “The Wolf”. When the mass murderer escapes to Colombia, he’s out of reach of the US government, but our Arnie’s fireman will not let go, and, determined to exact revenge for the death of his family, fights his way to Colombia to hunt down the Wolf and end his reign of terror. Collateral Damage is spectacular, of course, it’s a Schwarzenegger movie, it’s packed with fantastic action sequences, brilliant special effects and a great story. Director Andrew Davis, the legend behind The Fugitive, Under Siege, also Steven Seagal’s first movie Above The Law (Nico) and the very underrated Keanu Reeves/Morgan Freeman action movie Chain Reaction, finally took on a movie with Arnie, and it was well worth the wait. If you haven’t seen it, you should, you’re missing out.
Terminator 3 : Rise Of The Machines (2003)
The mighty Schwarzenegger took on his last major movie starring role before entering politics, and decided to end with his most iconic character, Terminator. Twelve years after the movie that changed the movie world forever, Terminator 2, Arnie returns as the robotic killing machine, again fighting in good’s corner, and this time he’s on a mission to get future saviour of mankind John Connor (No Ed Furlong this time, thank God, but instead the talented Nick Stahl) and his gorgeous wife-to-be and lieutenant Kate Brewster (The magnificent Claire Danes) to safety. But coming back from the future to stop them is the T-X, an even more advanced killing machine with incredible new technology and weapons, but this time… in the guise of a woman… and not just any woman… But Kristanna Loken, only one of the world’s hottest women (I would let her kill me!). And this woman is out to kill John Connor’s entire team of lieutenants, assassinating them one by one, then hunts the Terminator, John and his last surving lieutentant, Kate, on the road trip from hell. Now, you’d think a Terminator movie would get a lot of love, wouldn’t you? But oh no. Terminator 3 not only has the misfortune of being a sequel to two of the world’s most beloved movies, but it’s also a Schwarzenegger movie, so double the critical hate. But me? Not only do i love it, but i love it more than Terminator 1 and 2, i love it more than any other Schwarzenegger movie (With the exception of Eraser) and it’s one of my ten favourite movies ever made. Any of that has always caused me trouble among fellow movie fans, people who simply refuse to accept that different movies do different things for different people. To me… Devastating action sequences (The crane chase stands as one of the greatest movie scenes i’ve ever seen), brilliant story (T3 does it’s very best to fix the mistakes of T2 with it’s narrative), hilarious sense of humour (The club with the male stripper comes to mind) and special effects like nothing i’ve ever seen (The Skynet takeover, T-X’s various capabilities and obviously the crane chase). To top it off, great performances from everyone – Nick Stahl does a great job as Connor, far better than the awful Ed Furlong… Claire Danes is great fun and a very worthy addition to the Terminator universe… Kristanna Loken is spellbinding to watch, incredibly gorgeous, super tough, T-X’s weapons blow me away, everything about her delights me, my dream movie character… And Arnie himself, as always, fantastic, and in my opinion, his best Terminator performance to date, he drops the thug badass from 1, the way too human 2, and just goes straight for the machine, he’s perfect. – The music is epic (Marco Beltrami, composer of scores for Die Hard 4.0, Scream and I Robot), it’s brilliantly directed by Jonathan Mostow (Breakdown and U-571, two sadly forgotten gems, fantastic movies) and it’s the perfect running time at 1 hour and 45 minutes. Everything about Terminator 3 appeals to the movie lover in me, i’ve seen it a hundred times or more and still hasn’t aged, even after almost a decade. I’m a big Rise Of The Machines fan and will always defend it.
