As you know I have a professional interest in the old B-action pictures. I like your Seagals, your Swayzes, and your etceteras. That’s why somebody asked me Vern, do you know about this guy Brian Bosworth though. I said are you kidding me? Let me answer your question with a question. Did I live in Seattle in the year 1987? Of course I know who the damn Boz is. He was on the Seahawks and the local media acted like he was Jesus Christ Hisself, coming down from Heaven with a sacramental football and a new haircut. The haircut of course was a bleach blond mullet with designs shaved on the side, sometimes a full color Seahawks logo. It was called the Boz cut. I guess you could say he was the Dennis Rodman of his time. Known for his calculated outrageous fashion and In Your Face Attitude, he was a phenomenon with the kids. The white Mr. T. People copied the haircut, they had pro and anti Boz t-shirts, they even had this poster that said “Land of Boz” and showed him going down the yellow brick road with a bunch of kids dressed as him (Bozkins, probaly). He was a real big fuckin deal for all us retards here in Seattle.
Only one problem was, he never played that good. He kept getting injured and retired after three seasons. But his career was insured so he got rich off it all. After that score he figured, what the hell, maybe you can pull this same shit off in movies. Moved to L.A. and made STONE COLD. And it should’ve been obvious just from that background that this was gonna be a real good bad action movie.
The movie opens in a grocery store where a group of Troma-style insane biker criminals are robbing the joint and terrorizing the shoppers with machine guns. But they start to panic when they realize some dude (Brian Bosworth) is just ignoring them and continuing his shopping. Remember after 9-11, everybody was all scared and they told us the one way we were gonna show these terrorists what fucking time it was, was we were gonna go back out there and shop, buy products, etc. This is the same exact thing, the fuckers just freak out. They send guys after him but he uses canned food to foil them. He acts real cocky and he’s wearing a leather trenchcoat with big shoulder flaps like a samurai or an evil space villain would wear. I mean, Seagal must’ve been so jealous when he saw this coat. When the cops show up they’re sayin shit like, “Oh jesus, what did you do this time Joe, you’re still on suspension!” So you know he’s a Cop Who Plays By His Own Rules. In these type of movies it is heroic to be a self absorbed asshole who everybody at the workplace hates.
So far so good, but it’s during the credits that we realize this is something special, a bad action movie with a little more crazy energy than expected. I mean there’s a pretty good part where a judge gets blown up while he’s fishing. But the topper is before that, a little scene, maybe about 4 or 5 seconds long, consisting of only 3 shots. First you got a smiling minister baptising a baby. Next shot, you got a big bald dude firing a shotgun at the priest. Then finally you got the minister flying through the air and crashing through a stained glass window. I didn’t notice until the second time I rewound it that when the glass shatters you can barely make out the rest of the biker gang sitting outside like they’re watching a play.
I mean they just hit you with that scene out of the blue and then move on like it’s nothing. It’s important to the plot, because the baldy gets 45 years in prison, and a showboating D.A. is trying to get it changed to a death sentence, and that’s what the gang is angry about throughout the movie. They act like he’s a political prisoner or something. I mean, all he did was shotgun a baptist minister in front of a baby. Is that a crime? They never explain why the fuck this guy wanted to blow away a minister in the middle of a baptism. I mean there must’ve been some reason I bet.
Anyway, the Boz is a typical Alabama cop, except that he has a Boz cut and lives with a giant lizard, and probaly lives in L.A. The FBI somehow holds the singlehandedly-stopping-a-grocery-store-robbery/takeover incident over his head to force him into an undercover job, using his expertise in biker gangs. He has to infiltrate The Brotherhood, which I don’t know if it’s the same gang as robbed the grocery store, but these guys are killing religious leaders and selling drugs and hooking up with the mafia and who knows, probaly smuggling human organs. All kinds of bad shit. So you see it is a heavily researched and highly realistic examination of modern day bike gangs.
The Boz renames himself “JOHN STONE” and teams up with an uptight and obsessive compulsive square cop (Sam McMurray) then goes to a bar and picks a fight with a guy named Ice who’s a bigshot in the Brotherhood. It’s kind of like throwing rocks at girls on the playground though because they invite him to the rally and he becomes some kind of junior probationary member. Anyway Ice is William Forsythe, playing another great lunatic like he did the same year in OUT FOR JUSTICE (arguably Seagal’s best picture). This guy is such a fucking weasel. I love him. His overacting goes so far over the top that it loops back around under the bottom and then flips back to over the top again, like a little kid getting pushed way too hard on a swingset. This time he’s a greasy, bearded longhair so his mad eye gleam makes him look like Manson (in OUT FOR JUSTICE he’s an insane mafia wannabe on a suicidal killing spree/crack binge).
