Navigation menu button

Women and Children first: Has Hollywood forgotten about us?

by @JOEdotie
Email author
4518-xlarge

With Stallone’s uncompromising The Expendables hitting screens, JOE ponders whether it is the last of a dying breed – action fare aimed solely at adult males.

By Emmet Purcell

Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables has long been described as a retro-toned return to the macho, brainless action movies of the 1980s. Many also considered Stallone’s approach a refreshingly manly ‘last hurrah’ in opposition to an increasingly infantalised summer market.

Yet despite The Expendable’s hype and promise, the movie itself only received a ‘15A’ rating – not quite the blood-drenched return to form many were expecting. So is this supposed return of male-dominated action entertainment a false dawn, or should Stallone be saluted in attempting to shift the boundaries of typical Hollywood summer fare?

Over a pint or two during the week, we at JOE discussed some of our favourite high-concept cartoons of our childhood, which were universally action-packed, subtlety-free zones, such as 80s classics Transfomers or G.I. Joe.

During the same time period, Hollywood was enraptured by Stallone and Schwarzenegger’s latest gore-soaked installments. Sure, some were awfully derivative (Stallone’s Cobra, Arnie’s Red Sonja) but there were plenty of instant classics produced under the helm of able, intelligent directors (Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall, James Cameron’s The Terminator). At the turn of the decade new action stars were also being created with critically lauded, adult-minded blockbusters, such as Lethal Weapon (1987) or Die Hard (1988).

Thinking back, it’s difficult to consider why Arnold Schwarzenegger, arguably the biggest movie star of the 1980s, would star in an 18-rated schlock-fest like Commando, where he dispatches 73 people in one scene. Or secondly, that when the similarly potent Terminator 2 was released in 1991, it had the-then highest production budget of all time ($102m).

Hollywood action movie: 1985

In today’s sanitised global market, producers would never greenlight such projects unless it they had a family-friendly rating, a built-in audience from another entertainment medium, or were based on a superhero property at the very least. Consider that of the twenty highest-grossing movies of 2009 in the US market, only two (Taken and The Hangover) received higher than a ‘12A’ rating in Ireland – with both movies considered ‘sleeper’ or surprise hits. These days the memo is clear – anything above a 12A rating is commercial suicide, and any success above that very rating is luck at best.

As we reminisced over our favourite 80s cartoons I realised that young boys have no comparable male-orientated, action-packed cartoons to digest on a daily basis. So where do boys in 2010 get their action fix? From big-budget Hollywood remakes of the very shows we grew up on, as the worldwide success of the Michael Bay’s Transformers and Stephen Sommer’s G.I Joe: Rise of Cobra have proven.

In fact, one could argue that the surprising box office success of this summer’s Inception may be proof that men are trying to fight back against the infantalisation endemic in Hollywood’s big-budget output.

Christopher Nolan’s maze-like epic succeeded because it was a complete anomaly to Hollywood in 2010 – Inception had a completely original idea not based on a superhero or 80s TV franchise, had a clever script and treated its audience like adults by presenting a complex plot and asking them to keep up. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Inception would never have been made (or at least given a $150m production budget) had Christopher Nolan already not made Warner Bros over $1bn for The Dark Knight.

These days, if Hollywood isn’t presenting its audience with kid-friendly action flicks, your multiplex choices typically reside between watching sullen heart-throb vampires or Jennifer Aniston romantic comedies. This ‘women and children first’ policy has, strangely enough, not yet provoked a strong backlash thus yet, as many men are just happy enough to see their childhood favourites (Optimus Prime, Spider-Man) on the big-screen. What does provoke a reaction, however, is when Hollywood decides to bring back a much-loved 80s action franchise, yet dial down the franchise’s previous age rating.

Hollywood action movie: 2010

Consider the 2007 release Die Hard 4.0, which was the only installment in Bruce Willis’ franchise to receive a ‘12A’ rating. Worse still, Willis’ John McClane was sidelined with a hip sidekick (Justin Long) to encourage a younger fanbase.

20th Century Fox knew they still had one big obstacle in re-invigorating their franchise towards a youthful audience, considering the series’ most famous catchphrase remains ‘Yippie-Kay-Ay Motherfucker’. The solution? Have Willis utter his famous line, but ensure that the second half of the phrase is punctuated by a loud gunshot to signify the death of the main villain (whose death is shown off-screen, naturally).

Fans were upset at the creative stifling of their beloved John McClane character yet Die Hard 4.0’s approach hasn’t stopped Hollywood from chasing another buck – Eddie Murphy is apparently keen to give his Axel Foley character another run-around in Beverly Hills Cop 4, while even Mel Gibson was circling a fifth Lethal Weapon until his latest foul-mouthed episode nixed any such possibility.

The most uncompromising action star return of the previous decade was undoubtedly Sylvester Stallone’s 2008 Rambo, which received a stern ‘18’ rating, no doubt attributed to the fact protagonist John Rambo killed more villains in the fourth installment than the previous trilogy put together.

