The Last Action Heroes: The Triumphs, Flops, and Feuds of Hollywood’s Kings of Carnage

Books on Tape Jun. 2023. 10 hrs. ISBN 9780593668139. $85.50. FILM
Empire magazine editor de Semlyen (Wild and Crazy Guys) offers a studied yet humorous look at action-movie stars of the 1980s and 1990s. He highlights Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose bitter rivalry is the continuing storyline in an analysis that includes Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jackie Chan, and more. All are buff, physical action stars who relied on brawn and violence to defeat the bad guys, providing simple entertainment in the bleak post-Vietnam era. The author describes the considerable physical demands of this work; eventually, as these actors began to age, audience attention shifted to younger actors with different, less hypermasculine sensibilities. Actor Bronson Pinchot is the perfect narrator for this blend of history, humor, and film criticism. He employs a deliciously sarcastic tone and spot-on comedic timing when relaying the absurdities of this world, such as Stallone and Schwarzenegger comparing (and later increasing) the size of their knives. Pinchot is adept at conveying gossip in an insider tone while still relating the importance of the action-hero genre in American movie history.
VERDICT Film buffs will greatly enjoy this deft production of a tome that takes an irreverent but thorough look at a pivotal movie genre.
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