There was something special about rough, smart-mouthed 80’s-90’s action stars. They filled a very important niche in our society. For tough dudes they reaffirmed a lifelong pursuit of mochismo—be it through gym time, constantly copping an attitude, or a combination of both. For the meeker of society, they created something to aspire to. They were fantasy fodder for kids and adults who wanted to look badass while dismantling a terror cell. No one imagined the action star’s probable downtime, spent, like ours, watching TV and repeating daily routines. Action heroes were stuck in a perpetual cycle of glorious violence. Murder and homicide? Due process? Shove them up your ass, captain!
The 2000’s and onward have seen an extinction event for our action heroes—with the last stragglers perhaps being Liam Neeson (Taken, The Grey) and Keanu Reeves (John Wick). Even these have been watered-down, losing some verbal brashness.
What have all our action stars gone on to become? Bruce Willis traded in his bloody bare feet and wise cracks for comedy and drama roles. He does now and then reprise an aged version of his tough self in Red 1 & 2 (not to mention dreadful reiterations of the Diehard franchise), though these movies are more suitably classified as near-parodies. Arnold Schwarzenneger has still tried to take on the odd action role, peppered between things like the older father character in Maggie. Like many of his ilk, he’s also found a home in the The Expendables movies, though I dare say that these too feel more like counterfeits when closely scrutinized. They think they understand what made action movies of yesteryear special, but soar past the mark. They can’t replicate a certain innocence protagonists had, finding themselves alone in a situation best fixed with machine guns and quips. Sylvester Stallone has also tried to reprise some action form, starring in Escape with Arnie. But like his comrades, the issue might not be a willingness, so much as advanced age and a lack of good material to work with.
There is almost zero young talent rising up to assume the mantle left behind. And with an unimaginable growth in the superhero movie genre, some of those that might have fit the bill (Chris Pratt and Chris Evans) are off doing more lucrative work. They’re blowing through their prime action star years in capes and tights, creating a horrific vacuum in the world of explosions and endless gun clips. Aside from on a channel streaming older hits, when is the last time you saw an action movie as insanely good as True Lies? Are you not terrified by that absence? Some of us can only stare into the void for so long.
For those among us suffering the most serious forms of withdrawal, there may yet be a solution. While he does still pump out the odd low budget action flop, good ol’ Steven Seagal has also stooped to doing literally anything for money. His latest “work” has him as chum buddies with Vladimir Putin—seeking out the last bastion of fame and fortune wherever he can find it. He’s even made friends with Russian billionaires, and as recently as 2013 was helping spearhead the revival of a Russian fitness program from soviet days. While it can probably be argued that in some way he looks up (down?) to Vladimir Putin—
—It’s more likely that the money’s better than a couple of crappy straight-to-rental movies a year, and a stint playing a cop for reality TV.
This all makes me wonder: How much would it cost to hire Steven Seagal as a bodyguard / entourage member / hang-out buddy? How much is that Steven Seagal in the window? There must be a price tag, if he’s so willing to travel to beautiful (citation needed) Moscow to make kissy lips with Putin. We have to assume that the price tag would be higher than what he gets paid in any recent given year. The website The Richest has him pegged at a net worth of 5 million dollars—while Rich But Broke, if they can be trusted as a source, more generously places him at 11 million net worth, and an annual income, after expenses, of 494k. Forget that he already has money, because apparently he does too, and let’s say that a comfortable bait for someone with standards that low would be 100k extra. The deal would then read: You (Steven Seagal) halt all other activities in lieu of our (hiring party’s) needs, for the returned annual income of all your expenses paid, and a $595,000 salary. A bonus incentive could be unlimited hair grease to keep that ponytail slicked.
This entire venture would, for those distraught at the state of action movies in our modern cinema, bring one such bargain bin star into your own home, where he could repeat favourite lines and practice judo ad nauseam.
“Say it again, say it again!”
“Do I have to?”
“Just say it!”
“Alright, man…I’m just a cook.”
Featured image credit: ShortList