Well, The Expendables 2 exploded onto the screens recently, leaving all its rivals to do little more than run and duck for cover at the box office. It's hard to resist the over the top thrills of seeing so many bona fide action film giants together on one screen, but you know what's even harder? Knowing where to start inside the filmographies of its stars! With so many films under their collective belts (and let's face it, they're not all winners), deciding what to cue up on our Netflix can be a daunting task, so we thought we'd give you this comprehensive primer for the stars of The Expendables!
Sylvester Stallone - Although Bruce Willis and Arnie come close, Sly Stallone has the most extensive resume amongst his Expendables pals, and is the only member of the brotherhood that's an Oscar winner. That Oscar (for best screenplay; he's a writer too!) was of course for the inspirational Rocky, the story of a small town, down on his luck boxer who makes good. Although widely considered a classic, its subsequent sequels enjoy more play on TV and cable these days, and that's a shame because the original is far and away the best.
Beyond the Basics: First Blood, Tango and Cash, Death Race 2000
Avoid at all costs: Judge Dredd, Stop or My Mom Will Shoot!, Rhinestone
Arnold Schwarzenegger- This Austrian titan of shoot em' up cinema is pretty much the dictionary definition of action star, to the point where nearly all of his notable films continue to be thriving franchises (Predator, Terminator, etc) or have gotten the reboot treatment (Total Recall). While you can't go wrong with any of those, if you're looking for something slightly left of center, try James Cameron's True Lies. This 1994 thrill ride features the former Governator as a seemingly suburban dad who is in fact an operative for a covert U.S. anti-terrorism task force, and whose family life becomes tangled in his work. It's the perfect blend of larger than life action and comedy featuring hilarious performances from Jamie Lee Curtis and Cameron regular Bill Paxton.
Beyond the Basics: The Running Man, Eraser
Avoid at all costs: Hercules in New York
Bruce Willis - The Die Hard movies, even at their lowest point (Die Hard 2, in our humble opinion), are still pretty freaking great. Willis, of course, isn't just about bullets and Yippie Yi Yo Kai-Yay; and a fantastic example of that is the mind-bending, sci-fi thriller 12 Monkeys. Willis plays a convict sent back in time to thwart a devastating man-made virus from wiping out the Earth's population. Directed by Monty Python alum Terry Gilliam, 12 Monkeys stands out as one of Willis's most thrilling and unique films.
Beyond the Basics: Pulp Fiction, Unbreakable, Moonrise Kingdom
Avoid at All Costs: Mercury Rising
Jean Claude Van Damme - Looking to get into some serious Van-dammage? Well 2008's little known JCVD is far and away Jean Claude's best. Get this, Jean Claude Van Damme plays himself, struggling to keep both his family life and his flailing career afloat. Van Damme soon unwittingly finds himself in the midst of a hostage situation, and has to search within himself to become the hero he's only played on the screen 'til now.
Beyond the Basics: Time Cop, Hard Target
Avoid at all costs: Cyborg, No Retreat No Surrender
Jason Statham - These days actors like Jason Statham are in short supply. He's a charismatic star with chops who, if push came to shove, probably could take on a squad of deadly assassins if he had too. Hey, we love the Bourne movies, but can you really say that for Matt Damon and Jeremy Renner? Well if you're looking to see Statham at his best, take a look at the Transporter 2. This slick action-thriller is a huge upgrade from the original, and pretty much just wall to wall action. The term "mindless action film" isn't always a compliment, but Transporter 2 is one of the best examples out there, with enough twists and over the top thrills to make it the perfect flick to watch when you're not looking for Oscar fodder and just want to see some awesome fights, insane car chases and stuff blowing up!
Beyond The Basics: Snatch, Crank, The Bank Job
Avoid at all costs: London
Jet Li - An argument can be made as to why Li belongs in the old school. After all, if we count his amazing Chinese films like Shaolin Temple and Once Upon A Time in China, we see that he's been around just as long as a handful of his Expendables cast-mates, but it wasn't until 2000 that he was introduced to Western audiences. Although there are several notable American Li films, his greatest is far and away 2005's Unleashed, in which Li stars as a man with unparalleled martial arts skills who has been raised into behaving like a dog and is caged and controlled by a ruthless mob Kingpin played by Bob Hoskins, who uses Li as his secret weapon against his foes. Aside from delivering some of the grittiest hand to hand combat scenes in any film within the past ten years, it contains a tour de force performance from Li, who probably would have generated Oscar buzz for his role if the Academy took films like this seriously.
Beyond the Basics: Hero, The One, Fist of Legend, Fong-Sai Yuk!
Avoid at all costs: Cradle 2 the Grave
Who's your favorite Expendables star?