When action stars direct...

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With Sylvester Stallone on the verge of releasing his latest directorial effort, ‘The Expendables’, Time Out look at some of the other films that have been directed by wham-bam action stars...

Paradise Alley (1978)

Directed by Sylvester Stallone

What is it?
Hard on the heels of ‘Rocky' and, ahem, ‘FIST', Sly continued his sophomoric love affair with semi-pornographic film titles with his first directorial outing, ‘Paradise Alley'. A wholesale vanity project (the Stallion even belts out the sub-Springsteen title song) that's pitched somewhere between ‘Godfather II' and ‘Sesame Street' circa 1946, it's a whiffy slice of Meatball Opera that introduces us to the Carboni boys, who ‘haul ice, lay out stiffs and dance with monkeys' while dreaming of parlaying their kid brother's strength into wrestling success and three tickets out of a rather cosily rendered Hell's Kitchen.

Did he ever direct in this town again?
Well, there's been a clutch of ‘Rocky' and ‘Rambo' sequels – oh, and, of course, ‘Staying Alive'.



The Quest (1996)

Directed by Jean-Claude Van Damme

What is it?
Taking less than zero risk with his directorial debut, the Muscles from Brussels landed the suave talents of Roger Moore and an above-average production budget to make this dispiritingly ordinary chop socky caper to sate his slathering fanbase. It starts promisingly, with JC fleeing from Prohibition-era New York only to be promptly sold into slavery, but as soon as he beaches on a far-flung, tropical island he is - of course - inducted into an underground, high-stakes kung fu tournament where he gets to boot a stream of sweat-dappled extras in the groin.

Did they ever direct in this town again?
Yes, and very recently, in fact. Van Damme's second directorial effort appeared in 2010 with misc vengeance caper ‘The Eagle Path'.



Gator (1976)

Directed by Burt Reynolds
What is it?Burt Reynolds is "Gator". Inside ten minutes he's going to destroy 14 boats, wreck dozens of cars, blow up a motel, drag a man around a parking lot and throw him off the top of his car. Now Burt Reynolds is about to be maimed, mangled and made mincemeat of as he takes on the crooked cops of Dunston County. He's the master of the hit!, slam!, bash!, choke!, smother! and squash! A man of stamina, strength and boundless energy - the one and only, Burt Reynolds!' Yep, that about sums it up.

Did he ever direct in this town again?
Reynolds has also helmed the fairly decent ‘Sharky's Machine', the fairly awful ‘Stick' and then the odd TV gig.



On Deadly Ground (1994)

Directed by Steven Seagal

What is it?
Seagal's lone directorial effort may have recently gained some mild cachet from the fact that its story shares vague similarities to the recent BP oil spill, but there's a slim chance that a fly-kicking environmental activist will shove Tony Hayward into the rotor blades of a tricked-out helicopter. Seagal stars as Forrest Taft (!), a lone wolf eco-nut who develops a killer grudge against a slippery oil tycoon played by Michael Caine... for the usual reasons. Much of the film is spent clockwatching while Stevie indulges in numerous earth-mother set-pieces accompanied by lengthy pan pipe dirges. By the time the violence does arrive, you'll probably have to be medically sprung from your coma to actually enjoy it.

Did they ever direct in this town again?
To date, that would be a negatory.



The Defender (2004)

Directed by Dolph Lundgren

What is it?Swedish man-mountain and sometime Stallone cohort Dolph Lundgren stepped up the directorial plate when ‘The Defender's original director – veteran Sidney J Furie (‘The Ipcress File', ‘Superman IV' ) – fell ill. The result plays like an especially grim Rainier Wolfcastle workout set in storm-swept Romania and features – and you'll like this! – Jerry Springer as the US President. The Big Man's direction is actually rather robust, but the dog-tired plot, dreary locations and lacklustre cast make the film feel at least twice as long as its 90-minute runtime.

Did he ever direct in this town again?
Indeed he did, helming roughly one new film a year. Titles include the non Bowie-related 'Diamond Dogs' and Soviet assassin thriller, 'Icarus'.



Dances with Wolves (1990)

Directed by Kevin Costner

What is it?
Kevin Costner directed and stars in this balmy frontier western which – despite the flagrant self-glorification – managed to melt the collective heart of the Academy voters and walk off with the top prize. Unlikely Hollywood hero he may be, but history may yet have some kind words for Kev, not least because he went on to make the near-classic ‘Open Range' in 2003.

Did they ever direct in this town again?
He's been benchwarming for close to a decade now, but the coming years promise two new Costner-helmed projects - ‘A Little War of Our Own' and ‘The One'.



Christmas in Connecticut (1992)

Directed by Arnold Schwarzenegger

What is it?
Props to Arnie for totally wrongfooting us with his only stab at directing a feature film to date: who would've predicted that a man whose typecast is a near-mute, leather-clad Teutonic killing machine would've opted for a treacle-smothered Christmas movie (a remake of a 1945 Barbara Stanwyck vehicle) about a hot-shit cookery writer (Dyan Cannon) and her hokey shenanigans with a swarthy forest ranger played by Kris Kristofferson? Arnie directs with all the panache of a lobotomised wrestler, plus the revelation that Cannon can't actually cook makes the material sound like something Luis Buñuel might've tackled in his out-there twilight years.

Did they ever direct in this town again?
Due to its utter drabness, some harsher critics would argue that he didn't strictly ‘direct' this.



 

The Man Without a Face (1993)

Directed by Mel Gibson

What (the hell) is it?
Imagine if someone made a disease-of-the-week movie about Batman supervillain Harvey ‘Two Face' Dent, and that gives some idea of the path Mad Mel chose to wander with this understated (in a bad way) directing debut. Mel himself stars as ‘Hamburger Head' McLeod, a misanthropic, deformed hermit who slowly begins to accept his place in society when he decides to help an apple-cheeked young 'un pass an entrance exam for military school.

Did he ever direct in this town again?
Gibson, of course, went on to bastardise history for high coin with ‘Braveheart', and then began his cycle of ‘70s-style exploitation gore pictures (‘The Passion of the Christ' and ‘Apocalypto').



Strays (2004)

Directed by Vin Diesel

What is it?
As a director, Diesel announced himself with a talky Greenwich Village navel gazer that was (somehow) nominated for the Jury Prize at Sundance. The domed one also wrote and produced the film, in which he essays an outwardly thuggish drug dealer falling for a credulous, blow-dried mid-Western hayseed. Soon he's revealing his softer side by singing ‘If I Only Had a Heart' (all of it, mind you) in a gravelly voice that could strip the gold from a gypsy's teeth and by putting his gack-slinging ways behind him.

Did he ever direct in this town again?
Not so far. The film did the job, though - the next year he was starring as Black Guy Who Gets Slotted First in ‘Saving Private Ryan'.



The Alamo (1960)

Directed by John Wayne

What (the hell) is it?
It's the Alamo - you should always remember the Alamo! Wayne's directorial debut was a colourful, tedious and historically dicy retelling of the Battle of the Alamo that co-starred everyone from Laurence Harvey and Richard Widmark to Chill Wills and Denver Pyle (later to play Uncle Jesse in ‘The Dukes of Hazzard'). The 15-year-long gestation period of The Duke's passion project would seem to have sucked most of the resultant life out of the finished film and Wayne looks mightily incongruous under Davy Crockett's coonskin cap, but it was at least better than John Lee Hancock's botched 2004 version of the same events.

Did he ever direct in this town again?
His only subsequent credit was for questionable gruntsploitation folly ‘The Green Berets'.



Author: Adam Lee Davies & David Jenkins



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