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08.13.2012by: Chris Bumbray

The Ten Spot: The Best of The Expendables -- Part 1

Stallone. Schwarzenegger. Willis. Van Damme. Statham. Li. Lundgren. Norris. Fuck yeah.

THE EXPENDABLES 2, whether or not it turns out to be a good movie, is shaping up to be the one of the most star-studded action team up flicks ever made. I mean, holy shit! In the eighties or nineties, would it have even been remotely feasible that this gang would have all ended up in the same movie? Their paychecks alone would have been $100 million (Arnie, Sly and Bruce were all 20 mil a flick guys). I know, I know- Arnie and Bruce aren’t really “starring”, and neither is Norris for that matter- but whatever. The gang’s all here.

However, not all EXPENDABLES are created equal. Sure, Van Damme, Lundgren, Norris, and the Stafe all made some fun action pics, but Sly, Arnie, Bruce and Jet? They made EPICS. To get us all pumped up for THE EXPENDABLES 2, I’ve decided to put together a little list celebrating the best that their respective filmographies had to offer. So join me on a trip down memory lane, and don’t forget to pack some extra testosterone. You’ll need it.

Today's list examines the filmographies of Li, Lundgren, Norris, Statham, and Van Damme -- with Bruce, Arnie and Sly to follow later this week. Note: only the solo "action" films of each are included here -- so no SNATCH or BANK JOB for Statham.

Honorable mention: TIMECOP - Van Damme

TIMECOP- released in the fall of 1994, was probably Jean-Claude Van Damme's best shot at crossing-over from B-grade action to full-on Arnie/Sly territory. A high concept thriller, featuring time travelling baddies, and the cops who chase them, Van Damme is cast as a cop whose wife (Mia Sara) is murdered, but due to the rules of his job, he can't tamper with the time line and save her. Ron Silver plays the main bad guy, who has agents making him money in the past to finance a present-day run for the Oval office. The premise is solid, Silver is a great bad guy, and Van Damme is actually not bad at all in the titular role. Peter Hyams, a solid journeyman director, gives the film a stylish look, and the pacing is right-on. The only downside is that the budget was obviously a little low- so the action isn't as epic as you'd think, although the now-antiquated CGI isn't so bad (there's a great bit where Van Damme cuts the “past” Ron Silver on the face, and we see the scar from on the face of the “present” Silver). The film is a more than a little dated though, with the year 2004 depicting time travelling cops, cars that use autopilot and more. Still, not a bad movie.

10. DOUBLE IMPACT - Van Damme

DOUBLE IMPACT was one of Jean-Claude Van Damme's first films to have a big studio behind it, and a healthy budget. As they had a little extra cash, why not have double the Van Dammage with him playing identical twins? Dumb? Yeah. But entertaining. There are some real groaners here in the dialogue department (“I neeeever wear silk underwear”, & “because of my beeeeg legs, and Karate, I can do the splits noooooo prooooblem”), but the action is solid. The final warehouse battle with Bolo Yeung (a BLOODSPOT rematch) is great, and the film is pretty tight all around. Also- the love interest was HAWT!

9. UNLEASHED - Li

UNLEASHED is probably the only American movie that Jet Li made that really showed his full potential (although KISS OF THE DRAGON was solid). Produced by Luc Besson, and directed by Louis Letterier of THE TRANSPORTER, this was Li's most ambitious film, with him playing a cage-fighter, raised like an abused dog by his gangster master- played by Bob Hoskins. Morgan Freeman is the kindly old piano tuner that takes him in, and the action is vicious. It also has a great score by Massive Attack. This is a real gem that doesn't get the respect it deserves.

8. SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO - Lundgren

SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO is probably one of the most eccentric big-studio action movies I've ever seen. Given a healthy budget by Warner Bros., who paired Dolph Lundgren with Brandon Lee, the resulting is strangely kinky (with a weird sexually charged decapitation early on), and Warners hated it so much, it got cut to 75 minutes, and barely given a release. Still, it's a really fun flick, loaded with great action, and good buddy chemistry between Lee and Lundgren. It's also the most homoerotic action movie ever made, with Lee telling Lundgren at one point, “you have the biggest dick I've ever seen on a man”. Lines like that take bromance to a whole new level.

7. LONE WOLF MCQUADE - Norris

LONE WOLF MCQUADE is probably the first film that really established the “classic” Chuck Norris persona, with him seeming uncomfortable in earlier films like GOOD GUYS WEAR BLACK, AN EYE FOR AN EYE, FORCED VENGEANCE, etc. In MCQUADE, he's got a tailor-made part as a tough-as-nails Texas Ranger (a precursor to WALKER) up against a gun-runner played by David Carradine. Eventually, Norris's daughter gets kidnapped, his dog gets shot, and he's buried underground in his truck. Luckily, he brings himself back to life with a handy six-pack of beer, gearing up for a classic mano-a-mano showdown, scored Spaghetti Western style, with Carradine. All in all, a really fun flick.

6. CODE OF SILENCE - Norris

CODE OF SILENCE is probably Norris' most legit flick. Essentially, “Dirty Chuckie”, this finds him as a Chicago cop, up against a drug lord played by Henry Silva. There's also a subplot about Norris breaking the cop “code of silence” by testifying against a fellow officer in a bad shooting. In the end, he has to deal with Silva and his army of mobsters alone- but naturally, that's no problem for Chuck, who's lucky enough to have a prototype police tank called “The Prowler” to help him out. Directed by Andrew Davis, this is a pretty good flick, helped by the Chicago flavor, and a good supporting cast including John Mahoney and Dennis Farina. If Norris had done more movies like CODE OF SILENCE, and less Cannon Films (which are fun in their own way) fodder, his career might have gone a different way.

5. UNIVERSAL SOLDIER - Van Damme & Lundgren

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER followed DOUBLE IMPACT, and it was easily Van Damme's most ambitious film to date. Tri-Star put it out the year after T2, and Brad Fiedel, from that film was brought in to do the score. While it was probably a little too low budget to really work on a huge level, director Roland Emmerich got a lot of bang for his buck, and it's no surprise that after this he went onto the A list, with his next picture being STARGATE. As it is, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER is a fun sci-fi actioner, with a hilarious bad-guy part for Dolph Lundgren, with his ear necklace (“I'm all ears”) wearing monologue about NAM (“the war is OUT THERE MAAAAAN!!!”) being a highlight.

4. THE TRANSPORTER - Statham

THE TRANSPORTER was Statham's first real action flick, and it's also his best (although for sheer insanity, the CRANK films have it beat). The fights, such as when he demolishes a mansion full of mobsters, are classic, and the opening Audi car chase is masterful. A flop theatrically, this caught on when it hit DVD, and the sequel, with handily outgrossed this (but wasn't as good) made him a star. I hope that Statham finally manages to do a solid actioner that matches up to this (THE BANK JOB was amazing, but not an action film, and SAFE came close- were it not for the awful ending).

3. HARD TARGET - Van Damme

HARD TARGET is most famous for being John Woo's first American film. Sadly, he got screwed by Universal in the editing room, as by all accounts he was way more interested in Lance Henricksen's cool baddie- who hunts the homeless for a price, than he was in Van Damme as the Cajun hobo he crosses. It's a silly movie, with a WAY over the top Wilford Brimley as his Cajun grandpa, but the action is incredible. The final warehouse shootout, with a body-count in the dozens, is probably Van Damme's finest moment.

2. ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA 1 & 2 - Li

The first two ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA movies, directed by genre master Tsui Hark, are incredible. Visually sumptuous, they were major Hong Kong productions that cast Jet Li as folk hero Wong Fei Hung. While a marginal star before, these two movies catapulted him to superstardom. The action in both is incredible, with the ladder-battle at the end of the first film being copied beat-for-beat in the American Peter Hyams film, THE MUSKETEER. As good as that is, the final battle, between Li and a young Donnie Yen in Part 2 is even better. Both are among the finest martial arts movies ever made.

