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Stone Cold (1991)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

STONE COLD (1991)

Starring: Brian Bosworth, Lance Henriksen, William Forsythe, Arabella Holzbog, Sam McMurray

Written By: Walter Doniger Directed By: Craig R. Baxley

The Short Version

An NFL bad boy tries his hand at action movies.

He does a credible job of it, too, after a fashion.

The movie he’s in is ridiculous, of course, but surprisingly entertaining.

Lance Henriksen steals the show as the batshit biker boss.

For cheesy early 90s action, Stone Cold holds up all right.  Just don’t ask it to make sense.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

SWISS.

Shot full of holes but you don’t care because it tastes all right anyway.


Pairs Well With...

SCHLITZ.

The bikers in this flick all drink Dixie beer, but I wouldn’t make you do that.  Besides, the movie deserves at least a little better.

“You look like a grown-up version of Bam-Bam.”


After it was determined that linebacker Brian “the Boz” Bosworth wasn’t going to last even a third of his then-record contract with the Seattle Seahawks (a shoulder injury cut that career short), someone thought it’d be a cool idea to try him out on the action movie circuit.  His first attempt: Stone Cold.

Let’s be clear from the start: Stone Cold is no one’s idea of an Oscar winner.  The story is paper thin.  The plot makes so many leaps in logic that it would give an Olympic hurdler fits.  The characters and the subplots are all straight off the cheese cellar shelf.  Key action pieces are ripped off from other movies wholesale.  The “exploitation” dial has been set to “high.”  Bosworth himself is never really asked to, y’know, act.   If one comes into this flick with a predisposition to shred it, there’s more than enough fuel here to justify that. 

But, surprise!  Despite or perhaps even because of all of those things that caused the highfalutin establishment to turn its collective nose up at Stone Cold – which, frankly, they tended to do with most of the action genre, even though it was the dominant force in film at the time – it’s genuinely entertaining, so long as one doesn’t ask it to make sense.  (Which no true Golden Age of Action fan ever would.)

Here’s the premise.  After some random violence is perpetrated against some snack crackers at a grocery store (hello, Cobra reference!), suspended Alabama cop Joe Huff (Bosworth) is blackmailed by the FBI into doing some dirty work for them in Mississippi.  If agrees to go undercover and help them take down “Chains” Cooper (Lance Henriksen, Alien vs. Predator), the leader of a nasty biker gang called “The Brotherhood,” they’ll get his suspension erased.  If he declines, they’ll get it extended by six extra months, without pay.  Two-tone mullet though he may have, Huff isn’t dumb; he knows he’s got to take the deal.  But if you think you know how everything’s gonna go down from there on in, guess again, because even though this script is as derivative as it comes, the writer is very good at taking key expectations and tossing them out the window.

I don’t want to spoil things for you, so I’ll just say this: when the movie’s done, look at everything that’s happened, and decide for yourself just how successful “the Boz” really turns out to have been when it comes to keeping the bad guys in check.

And when I say bad guys, I mean bad guys.  How bad?  The first thing the audience sees a member of the Brotherhood do is blow away a preacher immediately after he’s baptized a baby at the church altar.  Yeah; that bad.  Of course, that kind of thing is a pretty tough act to follow, and from there on in, the Brotherhood doesn’t hit the same “shocker” level until the “no holds barred” climactic battle.  But between the brawls and the wrestling-ring-style trash talk and shoving a guy’s fingers into the spokes of a spinning bike wheel, they certainly hold their own as leather-clad badasses in Willie braids.  It also helps that their chief enforcer is played by William Forsythe (Out For Justice), who’s never found a piece of scenery he can’t chew to shreds, and I mean that in a good way.  Forsythe takes the asshole stereotype he’s given and goes to town with it, providing a formidable blustering presence that helps to keeps the atmosphere pumped up between beat downs and explosions.

