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Stone Cold (1991)
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by Jack Sommersby

"'Bam Bam' Bosworth"
3 stars

Well, it certainly wasn't the breakout debut for its star as was hoped, but it's by no means a disgrace.

Stone Cold is a far-from-great star vehicle for the debuting Brian Bosworth, a former linebacker for the NFL's Seattle Seahawks; and because Bosworth neither radiates a whole lot of charisma nor can act worth a damn, it'd be tempting to write the whole thing off as a complete waste of time. But Bosworth isn't bad: six-foot-five with a GQ-mane of blonde hair and an intimidating well-muscled physique, he manages to be fairly appealing and disarming; and he's willing to lightly mock his impressive build and ultra-handsome looks (when a tough guy gets in his face and calls him a "grown-up version of Bam Bam," Bosworth responds with a smirk that let's us know he's in on the joke). And the story, while contrived and predictable to a tee, has enough colorful characters and action to satisfy fans of the genre. Okay, the opening scene of a convenience-store robbery that Bosworth's Alabama cop Joe Huff stumbles into is a direct lift from countless other movies, but it's played for humor, culminating in a nice bit where Huff dispatches the last of the three robbers by dumping cooking oil at the end of an aisle -- when the guy makes a break for it and thinks he's got it made, he slips on the stuff and gets hurled smack-dab into a candy display; and when the police arrive and a gruff detective balls Huff out for getting himself into trouble while he's serving out a three-week suspension for insubordination, Bosworth eases into the punch line, "You've got a clean-up on aisle four." (Nothing Shakespearean, I know, but Bosworth, refreshingly devoid of smarminess, flashes an understated killer smile and seals the deal.)

Huff is an expert at busting biker gangs, and the FBI enlists him to go undercover to infiltrate a Mississippi gang that's been killing judges and district attorneys responsible for putting away violent gang members. Naturally, Huff isn't trusting of the Feds, but he's blackmailed into the assignment (a three-week suspension can easily be prolonged into six months, he's told). So he puts on the rags and rides over the state on an impressive-looking cycle to take down the gang's vicious leader Chains (Lance Henriksen) and his temperamental second-in-command Ice (William Forsythe). Busting the heads of some anti-biker toughies in a bar gets him noticed and soon accepted into the gang; and he gradually gets Chains interested in a big-time dope deal of speed additive P2P that he claims only he can get his hands on, but Chains is smart and doesn't let Huff into the major crux of the operation right away. Huff gives progress reports to a junior agent, Lance (Sam McMurray), who's a bit of sissy and whose attempts to blend in at the biker hangouts definitely make him stick out, and the only reason the character isn't borderline unbearable is because McMurray has reserves of variety -- when his fragile FBI man eventually has to swing into action at the end, we can't help but root for the incorrigible guy. And we don't have to worry about Chains and Ice cutting it as viable villains because Henriksen and Forsythe, two undervalued actors, play them with aplomb and make vivid, forceful impressions -- they're more than worthy adversaries for the righteous Huff.

The director is Craig R. Baxley, and while the movie isn't as mammothly entertaining as his debut Action Jackson (with Carl Weathers) or as enjoyably quirky as his follow-up I Come in Peace (with Dolph Lundgren), it definitely moves. With its shorthand screenplay, cliched situations, and almost total reliance on action, Stone Cold is basically the kind of project that requires nothing more than second-unit-like directing; so Baxley, who was the assistant to Walter Hill in The Warriors and John McTiernan in Predator, is the perfect craftsman for the job. His framing can still be a bit clunky at times, and he doesn't know how to shape a talking-heads scene to save his life, but when it comes to fistfights and bike chases he's definitely in his element. He can choreograph action using multiple camera angles while still maintaining cohesive spatial logistics, and he doesn't hammer everything together with uncouth, frenetic cutting that keeps us from getting our visual bearing on things. (He makes movies in the manner of someone who respects those who like watching movies sans bombastic MTV-style editing.) It's not every day Hollywood is graced with a fine B-movie technician who loves actors as well as action: Baxley refuses to make the proceedings overly mechanical by ignoring the human element even if the writing isn't bursting with rich characterizations. Oh, the grand finale is preposterous beyond belief as the bikers overtake an entire state-capitol courthouse building, with a motorcycle crashing into a helicopter while it's in the air for good measure. Lucky for us, though, Baxley never puts on airs that he's "above" this sort of thing -- he believes in its innate appeal for those willing to surrender to it, and because of his gift at bringing this kind of thing off, Stone Cold should please those other than ga-ga Bosworth groupies.

The DVD offers a fine though not great transfer, and besides the theatrical trailer, no special features are included.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=23306&reviewer=327
originally posted: 01/10/12 19:14:09
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User Comments

4/23/17 David H. Just an excuse to see Bosworth almost naked. 1 stars
3/09/14 Charles Tatum Bosworth ain't bad, but Henriksen steals it all 3 stars
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  17-May-1991 (R)
  DVD: 12-Jun-2007



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