Although his 2008 Rambo feature was commended for being a ‘retro’ approach to action, as the star and director told the Sunday Times last weekend, ‘“People say that I’m doing a homage. No, I am not. I just don’t know any better.”

Whether The Expendables succeeds or fails (commercially at least, its initial US take suggests the former), Sylvester Stallone should be applauded for pushing back at Hollywood convention and trying to reclaim the movie industries’ collective balls.

Let’s hope Stallone single-minded vision, or conversely the respect with which this summer’s Inception treated its audience, can provoke a sea change in Hollywood’s thinking. After all, the thrill of watching an action blockbuster long past your bedtime should never skip a generation.

Competition

Win a €5,000 Full Smile Makeover! Find out more

skill belgium

News

Video: You have to see this simply amazing piece of skill from the Belgian league
Letter

Features

Brian O’Driscoll takes the piss out of Jamie Heaslip with this brilliant 12-year-old fan’s letter
Ligue 1 - AS Monaco v Paris Saint-Germain

News

Vine: Dimitar Berbatov just did something utterly magnificent for Monaco
Irish international and LA Galaxy strike

Home News

RTÉ plan to show ads during the water breaks at the World Cup this summer
Eggs

Features

Video: Kilrush woke up this morning to find 30,000 Easter eggs distributed around the town
Manchester United v Liverpool - Premier League

News

“That’s one of the best games I’ve seen Rooney play for Everton.” Twitter reacts to United defeat
Everton v Manchester United - Premier League

News

Speculation grows amid reports that Manchester United will sack David Moyes
PaddyPower

News

Pic of the day: The Grim Reaper lurks behind David Moyes at Goodison Park
Redknapp

News

Video: Jamie Redknapp got very worked up about Jose Mourinho’s comments last night
pizza cake

Food & Drink

Reckon you could tackle the six-layered, 5000 calorie ‘pizza cake’?
oxegen2

Music

Twitter reacts to the news that Oxegen 2014 is cancelled and event may be gone forever
Henry Shefflin 23/3/2014

National League

Video: ‘King’ Henry Shefflin at his imperious best against Galway earlier today
DENVER 420 RALLY

World Affairs

Pic: There was a giant smoke cloud at the marijuana rally in Denver yesterday
36213-xlarge

News

Very, very NSFW: The topless Michelle Keegan bath picture causing a stir this morning
Liverpool's Uruguayan forward Luis Suáre

News

Patrice Evra voted for Luis Suarez to be PFA Player of the Year, according to The Sunday Times
Norwich City v Liverpool - Premier League

News

Brendan Rodgers used the words of a Hillsborough campaigner to inspire team to win
poolfan

Videos

Video: Watch an Irish Liverpool fan go through all the emotions as he watches final stages of City game
Kate Upton

Women

Good news lads, Kate Upton is single again, so here are some pics
tigerwoodssand (608380)

Golf

Five of the greatest shots in the history of golf
Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

News

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The funniest tweets from the Moyes Films hashtag
Everton v Manchester United - Premier League

News

Speculation grows amid reports that Manchester United will sack David Moyes
Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

News

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The funniest tweets from the Moyes Films hashtag
Donal O'Grady 15/2/2014

GAA

Donal O’Grady quits as Limerick boss
Mars header

Home News

The third and final Irish contender for the trip to Mars has finally gone public
DENVER 420 RALLY

World Affairs

Pic: There was a giant smoke cloud at the marijuana rally in Denver yesterday
tigerwoodssand (608380)

Golf

Five of the greatest shots in the history of golf
pizza cake

Food & Drink

Reckon you could tackle the six-layered, 5000 calorie ‘pizza cake’?
skill belgium

News

Video: You have to see this simply amazing piece of skill from the Belgian league
Norwich City v Liverpool - Premier League

News

Brendan Rodgers used the words of a Hillsborough campaigner to inspire team to win
Irish international and LA Galaxy strike

Home News

RTÉ plan to show ads during the water breaks at the World Cup this summer
Eggs

Features

Video: Kilrush woke up this morning to find 30,000 Easter eggs distributed around the town
Letter

Features

Brian O’Driscoll takes the piss out of Jamie Heaslip with this brilliant 12-year-old fan’s letter
Henry Shefflin 23/3/2014

National League

Video: ‘King’ Henry Shefflin at his imperious best against Galway earlier today
malaysianflight

World Affairs

Malaysia Airlines flight lands safely in Kuala Lumpur after landing gear malfunction
Clare

National League

Callanan stars as Tipp beat Clare to advance to Hurling League final
Manchester United v Liverpool - Premier League

News

“That’s one of the best games I’ve seen Rooney play for Everton.” Twitter reacts to United defeat
Everton v Manchester United - Premier League

News

Gif: Baines and Mirallas inflict yet more misery on David Moyes and Man United
PaddyPower

News

Pic of the day: The Grim Reaper lurks behind David Moyes at Goodison Park
Eoin Murphy and his defence prepare to defend a Galway free in injury time 20/4/2014

National League

Kilkenny reach Allianz Hurling League final with victory over Galway
Manchester United v Everton - Premier League

Betting

Everton v Manchester United betting preview
Send in a story and earn some cash