With that said, though, the true highlight of Stone Cold has to be the performance of Lance Henriksen, who turns the opportunity to go beyond his normally understated type into a hard drinkin’ party.  In a movie that doesn’t bother asking most of its cast to “act,” per se, Henriksen goes above and beyond to more than earn his money.   “Chains” is what genre fans tend to refer to as “batshit insane,” and Henriksen puts his own spin on Busey and Walken to create one of his most unique and memorable roles.  (It’s not just because of the amount of time he spends either shirtless or in chain mail, either.)  His every line is a treat to listen to, his laughs are dangerous, and when he gets mean, he gets mean.  Trust me, folks, you’ll have no trouble at all believing that this skinny guy can keep an iron hold over a badass biker gang.

And hey, you know what they say: the better the villain looks, the better the hero looks, which brings us to the subject of Brian Bosworth.

Lance Henriksen may be putting in a high power performance, but Bosworth is happy to take full advantage of the fact that the director doesn’t seem too concerned about holding him to the same standard.  Nope; “Boz” just has to show up, strut his mullet, ride his own personal motorcycle (he felt more comfortable with his own), toss the occasional guy across the room, and make sure that his shirt is off as often as humanly possible.  (Banana hammock alert!)  And you know what?  For a flick like this that’s built on brawls, that’s perfectly okay.  He may not have the charisma of Jean-Claude Van Damme or the smoothness of early-days Steve Seagal, but he’s got just enough personality to carry the day.  (The script and the director give him a boost, too; putting orange juice, eggs, potato chips, and Snickers bars into a blender to feed one’s giant pet lizard adds extra cred with no acting required.)  Given the era, he does a credible job, especially since Stone Cold is a straight-up brawler the only calls for barroom style skills that are easily translated from Bosworth’s previous life as a linebacker.  He’s certainly more engaging than several other headliners of the time (I’m looking at you, David Bradley), to the point where it seems kind of a shame that he wouldn’t return to the screen for another five years after this flick.  Too bad, I say; it could’ve been fun.

Speaking of fun, the folks behind the camera (at least the ones who finished the job; the first director got replaced just a few weeks into the shoot) know where the bread gets buttered during the Golden Age of Action Movies, and put their greatest efforts forward accordingly.  That’s why it hardly matters whether or not “Boz” is a master thespian; the important thing is the action, and that’s where Stone Cold delivers.  The brawls look good, the gunplay works well, the chases are fun, and the final battle is full-on ridiculous.  No, the hero can’t deliver a decent pun to save his life, but the villain can, and the 90s one-liner requirement can be waived when there’s a biker twist on a Viking funeral to be had.  And yes, in case you’re wondering, there is an extraordinary amount of random toplessness and minor nudity to be seen here, though given the outlaw biker culture being showcased, it doesn’t really come across as gratuitous.  (Not that the average audience for this flick is likely to care whether or not it does, of course.)  Topping it all off, it’s hard to go wrong with a score by Sylvester Levay.

When all is said done, the stuff that should be entertaining is entertaining.  Just remember: don’t think too hard about anything that’s going on in this movie, because nothing good can come out of firing up the old brain cells.  If you do that, you might notice what a colossal mess our hero makes of things at every turn, or that the villain’s ultimate plan is a hopeless suicide run for his whole organization, or that just about every character in this movie other than the “hooker with a heart of gold” stereotype (who is, of course, an “old lady” instead of a hooker, thins being a biker flick and all) is more than a few sandwiches short of a picnic.  No; just give your brain a rest and enjoy the loud noises, bright explosions, and testosterone-laden brawls.

Bottom line, Stone Cold is no reasonable person’s idea of a great film, but as a relatively rare biker-oriented entry in the catalog of the Golden Age of Action Movies, it’s still plenty of fun.  Yeah, the plot’s ridiculous, but so is the action, especially at the end, and if brawls and gunplay are your thing, there are plenty of worse ways to spend an hour and a half of your time.

Just don’t get any funny ideas about bringing back two tone mullets, all right?

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, January, 2014


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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