Yesterday we ran the first of 5 articles showcasing the cast of the upcoming man-tastic film, The Expendables.
That first article focused on the newer and lesser-known stars of the film and today we continue our series with the second installment, which will focus on the two of the bigger-name stars from the 80s and 90s – Dolph Lundgren and Eric Roberts.
There was some doubt in the comments of yesterday’s article on whether Terry Crews, Randy Couture and Steve Austin had done enough onscreen work to even be considered action stars, but in the case of Lundgren and Roberts, I don’t think that will be an issue.
The two actors’ combined body of work totals over 100 film and television appearances, and while not all of those are considered to be hits, a few are considered to be some of the most iconic roles of the past thirty years.
Dolph Lundgren – Gunnar Jensen
Dolph Lundgren is one of those actors who has become synonymous with action roles that involve less talking and more butt kicking. While I won’t swear by it, I would venture a guess that in his roles for The Punisher, Rocky IV, Universal Solider and A View to a Kill, he probably only had a combined total of 20 lines of dialogue – maybe less. In the early days of his career, Dolph was more about looking chiseled and mugging for the camera than he was about doing any kind of serious theatrical work, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
By choosing to go the route of the B-movie action star, Lundgren was able to give us awesome one-liners like “But you go in pieces,” in response to the alien menace from I Come in Peace and “I HAVE THE POWER!” as He-Man in Masters of the Universe. Here is an interesting quote from Dolph, taken from his website dolphlundgren.net regarding his role as He-Man:
Playing He-Man was pretty much my lowest point as an actor, it was a kids` movie. How much could I do as an actor when I was running around in swim trunks and chest armor?
I think he’s probably right because as bad as the very first Punisher film was, at least he was dressed in leather and guns. However, his outfit isn’t going to be a problem in The Expendables, where he plays “Gunnar Jensen,” an expert sniper with internal demons.
Lundgren is a real-life badass who holds a 3rd degree black belt in Karate and even captained the Swedish National Karate Team. And if you think he is all brawn and no brains, think again; he holds a Masters Degree in Chemical Engineering from The Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.
So what has he done onscreen that qualifies him as an Expendable? Check out our top 5 reasons:
#5 – Masters of the Universe
Lundgren can hate this role all he wants, but the simple fact that he was manly enough to run around in “swim trunks and chest armor” place this film as one of his qualifiers. Swords, magic, an epic climatic battle with Skeletor plus a series of one-liners? Yeah, ’nuff said.
#4 – I Come in Peace
In what is probably his best leading action role to date, Lundgren portrays Detective Jack Caine “a Houston cop who has forgotten how to follow the rules.” Things get ugly when the evil alien Talec drops onto earth in Caine’s city and starts killing people with heroin so he can harvest a rare drug from their brains. It’s a cheesy plot for a film and has even cheesier dialogue (see the quote I mentioned before) but the action scenes are way over the top and completely thrilling.
#3 – Showdown in Little Tokyo
As Sergeant Chris Kenner in Los Angeles, Lundgren teams up with Brandon Lee (son of Bruce Lee) as two L.A. cops who, as the trailer so hammedly puts its, “are hungry for a little take out.” I was going to hunt down some clips from this movie and post them, but honestly the trailer has some of the best scenes in it – my favorite being where Lundgren punches through a door and rips a guy through it.
#2 – The Punisher
Lundgren is Frank Castle, a man out for revenge on the crime syndicate that murdered his family – and that’s pretty much where the movie stopped following the Marvel comic book. This movie is widely considered to be muddled mess, but somehow the producers managed to convince Louis Gossett Jr. to co-star in it. Bad movie asisde, Lundgren is a true badass – wearing leather, riding a motorcycle and sporting more weapons than an entire platoon.
#1 – Rocky IV
Dolph Lundgren’s performance as Ivan Drago in 1985’s Rocky IV is by far and away his breakout role. He doesn’t have much dialogue and isn’t required to do that much “acting” but will always be remembered as the tall blond Russian boxer who killed Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). In what is probably one of the most enjoyable boxing scenes in cinema history, Ivan Drago and Rocky Balboa go toe-to-toe for several rounds. At 6’5″, Drago dwarfed Balboa and both put up worthy efforts, but in the end we all know Rocky had to win. I sometimes wonder: If Stallone and Lundgren were to really box, who would win?
Eric Roberts – James Munroe
Roberts has been one of the most versatile yet under-appreciated, male actors of the past 20 years. He actually has significant acting skills, but has been known to overact when the opportunity presents itself – which makes him the perfect villain for The Expendables. He plays James Munroe, an ex-C.I.A. agent that has less than honorable motives.
Roberts started his career by studying drama at London’s acclaimed Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts at the young age of 17. After a handful of mildly successful films in the ’70s, Roberts was in a horrible crash in 1981 which put him in a coma for 3 days and significantly altered his appearance. Instead of the leading man roles, he started gravitating towards co-starring roles and through a series of bad choices (read: crappy films) found himself settling for paychecks instead of kudos.
Roberts was basically re-introduced to mainstream audience as Thompson, the head of The Company on the hit NBC show Heroes. One again, he proved himself to be a solid actor and was easily believable as the guy who’s loyalties you weren’t sure about. We compiled a list of our top 5 films that we believe qualify Eric Roberts to be in The Expendables:
#5 – The Specialist
Even though The Specialist isn’t considered to be one of the best films ever made (although I enjoyed it), Roberts gave a fine villainous performance as Tomas Leon, a mobster who has Sharon Stone’s father killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Although the film ultimately pits Sylvester Stallone against James Woods, it’s Robert’s actions that are ultimately the catalyst for the action – that and the fact that Woods kills a little girl with a bomb at the beginning. That probably had something to do with it too.
#4 – By the Sword
In 1991, Roberts played opposite F. Murray Abraham in a little-known action/drama set at a prestigious fencing academy. It was a shame that not many people knew about this film because Roberts does a good job of portraying Alex Villard, who runs the academy with a “win at all costs” mentality. F. Murray Abraham is Max Suba, a former fencing champion who is out of practice but takes the opposite approach to fencing. The movie ends with a climatic and exciting duel between Villard and Suba.
#3 – Best of the Best 2
I literally just watched this film last night and I forgot how much I enjoy it. While the majority of the karate action comes from Phillip Rhee, Roberts does a good job of holding his own in the martial arts world. Slender and decently built, Roberts has the look of a martial arts expert but this is one of those movies where he has a tendency to overact.
#2 – Runaway Train
Some consider this to be Robert’s breakout role, in which he plays opposite Jon Voight as two ex-criminals who stowaway on a freight train in the middle of winter in Alaska. The two find themselves in a chilling (heh) situation when the engineer dies of a heart attack leaving just them and a female railroad worker trapped on the out of control train. While there aren’t that many action scenes involving Roberts, it was his performance in the film which impressed many viewers.
#1 – Best of the Best
Alex Grady is a father and a martial expert chosen to come out of retirement after a shoulder injury to represent America in an international taekwondo tournament against Korea. Roberts actually does a great acting job and we get to struggle with his personal demons alongside him. The greatest moment for me is the final fight in the movie, where Grady re-injures his arm and must choose whether to quit and go home or fight on through the pain. He ends up choosing the latter and defeats his opponent with one-arm tied to his body. Bad. Ass.
These are just some of the reasons that both Dolph Lundgren and Eric Roberts deserve to play a role in The Expendables. With such long and vast histories in action films, what other examples can you think of?
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