So William Forsythe becomes Stone’s rival in the gang, but we need an even better villain for the leader so, obviously, it’s Lance Henriksen as Chains. (There are also other gang members with such one word names as Gut, AWOL, Tool, Trouble and Mudfish.) It’s great to see Lance Henriksen with long hair and a goatee, walking around with a sleeveless vest and no shirt. He plays alot of damn villains and alot of them are pretty much the same character, but this time he’s lower class and he gets to have a different look.
If you ever get chained up, what you do, you pick up a stone and start pounding on the chain until it breaks. Stone and Chains are born enemies, two bones chipped off the same skeleton and cast into the sea in opposite directions, fated to one day drift together and collide again. Chains is Lance Henriksen, so he’s a lanky freak with deep, cold eyes, his face covered in more lines than a map. Stone is Brian Bosworth, so he’s a smooth, shiny, golden haired meatball. One look at these guys standing next to each other and you can understand why Chains would hate that smarmy muscleman bitch.
I mean think about how perfect it is. Here’s Lane Henriksen, such a talented character actor with such an interesting face and strong presence. Working his ass off for decades, never getting cut a fuckin break. Dog Day Afternoon looked like it was gonna be the big one, but it never made him a household name or gave him the kind of clout he needed to be able to pick and choose his roles. Shit, even after Aliens, he doesn’t seem to be able to turn anything down. Including everything from Wes Craven’s Mindripper to Alien vs. Predator to Stone Cold. He later got that TV show Millennium for a while, but at this time the best he could hope for was action movie villain roles like this one and Hard Target.
And then in the other corner you got this bland jock who has to wear a silly coat and paint the side of his head to seem interesting.Click to tweet
I don’t blame you Lance Henriksen. Kill that fucker.
I got some beef with some of these villains though man, the way they run their operations is so incompetent. I mean what the hell kind of robbery was that in the opening anyway? You got a big team, you’re risking murder one and wasting a bunch of machine gun bullets on a measly grocery store job? I mean there’s probaly pretty good cash in those tills for a one or two man job, but not with this kind of split. Especially in this day and age when most people are gonna be paying with credit. Only people that use cash are just buying a Pepsi or a Snickers or something. So either they didn’t put too much thought into the economics of this job or, more ominously, they just don’t give a fuck. They do this shit as a leisure activity.
The mafia is pretty inefficient here too, they attack one of the biker gang’s runners and steal the bag of money from a shakedown they did. And it’s only four hundred! (Musta been all in nickels judging from the size of the bag.) The damage Stone does to their car before they get away is gonna cost more than $400. That’s just not a good crime there, guys.
But that’s either here or there, or whatever the saying is, that they say. Anyway the director is Craig Baxley of the Baxley stunt family. He started out as a stuntman and stunt coordinator/second unit director. Started out directing on The A-Team, then started doing movies like Action Jackson and I Come in Peace. I guess it must be his background in stunts that gives this one that extra spark. I mean I’ve seen so many generic takes on this exact type of material but this one is more memorable. There are lots of little touches that take it further than you expect. A guy gets hit in the face, he’s gonna flip all the way over. A guy gets shot, he’s gonna go flying ten feet through the air, maybe fall out a window and crush the top of a car. A vehicle moves, it’s gonna explode.
This is a movie with the big action finale inside the Mississippi Supreme Court, during a trial. There are motorcycles driving around the halls, burning rubber on marble floors. When Stone pulls a matador maneuver on one motorcycle it crashes out a window, collides with a helicopter and explodes, causing the copter to fall down onto a car, which explodes also and scorches some other cars (too bad it didn’t make those explode too).
In the middle of all this you got Lance Henriksen gleefully machine gunning everybody in the court room, dressed in a priest outfit.
When Stone’s uptight partner is forced to kill Chains, Stone just gives him a smile like, “I’m beginning to like you, man.” Don’t be a pussy Sam McMurray, having to kill a guy in a priest outfit in the middle of the supreme court building couldn’t be that traumatic. I don’t know, maybe Stone regrets treating the whole thing so lightly. That’s one of many possibilities of what he might be thinking about during the awesome end credits where he struts out of the courthouse, blood dripping down his face, staring off thoughtfully in the distance as everybody else scrambles to make sense of the mayhem.
In my opinion, STONE COLD is in the upper tier of this type of movie, the ones you want to watch over again and share with your friends and what not. Brian Bosworth wasn’t a keeper, but this movie was. And now the Boz cut will live on forever. If they ever put this out on DVD.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.