1. FIST OF LEGEND - Li

FIST OF LEGEND was a hugely influential HK action flick, that was traded on bootleg videos and imported VCD's long before it's belated state-side release. Apparently a major influence on the Wachowskis- who hired the choreographer Yuen Woo Ping to do the fights in THE MATRIX, FIST OF LEGEND is a remake of the old Bruce Lee movie, FIST OF FURY (THE CHINESE CONNECTION). Li's movie is even better than Lee's, with a few incredible fights, intense charisma by Li, and just a classic piece of Kung-Fu cinema all-around.
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12:10AM on 08/15/2012
Once Upon a Time in China 1 was the first movie to expose me to the awesomeness of Jet Li, and the rest is history!
Once Upon a Time in China 1 was the first movie to expose me to the awesomeness of Jet Li, and the rest is history!
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12:06AM on 08/15/2012
This is easily the best Western effort from Jet Li. So severely underrated! The end fight (especially the part in the bathroom) is just epic!
This is easily the best Western effort from Jet Li. So severely underrated! The end fight (especially the part in the bathroom) is just epic!
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11:11AM on 08/14/2012

Great list

Code of Silence was a fave when I was a kid; definitely Chuck's best work, IMO. As a kung fu film fan, I loved the fact that all of Jet Li's movies were at the top. Hollywood really didn't know what to do with him.
Code of Silence was a fave when I was a kid; definitely Chuck's best work, IMO. As a kung fu film fan, I loved the fact that all of Jet Li's movies were at the top. Hollywood really didn't know what to do with him.
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+1
12:51AM on 08/14/2012
Can't wait for next week. Haven't seen a lot of the films on this list, as I haven't followed much of Chuck Norris or Lundgren. But your choices for Li and Statham are gold. I can agree with #1. One of the greatest martial arts films ever created. And speaking of Donnie Yen taking on Li, I'd love to see that in an Expendables sequel with Yen added to the cast. Heck, I'd just love to see a martial arts version of The Expendables with as many legendary martial artists in it as they can put in.
Can't wait for next week. Haven't seen a lot of the films on this list, as I haven't followed much of Chuck Norris or Lundgren. But your choices for Li and Statham are gold. I can agree with #1. One of the greatest martial arts films ever created. And speaking of Donnie Yen taking on Li, I'd love to see that in an Expendables sequel with Yen added to the cast. Heck, I'd just love to see a martial arts version of The Expendables with as many legendary martial artists in it as they can put in.
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+1
5:51PM on 08/13/2012

fantastic film!

fantastic action and surprisingly effective emotionally and dramatically as well. A unique and great experience, a must see and props for including this underrated/seen gem on this list! Can't say enough about it!
fantastic action and surprisingly effective emotionally and dramatically as well. A unique and great experience, a must see and props for including this underrated/seen gem on this list! Can't say enough about it!
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12:41PM on 08/13/2012
After watching this, the main theme music kept playing itself in my mind for days......Awesome movies!!!
After watching this, the main theme music kept playing itself in my mind for days......Awesome movies!!!
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12:36PM on 08/13/2012
Brandon Lee was great in this one. And that beheading scene has to go down as one of the best on screen beheadings ever!!
Brandon Lee was great in this one. And that beheading scene has to go down as one of the best on screen beheadings ever!!
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9:33AM on 08/13/2012
All I know is, Jet Li better get a better - and FAR bigger - turn in this new movie. He was in the previous one for just a few lines, and then when his "big moment" finally came, he spends half of it getting his ass handed to him, and all done in VERY poor [link] to the point that one has to wonder if it was even HIM in the shots. It was my biggest point of disappointment in that film, and if he's cheaply used again here, consider me DONE with the franchise. (Even with the mighty return of
All I know is, Jet Li better get a better - and FAR bigger - turn in this new movie. He was in the previous one for just a few lines, and then when his "big moment" finally came, he spends half of it getting his ass handed to him, and all done in VERY poor [link] to the point that one has to wonder if it was even HIM in the shots. It was my biggest point of disappointment in that film, and if he's cheaply used again here, consider me DONE with the franchise. (Even with the mighty return of Schwarzenegger.)
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5:37AM on 08/13/2012

Holy Shit!

