Article originally featured on WhatCulture.
For me cinema peaked in the Eighties. There's nothing I enjoy more than getting home from work and putting on an Arnie or Stallone film, like Commando or Cobra, and immerse myself in well crafted Hollywood excess and one-liners. Something about the Eighties filmmaking seemed to bring about the perfect marriage of class, ludicrousness, bad-assery, and wit, and result in the creation of innumerable classics.
Unfortunately, the above statement can't be applied to the films on list. Films which hang out in the bad side of movie town, where not even Lance Henriksen would dare to venture. A good script, however, can often work wonders. For this feature I've selected five mediocre to terrible films with dialogue that almost makes them watchable. In the original article this was fifteen films, but Blogger can't do page breaks like Mr. Fancy Pants Wordpress can so I had to cut it down.
5. Lessons in Pain with Swayze (Road House)
Inbetween suggestively dancing with barely legal girls and stalking his wife from beyond the grave, Patrick Swayze was beating righteousness into bar thugs. Our modern world, being what it is, seems far removed from one in which a mulleted Swayze can play the romantic action-hero. In Road House Swayze plays Dalton, a philosophy spouting bouncer, or 'Cooler', who takes up a job at bar only marginally nicer than the one from the beginning of The Terminator. Naturally, Dalton aggrieves the local gangland, but because it's the Eighties it's about as gritty as an episode of Dragon Ball Z.
Road House is the type of film which demonstrates that it is acceptable to engage in heavily choreographed fights first, and take the high road later. Often considered barely good enough to even be a cult film, there's something enjoyable about the lameness of Road House. It's basically a modern day western for red necks.
And a large part of what makes Road House fun to watch is Dalton himself.
The Quote(s): "Pain don't hurt." or "Nobody ever wins a fight."
In a film abound with cheesy dialogue and quotable lines (gems like "I used to fuck guys like you in prison"), it's the parts that we're supposed to take seriously that make it. Dalton's supposed to be this great Zen mastermind; a small time bouncer who fights like Bruce Lee, makes love with the prowess of a whirling dervish, and philosophises on the mysteries of life. But that just makes his infamous lines all the more hilarious. They're completely meaningless out of context: Dalton must have attended the same oxymoronic mantra creation school as the government of Airstrip One.
4. Hopping Mad (Speed)
Since the release of Die Hard in 1988, studios have been desperate to cash in on the films simple but effective formula. Referred to as 'Die Hard on an X' films they often took place in increasingly absurd settings. The 1994 film Speed is often referred to as Die Hard on a Bus, though in truth it's more like Die Hard 3 on a bus, only lacking Samuel L. Jackson's misplaced anger at the man.
For those of you who were living on Mars during the mid-Nineties - therefore missing the billion parodies which followed the film's release - Speed is an expose on awful public transport. A psychotic ex-bomb disposal expert, with a stick up his arse about retiring, plants a bomb on a bus and sets it to go off if the vehicle drops below 50mph. If the bus drivers in wherever this film is set are like the ones in my home town, that ain't gonna happen. Fortunately, Keanu Reeves (wishy-washy post-Bill and Ted/ Pre-The Matrix Keanu Reeves) and a mildly annoying Sandra Bullock are on the case.
Speed is a pretty mediocre film in all honesty. Except for the gem of a quote listed below, spouted by the villain during one of his rambling monologues.
The Quote: "Pop quiz, hotshot. There's a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do?"
Ah, Dennis Hopper: he was always reliable for a trip down insanity lane. It's not too much of a stretch to imagine them repeatedly rebuilding the sets during filming due to Hopper continually chewing right through them. In Speed he plays Howard Payne: a completely obnoxious, conceited, and barely serious megalomaniac. Just look at the cited quote, he's clearly a man who enjoys the visceral nature of the cat and mouse chase far more than following through. Think of him as a campier version of The Riddler.
3. Vincent Klyn's Misery Business (Cyborg)
Chances are, if you grew up in the early-Nineties you had the Bloodsport-Cyborg Jean Claude Van Damme double-feature on VHS. No one knew where it came from, you just somehow possessed a copy. Maybe the cheese-fairy dished it out, I don't know.
Cyborg, the second film of the unofficial Van Damme double-feature, is an action/science-fiction movie set in a post-apocalyptic 'trashpunk' world. Director Albert Pyun clearly aimed to reach the lofty heights of Mad Max with Cyborg, but he couldn't even reach Hell Comes to Frogtown level. He did, however, go on to create the loose Cyborg Trilogy with 1993's Knights and 1997's Omega Doom. Both much better films than Cyborg's actual two straight-to-video sequels, the first of which served as Angelina Jolie's debut.
