Say what you will about Sylvester Stallone, but he is one of the great Hollywood survivors.
A star since he wrote and appeared in “Rocky” 34 years ago, Stallone’s career has probably had more downs than ups — his filmography is littered with unwatchable (and long forgotten) flops such as “Rhinestone” and “Judge Dredd” — but the man has a way of bouncing back every time he is counted out.
Stallone’s latest star vehicle “The Expendables” — which he directed and wrote — came in at number one in the box office derby last weekend and according to today’s industry projections it will hold down the same spot for this weekend. The movie is cruising toward a $100 million gross in this country (and probably a lot more than that overseas).
The promotion for the movie has been clever, maximizing Stallone’s amusing, weirdly self-deprecating persona. He still acts as if his whole career has been an accident and brushes aside suggestions that he could have parlayed his “Rocky” Oscar nomination for best actor into the sorts of roles that Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino were playing around that time.
Stallone is usually more fun out of character than he is in one of his action movies, so it’s not surprising that the feature length documentary “Inferno: The Making of The Expendables” is sharper than the B-movie it documents.
The doc debuted on the video-on-demand service EPIX last weekend and is a lively and funny view behind the scenes showing us Stallone orchestrating his latest comeback.
If you haven’t seen “The Expendables” yet you will get the gist from the VOD documentary — the action picture is totally predictable and yet canny in the way it teams Stallone with several of today’s reigning B-movie stars (Jason Statham, Jet Li), as well as a co-star from yesteryear (Dolph Lundgren, the Soviet boxer in “Rocky IV,” below) and a double-cameo appearance by two of the star’s peers (Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, above).
While “Inferno” has the carefully tailored look of one of those authorized DVD extra “making of” films, Stallone is such a character offscreen that it is fun to watch him working on the script in his office (where his patient secretary has to collate piles of messy, scribbled-on sheets of paper into something readable by others) and whipping up his actors on the set.
“Inferno” is a nice companion piece to the excellent interview Stallone gives GQ in the current (September) issue.
From my point of view, it’s sad that the star was never able to get out of the “Rocky” and “Rambo” traps — his reviews and Oscar nomination for the first “Rocky” could have set him on a much different course as an actor — but there is no denying his continuing energy and good humor.