I remember this! Damn, this movie ROCKED!
I remember this! Damn, this movie ROCKED!
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+3
5:36AM on 08/13/2012
This movie...just to watch Lundgren alone running down the street in his Karate Kid outfit with a large sword during a parade while no one blinks an eye at him. Think about it for a second...a 6' 5" white dude with blonde hair in a white (what looks like) party costume gi, complete with white head band with a large tree symbol on the forehead, running barefoot the wrong way through a parade while carrying a 5 foot long sword, and no one finds it strange.

Best laugh I've had in along time.
This movie...just to watch Lundgren alone running down the street in his Karate Kid outfit with a large sword during a parade while no one blinks an eye at him. Think about it for a second...a 6' 5" white dude with blonde hair in a white (what looks like) party costume gi, complete with white head band with a large tree symbol on the forehead, running barefoot the wrong way through a parade while carrying a 5 foot long sword, and no one finds it strange.

Best laugh I've had in along time.
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+1
5:30AM on 08/13/2012
There are two slightly different versions of this movie out there, the US version and the European version.
There are two slightly different versions of this movie out there, the US version and the European version.
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5:30AM on 08/13/2012

classic

The greatest action pairing EVER!
The greatest action pairing EVER!
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+0
5:28AM on 08/13/2012
This was one of Dark Horse Comics' first movies based on one of their properties. Dig the movie and the tv series that followed.
This was one of Dark Horse Comics' first movies based on one of their properties. Dig the movie and the tv series that followed.
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5:12AM on 08/13/2012
Double Post
Double Post
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4:48AM on 08/13/2012
Both this and KOTD are underrated films but hey, thats Hollywood for you. *sigh* man I miss the good ol' days of Hong Kong cinema where Jet Li kick major ass with gems like Tai Chi master, The Bodyguard From Beijing and My Father Is A Hero.
Both this and KOTD are underrated films but hey, thats Hollywood for you. *sigh* man I miss the good ol' days of Hong Kong cinema where Jet Li kick major ass with gems like Tai Chi master, The Bodyguard From Beijing and My Father Is A Hero.
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4:38AM on 08/13/2012
That mullet alone he sports automatically makes this movie awesome.
That mullet alone he sports automatically makes this movie awesome.
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4:31AM on 08/13/2012
My favorite Van Damme film
My favorite Van Damme film
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4:30AM on 08/13/2012
Didn't really care for this movie at first but after a few viewings it began to grow on me & is one of his better films.
Didn't really care for this movie at first but after a few viewings it began to grow on me & is one of his better films.
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4:26AM on 08/13/2012
LOL totally forgot about this movie but no Van Damme tops Bloodsport
LOL totally forgot about this movie but no Van Damme tops Bloodsport
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4:21AM on 08/13/2012
The Expendables is clearly a movie not made to win over critics or any awards, they are fun over the top movies who have the best of the best in action stars of the 80s & 90s & thats all any true action fan can ask for. Really hope they turn this into a trilogy with Snipes, Segal & maybe Jackie Chan so he & Jet Li can have a real showdown unlike that garbage Forbidden Kingdom.
The Expendables is clearly a movie not made to win over critics or any awards, they are fun over the top movies who have the best of the best in action stars of the 80s & 90s & thats all any true action fan can ask for. Really hope they turn this into a trilogy with Snipes, Segal & maybe Jackie Chan so he & Jet Li can have a real showdown unlike that garbage Forbidden Kingdom.
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