Welcome to The Best Movie You NEVER Saw, a column dedicated to examining films that have flown under the radar or gained traction throughout the years, earning them a place as a cult classic or underrated gem that was either before it’s time and/or has aged like a fine wine.
This week we’ll be looking at STONE COLD!
In the early nineties, hardcore R-rated shoot-em-ups were all the rage. While Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were the kings of action, Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme were on the rise, and soon Hollywood was looking for new blood to lead their B-rated films. Enter Brian “The Boz” Bosworth, a controversial college ball-turned-NFL star known for his crazy antics. A media darling of a sort, he was noted for his charisma, so why not give him the lead in a tailor made action flick?
Oh, yeah. Worst script ever written. [Laughs.] We had no script. Madness. I just actually saw Lance Henriksen recently, and we laughed, because… basically, I don’t think there was one line from the script that we actually said in the movie. We made up our parts, which is why, I think, it has this cult life. Lance and I, we’re shocked to this day, because we were making this film, but… you know, we really didn’t have anything in it other than what we were doing. It’s shocking, when I go to a convention, how many people come up to me and talk about the film. So it’s a cult movie. – William Forsythe – Random Roles Interview
After the first director was fired and a new one (Craig R. Baxley) entered the fray, STONE COLD became something of a troubled production, and in the end it failed to launch Bosworth as a major star, only grossing $9.1 million off a substantial $25million budget, although it went on to cult success on VHS and cable.
Again, STONE COLD isn’t a particularly great film, but like others mentioned in this column, it’s a non-pretentious one and a good time at the movies. This rogue cop genre was red-hot at the time, and while Bosworth maybe didn’t have the chops to make it as a major star, he did fine in his role. In fact, his wild “mullet on mullet” hairdo and manner gives him a great rock-star edge, making him unique as far as heroes of the day go. He’s not conservative and something of a rock star and that makes him fun to watch. He’s more convincing as an undercover biker than a guy like Stallone would have been (although Charlie Sheen was even better in BEYOND THE LAW).
So I knew that the new director was coming in, and I met him in the lobby right off the plane, and I said, “Hi, I’m Lance,” and blah blah blah, and I said, “We’re really in trouble, man.” And at the risk of being fired, I said to him, “You can’t do what this guy wrote.” Because he had written… Every line that I had was biblical. I mean, right out of the bible. And I said, “Wait a minute, the minute I open my mouth, the audience is gonna lean back and go, ‘I’m not listening to this jerk!’” So, anyway, I said, “We’re gonna have to improvise it all. I don’t want to change the narrative or the scenes that have to happen, but everything I have to say… We can’t say it. We have to create it.” – Lance Henriksen – Random Roles Interview
However, the movie earns its place in this column on the merits of its villains. STONE COLD has two great ones. First, there’s William Forsythe as the muscle-bound baddie, Ice, who has it in for Bosworth from the start. Apparently he made up a bunch of his lines, and great off-the-cuff ones like when he tells Bosworth he looks like a grown-up version of Bam-Bam make the movie what it is. Even better is Lance Henriksen, who takes what could have been a rote bad guy role and terms him into a cultish, charismatic leader. He mercilessly chews the scenery, and like Forsythe, plays fast and loose with his dialogue. These two are impeccable playing off each other, and part me wishes Forsythe had been the hero cop against Henriksen the baddie. Would have been nifty, although that said “The Boz” does just fine.
Director Craig R. Baxley was one of the best B-level directors of the era, knowing his way pretty well around an action scene, and I love his take on the old cop movie cliché, the supermarket shootout. Boz has some great lines too.
SEE IT: STONE COLD is available on Blu-ray and many streaming services.
PARTING SHOT: Again, you have to watch STONE COLD with your tongue firmly in its cheek. It’s a film of its era, but in that regard it’s a heck of a lot of fun, especially if eighties/early-nineties R-rated action is your thing.
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