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June 25th, 2003 Nate Berne | Movie Reviews & Stories
 

View from the Couch

THE ITALIAN GELDING (OR, THE FALL OF SYLVESTER STALLONE)

     
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Say what you will about the Italian Stallion, Sylvester Stallone (along with Arnold Schwarzenegger) has been Hollywood's leading tough guy. Through his 30 years in the movie biz, the muscleman with the consummate sneer and classic New York drawl has appeared in more than 50 films, directed six and written 17 (including the inspiring and practically wholesome brawler's tale Rocky).

Lately, however, old Sly has had his setbacks. Though the 56-year-old has aged rather gracefully (thanks no doubt to plastic surgery), our man Stallone has floundered these past few years in the realm of (deep breath!) direct-to-video. Yes, Sly's last two flicks never saw theatrical release, and both Eye See You and Avenging Angelo were shelved for over a year before appearing only on video and DVD.

Despite the smarmy pun, Eye See You isn't a bad flick. Stallone plays FBI Agent Jake Malloy, who sees one too many gruesome crime scenes and enters a secluded cops-only rehab clinic. When a snowstorm traps Jake and his fellow rehabbers inside the cavernous concrete facility, someone starts murdering his fellow patients one by one. Well, the set-up has potential. This slick action-mystery benefits from stylish cinematics and a well-hewn cast (including Robert Patrick, Tom Berenger and Kris Kristofferson), and director Jim Gillespie renders swirling blizzards and skewered, frozen bodies with chilling precision. Sadly though, a flimsy script and shallow plotting detract significantly. Stallone stays strong and convincingly vulnerable throughout, but the supporting characters get no attention, and we really have no reason to suspect anyone until they vanish and later reappear. Fun to look at, but tough to finish.

Stallone hits rock bottom on Avenging Angelo. This cruddy chunk of über-DTV may sport Anthony Quinn's final film performance, but Angelo is a bad romantic comedy posing as a mob revenge thriller. When gangsters murder raspy mob boss Angelo Allieghieri (that's Quinn) his failed bodyguard, Frankie Delano (that's Sly), sets out to defend Angelo's unwitting and volatile daughter, Jennifer (Madeleine Stowe). Of course, Sly and Maddy strike up some tenuous romantic tension, but a series of bland and horribly staged attempts on her life serve more to distract than intensify. As the two talented leads dance delicately through rancid dialogue and a lifeless crew of supporters, Avenging Angelo borrows shamelessly from both The Godfather and The Bodyguard, with no evident payoff.

Sure, Sly's not the only star to fall from favor in Hollywood and resort to B-grade moviemaking, but this is friggin' Rocky Balboa, fer chrissakes! This is the one-man army of Rambo! The smart-talking supercop of Demolition Man! The sensitive arm-wrestling dad of Over the Top! This man once commanded the box office! But now, after a string of stinkers like Driven, it appears the Italian Stallion is headed for the glue factory.

 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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