The Expendables isn’t out just yet as I write this, but I have no doubt that it’s going to be a huge hit. Well, okay, maybe it won’t be a huge hit, but like Sly Stallone’s return to his Rambo roots, it’s going to do really well.
I mean, it’s basically every major action movie star (and some minor action movie stars) from the 80s all in the same film. However, there were some shameful omissions that can be added to the mix for The Expendables 2.
I’m not talking about high profile omissions, like Jean-Claude Van Damme or Steven Crotchkicker Seagal, though those guys would be awesome to have in The Expendables universe. I’m talking about those lesser known but no less awesome cult figures of 80s action movies that could use their time back in the sun.
Here are ten I’d like to see resurrected, in no particular order…
Don “The Dragon” Wilson
If you don’t know who Don “The Dragon” Wilson is, you’re missing out. He’s only the best straight-to-video action movie guy in history!
Back in the day, all you needed were some ninja costumes and one semi-famous martial artist with a collection of titles to his name, and you could have a franchise. Don “The Dragon” Wilson had one of the longest-running movie franchises in karate guy cinema in The Bloodfist series, which spanned a staggering eight movies. Of his 33 IMDb credits, most of them feature the words “blood,” “kick,” or “fighter” in the title, so you know the guy is ace.
In the States, most people know this Hawaiian-born fighter as the guy from Dancing With The Stars, or possibly from his role on Iron Chef America. However, that’s because most people don’t know the absolute greatness that is Only The Strong, aka the only movie in which capoeira is taken seriously.
Mark also put his martial arts skills to work as Eric Draven in the syndicated TV series The Crow: Stairway To Heaven and as the titular character in the live-action adaptation of Crying Freeman.
If that’s not enough martial arts for you, he also starred in American Samurai and Kickboxer 5, either taking over for or starring alongside two other guys who will be on this list.
Every action movie needs a female love interest. So, why not one who can kick ass just as well as any of the guys in the picture (if not better)?
Cynthia Rothrock, who apparently holds seven different black belts in various martial arts, has more than enough B-movie martial arts credits to her name to step into a role in The Expendables. For starters, there are the two China O’Brien movies, the three Tiger Claws movies, the two Rage And Honor movies, the two Lady Dragon movies and, oh yeah, she also spent most of her early movie-making years in Hong Kong, working with Corey Yuen.
Even in her 50s, she’s still the most dangerous 5’3″ woman on the planet.
Michael Jai White
For some reason, I really like this guy. It might be because of how great he was in Spawn. It might be because of how great he is in Black Dynamite. It could be because he’s done a lot of work in various Universal Soldier movies or in lesser roles.
However, he’s a legitimately impressive martial artist in his own right, and more importantly, he might be the best actor on the list.
He’s probably best known either as Cody from the US TV series Step-By-Step or as J.R. Ewing’s illegitimate son, James, in iconic soap Dallas. However, like anyone who could throw a decent kick in 1987, he was also an action movie star.
He took over the lead in the Kickboxer series for four movies, and he also played a killer warrior cyborg/English teacher in the incredible Class Of 1999 II: The Substitute.
More importantly, he might be the worst actor on the list, which makes him perfect to play a villain.
He’s not an 80s or 90s action movie star, but like Jason Statham, he’s about as close to a modern action star as we have right now. At least, he was until he got sidetracked doing family-friendly fare.
He might have been the best part of Southland Tales, and he’s definitely proven to have action chops with such fare as the underrated The Rundown (AKA Welcome to the Jungle).
No matter what you might say, he’s got muscles and charisma, and movies these days are short on both.
She’s Bruce Lee’s daughter. Do you need any other reason for her to be on this list? The Man and his equally impressive son are both gone, but Shannon is still alive and still kicking. She’s mostly retired from movies, but if you can sneak in a cameo for Arnie and Bruce, you can sneak in a minor role for Bruce’s last surviving child.
He’s The Highlander. The original Highlander, and still the best Highlander. He knows his way around a bladed weapon, and, thanks to his career in low budget action movies, punching faces in space (Fortress and Fortress 2, a pair of seriously underrated flicks).
He was in Southland Tales with Dwayne Johnson, and he’s got that great, vaguely European accent that makes for an excellent 80s-style villain or good guy foreign mercenary.
Unlike a lot of 80s action movie stars, Michael Dudikoff never gave up on his genre. While the American Ninja movies waned in 1990, Dudkoff kept appearing in low budget action and martial arts movies continuously until about 2002, when his roles suddenly dried up or he took some time off.
Either way, it’s high time he returned to his salad days and donned the primary color gi and headband for another martial arts kickstravaganza.
The Boz is better known for his personality than his professional American football career. That’s why he’d make a great addition to this cast.
Despite his size, he’s also surprisingly intelligent, having been an academic all-American in college, while displaying surprising awareness of the world around him (unusual for a pumped-up athlete in any generation).
Bosworth’s film career never materialized, but he’s done a few minor roles in big movies and starred in the epic classic action movie, Stone Cold. It’s a shame that didn’t become a franchise.
While The Expendables has a great cast of action movie stars, both fondly remembered and forgotten, there are a lot of guys and gals with equally butt-kicking resumes that were left out of this round. Here’s hoping that we can get a nice running series of action flicks featuring all-star casts of some of the best shirtless karate guys the 80s and 90s had to offer. If you think this list is long, you should see the list of folks I had to cut to keep this reasonable.
US correspondent Ron Hogan spent most of his childhood and teenage years parked in front of a VHS player, enjoying ninjas in various primary colors being shuriken’d to death by guys with mullets. Find more by Ron at his blog, Subtle Bluntness, and daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.