The Last Stand (2013)
Ten years later, after serving as Governor of California, the king of Hollywood action is back. After Terminator 3, Arnie stepped down from starring in movies. He would only appear in a few cameo roles for friends, but bounced back more so with an extended performance in The Expendables 2 (Having appeared in the first, but only for a couple of minutes, although those minutes are fantastic) and appearing last year in the best of the series, The Expendables 3. But the beginning of 2013 saw Schwarzenegger burst back onto the screen in his first major starring role in a decade, The Last Stand. When a vicious drug cartel leader (Eduardo Noriega) escapes from court, he and his army of killers head straight for a small town on the edge of the US border. But on the border is a sheriff waiting with his own gang to take them down. The sheriff, Ray Owens (Arnie), who at first wants nothing to do with taking on the cartel, having a troubled past of his own and now in a small peaceful town, is convinced by the FBI (Led by Oscar winner Forest Whitaker) to tackle the killers and puts together a bunch of misfits and morons to act as the last line of US defense (Played by Johnny Jackass Knoxville, Louis Guzman and Jaimie Alexander), and stop the cartel breaking across the border into Mexico, but as the killers draw near, the band of heroes step up to plate, led by their sheriff and they’re ready for war. The Last Stand mimics those old western movies you’ve seen back in the day, small town with a cowboy to protect it and waiting for death to come at the end of the movie. But thankfully, this movie keeps it’s promise and delivers a movie full of action and thrills in it’s final half hour, with the good guys and bad guys clashing in an all-out battle, with massive shootouts, spectacular car chases and Arnie being his old brilliant self again, kicking ass and throwing out quips like he’s really missed his fans. Everything leading up to the finale may not be the most exciting, and Arnie doesn’t appear as often as he should, but there’s still a few thrills peppered throughout, and there’s a real great sense of humour running all the way, thanks to Johnny Knoxville’s unbalanced self and Louis Guzman being Louis Guzman. Again, for Arnie, a very underrated movie, but he didn’t come back for critics, he came back for the fans and the love of making movies. And i’m sure any other fan reading this is as excited as me to have him back.
Escape Plan (2013)
For the first time, together sharing the bill without the rest of the Expendables team, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone join forces for the next movie in Arnie’s comeback, Escape Plan. A genius prison breaker, who’s hired to test the security of maximum security prisons and breaks out of each one, is offered an assignment by the CIA to test a brand new state of the art prison, which he accepts. But when inside, everything changes as the expert break-out artist, Ray Breslin (Stallone), realises he has been set up and jailed for real, under the rule of a sadistic and power-mad warden (Jim Caviezel). So now, he must plan an escape route to free himself, but in order to carry out his very technical “Escape Plan”, he needs the help of a fellow inmate, a German man, Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger), with enemies of his own looking to find and kill him. Rottmayer gets in on the escape and works with Ray to free them both and save their lives from the people who want them out of the way. With help from a kindly doctor (The always wonderful Sam Neill), the two prisoners unleash all-out war on their captors, leading to a spectacular bullet-ridden finale you can’t not see. Escape Plan is a cracking thriller, two massive action stars headlining it, tons of charisma between them and action fit for both of them. Arnie does take a while to come along, but once he does, he’s on ultimate form, and Stallone himself of course is brilliant too, great to see the old guys still rocking as good as they did in their glory days.
In all great comebacks, bumps are expected. This was Arnie’s bump. While the man himself does deliver the goods, the movie itself sadly doesn’t. A massive mess of genre confusion, soggy acting and very limited action did Sabotage no favours. Based on an Agatha Christie novel, ‘And Then There Were Done’, the movie tells the very original story of a DEA task force who carry out a raid on a drug cartel’s safe house, find a massive stash of cash, to only then find it has been stolen, possibly by one or more of their own team. But as the force’s members begin dying, it’s up to Arnie’s leading DEA agent to find the money, stop the murders/accidents and save the day. Sabotage is constantly cluttered with different ideas and styles, different levels of violence and gore, remaining true to it’s story one moment as a classy thriller, then the next it’s a ridiculous horror movie with stupid attempts at shocking the audience, and then to top it off becomes a western, with a dash of uncomfortable love story thrown in. A very hard movie to enjoy. Thankfully, Arnie came back with The Expendables 3, which I can’t speak highly enough of, I loved every second of it. And with a return to his star-making Terminator roots this year, Terminator: Genisys, hopefully the big man can jump straight back into familiar and beloved territory with success.
And there it is. A history of the great man’s movies, the king of action cinema, the incomparable Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger, despite how unfairly harsh the critics may seem sometimes. Welcome back Arnie!