The recent Mel Gibson fiasco has me reflecting on my action heroes of the 80s. In High School I watched big dumb action flicks on a weekly basis at the local dollar theater and I loved them. The predictable plots! Unrealistic action sequences! Beautiful girls! And awesome smokey Ridley Scott rip off lighting! And of course, the cool as ice action hero with the kick ass fight moves, killer clothes and gettin the ladies! With Gibson spending the latter half of his career insulting every man, woman and child who isn't him, I've decided to reflect on those guys that lit up the silver screen with karate kicks and bad catch phrases. Because as Gibson (and Tom Cruise) has proven, your handlers can keep you under control for only so long before you decide to show America your nutty side.
Starring: Mel Gibson
Lame nickname I gave him: Mad Mel
Saw him first: Watching Mad Max at my best friend's house off his pirated HBO while waiting for his Dad to drive us to middle school in the morning. I'd never seen a movie that violent before. One guy throws a chain with a hook onto a moving car and it is later revealed his hand came off and is hanging off the car. Max's wife and child get run over. Max gets hit in the leg and has his arm run over before blowing away the cyclist with a sawed off shotgun. And the final blow up with giving the last gang member a choice of sawing off his leg or dying of a gas explosion. Gibson had a slightly crazed coolness about him that made it all work.
The High Point: A tie! The Mad Max sequel The Road Warrior was practically hell on wheels. Gibson's performance of a grizzled hollow man with a buried moral code is cruical to the story arc. And then there's Lethal Weapon 2, where Martin Riggs changes from suicidally crazy to wacky crazy. Like Bugs Bunny with a pistol and a mullet.
Guilty Pleasure: I admit it, I like the lame brained rom com actioner Bird On A Wire with Goldie Hawn. Yes, everyone sleeps walks through it the jokes aren't that funny and the action is standard, maybe I like it because of its mediocrity.
When I stopped caring: Believe it or not, it was Braveheart. Braveheart was a good movie too. His often repeated speech on the horse before the final battle was killer. I think he just became too respectable for me - he achieved credibility which in turn makes him less credible in bad action films (and you know that wouldn't last). Sometimes when an actor takes him or herself too seriously I lose interest. And I know it wasn't intentional, still I felt bad for Ted Danson when A Man Without A Face came out because people said the scarred side of Gibson's mug looked like May Day Malone.
What's happened since then: The success of Braveheart became Gibson's Thriller, he became so big he just lost his mind after that. For better or worse, Passion Of The Christ made him the symbol of religious zealotry. There isn't enough space on this blog to list all the people Mad Mel has put down and insulted since then, so let's just say he added the phrase "sugar tits" to the national vocabulary and leave it at that. Though I do wonder if after hearing about Gibson's latest racist outburst, if former co-star Danny Glover grumbled "I'm too old for this shit"?
One last shot: The character continuity thing that still kills me about the Martin Riggs character is this - in the first movie they say Riggs knows so much martial arts that he should be registered as a lethal weapon. He has a big fight at the end of the movie where he pulls out all these martial arts moves against Gary Busey. So why in Lethal Weapon 4 does Riggs repeatedly get his ass handed to him by martial artists in hand to hand combat? And uses zero martial arts moves? Did Jet Li scare the kung fu out of him? I can see if the character said he was rusty, but to completely forget expert level training when it's needed most is a huge continuity gap for me.
Next time...the Governator!