Van Damme, channelling Kyle Reese, is sent on a mission to protect a cyborg from the leader of a raiding gang who have cribbed their style from Manowar album covers. A task which he utterly fails at for the majority of the film's run time. There's a little religious symbolism along the way, and by a little I mean of course that Van Damme gets nailed to a frigging crucifix only to arise from the dead some time later. It's all about as subtle as a hadouken to the face.
Especially when it comes to the film's card-carrying villain.
The Quote: "Then we heard the rumours: that the last scientists were working on a cure that would end the plague and restore the world. Restore it? Why? I like the death! I like the misery! I like this world!"
The opening narration sets the tone of the movie, as well as the bar for the acting quality. Fender Tremolo (Klyn) is essentially in the same league as the jerk-ass dean character from every Eighties' teen movie: villainous simply for the sake of being villainous. The opening narration is an excellent example of this: he boisterously proclaims his love for the post-apocalyptic world in which Cyborg takes place. It's incredibly over-the-top and pantomime-esque, and it quickly descends into parody territory. He's basically like a teenage girl screaming: "look at me guys, I like death and stuff. I'm special!"
2. There Can Only Be One Master Race (Highlander)
The Highlander film series chronicles the story of a race of immortals, fighting through the ages to obtain a prize which diminishes in value with every sequel. Even if you've never seen any of the films you're probably aware of their arch phrase: "There can only be one." If only because people often spout it after accomplishing an over-exaggerated minor feat.
Epic in scope the first Highlander film follows an immortal clansman, Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert), from the savage 16th century Scottish Highlands to the rain-soaked noir(ish) streets of Eighties New York. But immortality is not all endless picnics and being worshipped by Goths, and so the Immortals are destined to kill each other until only one remains. For reasons that probably only make sense to organised religions. A great concept admittedly, but it's ultimately let down by hammy acting, MTV style cinematography, and just being generally dull. Neither the police woman who happens to be an expert in ancient swords, or Sean Connery as a Spanish swordsman, are able to inject enough life into Highlander.
Though the scene featuring MacLeod in Nazi Germany comes close.
The Quote: "Whatever you say, Jack! You're the master race."
Pro-tip, Nazis: if someone has a machine gun pointed at you and tells you to move, don't reply that you'd "rather be shot". Just the concept of an immortal warrior from Celtic Scotland gunning down SS Officers alone made this work. It didn't even matter that the movie as a whole was a bit naff. Someone, somewhere, was seeing the doodles in the back of his maths book unfold on screen. The scene is cheesier than some kind of hellish Chuck E. Cheese's though. Just look at the "it's a kind of magic" exchange. Regardless, it's all worth it for the ultimate Bond one-liner; even if he should definitely have gone with "Uzi nein millimetre".
1. Chuck Norris Lets Sleeping Dogs Die (Invasion U.S.A.)
Before ascending to the status of an internet myth akin to Slender Man, Chuck Norris spent his days roundhouse kicking freedom into terrorists. In Invasion U.S.A., the country has been invaded by Communists and only a Canadian Tuxedo-clad Chuck can save it. Rumour has it that the concept came about when Norris felt that Red Dawn (released a year earlier) wasn't conveying the optimal levels of freedom.
Usually this is where I'd summarise the plot, but Chuck Norris killing Communists is the plot. Invasion U.S.A. is ridiculous. It starts with Communist guerrillas (disguised as the U.S. Coast Guard) opening fire on a boatload of Cuban refuges and just becomes more of a right-wing fantasy from there. Over the course of Invasion U.S.A martial law is declared, civilian militias formed, inner-city race riots break out, and white suburbia is attacked. I can't even tell the difference between shit movies and Breitbart's fake news anymore.
Still, at least with Chuck Norris you know he means business.
The Quote: "Nikko was easy. Now its your turn. One night you'll close your eyes, and when they open I'll be there. It'll be time to die."
In one form or another, Invasion U.S.A. contains just about every action film cliché stopping short of Norris actually killing a terrorist by throwing a freedom-loving bald eagle at him. Norris' character is called Matt Hunter for fuck's sake. What's great about this is quote, is that it initially sounds as though Hunter is planning to kill villain Rostov in his sleep, like a bearded Sandman. Even the idea of subtlety existing in a Chuck Norris film is strangely appealing. A Chuck Norris film in which the bad guys attack Christmas, like the Grinch after reading The Communist Manifesto.
But no. They end their feud by engaging in a rocket launcher duel. A scene that should be right up there with the rest of the trash I enjoy. But it's difficult to take seriously when Chuck Norris resembles Noel Edmonds' redneck uncle.
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