Bring On 'The Expendables': Learning to Love Rambo (and Reagan)

I have to admit I never cared for the action films back in the eighties. They seemed silly and mindless. The two biggest stars of the genre, Schwarzenegger and Stallone were barely capable of English; and the plots were as predictable as the wigs on a metal band.

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It was the Reagan era, and I wanted no part of it, or it’s popular films. Looking back I realize that I was probably too hard on both the President and the genre. Most of my opposition to Reagan was his crackdown on drugs, and that probably came from his youth. In old Hollywood, it was the communists who tended to be dope fiends, so in his mind there was a correlation. (Come to think of it, most of the dope fiends in MY youth were communists as well.)

Looking back I realize that I agree with much of what Reagan stood for. His opposition to an ever growing government, matches mine; and his love for America’s promises of freedom prosperity and liberty, are things I cherish as well. Today, I can also enjoy a good action film.

I still remember going to see Rambo: First Blood Part II at a drive-in movie with a girl who was in the Army Reserve. She loved it, but all I could do was mock the picture. I didn’t understand the patriotism she felt watching the Vietnam War won by a man who went back fighting to win, without the bureaucracy holding him back.

I thought the film was quite stupid. At the time I was more of an art-film fanatic. I wanted a film that was dark and dreary and ended with questions unresolved. I really liked David Lynch. Needless to say, the date ended badly; there was no reason for me to be in a drive-in that night.

I was a post-punk. Much like my compatriots, I rebelled against everything American, without even stopping to think what it meant to be an American. As I grew older I realized that few places outside of this country gave its citizens the ability to make total asses out of themselves. I had the freedom to dress stupid, and the freedom to say stupid things onstage. I even had the freedom to watch long monotonous pictures, which someone had the freedom to make.

Now that I’m older, and a little less serious, I look back on the action films as the comic book films of their day. Sure they were silly, and you had to suspend your disbelief, but not nearly as much as you do today, when you are forced to pretend that Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon are tough guys.

They were done without computer effects, million dollar car crashes, or latex costumes to give the girlish male lead a masculine physique. Back in those days, when you saw a guy jump off of a building, you knew that a real human being actually jumped off of a building. (And if the shot got messed up, he did it twice.)

Much like my comedy at the time, I didn’t realize that the sole purpose of entertainment was to be entertaining. It’s okay to suspend the rules of physics for a couple hours and imagine a world where good guys are shot at for two straight hours, only receiving a couple of glancing wounds; and bad guys all suffer painfully horrible deaths, falling in slow motion.

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