Movies are full of seniors these days. I’m not talking about the blue haired Jimmy Buffett fans in the seats, but the stars on the big screen. The action heroes of my youth are trying to prove that age is only a number with mixed results. Both Stallone (aged 66) and Schwarzenegger (aged 65) released films in the last two months trying to recapture the box office muscles they once possessed in the 80s. Yet, both were met with empty theaters. Bullet to the Head had the poorest performance, only grossing $6 million at the box office. Outside The Expendables, Sly has proved that he can no longer go over the top at the box office. I think it’s safe to say that the Italian Stallion’s days as a lead action star are over. Stick to the ensembles Sly.
Former Governor Schwarzenegger didn’t fare much better in The Last Stand, his first lead since Terminator 3. I didn’t think The Last Stand was a great movie, but it wasn’t a bad movie either. The car chase scenes were exciting and the “shoot ’em” violence was campy, but cool. The negative of the film was to see the once physical specimen that was Schwarzenegger in the 80s, only a shell of his former self. Schwarzenegger can’t convey the physical prowess that he once exuded on-screen. The Last Stand only made $11 million at the box office, but Arnold still has numerous projects lined up so we will see if “he’ll be back.” My bet is — studios are going to be losing some money on the Governator.
There are a few old timers that are defying the odds and kicking butt at the movies. Ten years ago you would have laughed at the thought of Liam Neeson (aged 60) as an action star. Neeson won critical acclaim playing Oskar Schindler, Rob Roy and Micheal Collins. Neeson was never seen as an action hero until someone decided to anger Mr. Neeson and kidnap his daughter. Not in real life, just on the big screen in Taken. Taken was a surprise hit and started Neeson’s second career as an action star. Neeson appeared in the A-Team, both Titans movies and the hugely underrated The Grey. Neeson proved again last fall that he is not to be messed with at the box office leading Taken 2 to $139 million dollars in ticket sales. I love to see a great actor like Neeson getting a nice second life to his career considering all the heartache he endured after the death of his wife Natasha Richardson in 2009.
The next actor to hold on to his action crown is an older gentlemen, but still younger than the aforementioned actors we spoke of earlier. Bruce Willis, everyone’s favorite above average Joe, is young compared to his Expendables and Planet Hollywood cohorts. Willis is 57 and is still successfully defending his action hero title with this weeks release of A Good Day to Die Hard. That’s not the only action film that is on the way for Bruce. He’ll appear in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Red 2 and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. I think the reason Bruce Willis is able to survive in the action world is because he is a better actor than Stallone and Schwarzenegger. Even though Willis is in the twilight of his career, he can still shine in films like Looper, Red and The Expendables franchise. We’ ll see if Willis can still make John McClane save the day at the box office later this week. I personally think even with the R rating, which I couldn’t be more thrilled about, A Good Day to Die Hard will make near $50 million at the box office opening weekend.
So why won’t these action stars of yester-year put away their guns and enjoy their golden years? For one thing there is a void to be filled in the action realm. No one has stepped up to take over the action throne. Both Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson decided to go haywire which hurt their box office appeal. Plus Tom and Mel are no spring chickens. Some people will make the argument for Jason Statham, but I view most of his movies as interchangeable. Statham wears a suit, beats people up and has a few quick one liners. You would think Channing Tatum is an obvious choice, but he seems to have his mind set on projects outside the action genre.
The two stars that have the most potential are Jeremy Renner and Chris Hemsworth. They are a part of the Marvel cinematic universe. Renner revived the Bourne and Mission Impossible franchises and he has the acting chops with two Oscar nominations. Hemsworth burst onto the scene in Thor and unless you are blind, Hemsworth is one handsome dude. Hemsworth’s star should get even bigger with the releases of Ron Howard’s Rush, Thor 2: The Dark World and The Avengers 2.