Picture the scenario: it’s past eleven, you’re back from the pub and feeling suitably refreshed. But before you head off to bed, you decide to turn the television for a spot of bleary-eyed channel hopping. And when you do, it’s inevitably one of the following movies that appears on the screen…
Red Heat (1988)
Walter Hill’s cheeky reworking of his own 1982 movie 48 Hrs, Red Heat is the consummate post-pub movie. You can only vaguely recollect the plot, the action sequences are similar enough to other films that you can easily muddle it up with half a dozen other 80s violent cop movies.
Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as Russian lawman Ivan Danko, who provides a stony-faced foil to James Belushi’s wise-cracking Chicago cop, while Ed O’Ross turns in a faintly eerie, corpse-like performance as the movie’s villain, Viktor.
You can also have fun laughing at all the iffy accents, cold war era Russian stereotypes and spectacular one-liners (“I do not want to touch his ass. I want to make him talk!”).
And best of all, Red Heat is generic enough that you’ll have forgotten everything you’ve seen by the time it appears on television again three weeks later.
Road House (1989)
“No one ever wins a fight,” Patrick Swayze’s character Dalton says, before going on to win a succession of fights against the entire cast.
Road House saw Swayze in full 80s pomp, starring as a tough bouncer hired to tame the revellers in a rough Missouri bar. Armed with little more than a mullet and his own phrasebook of sage advice and witticisms (his response to being called a “cocksucker” is to suavely intone that the put down is merely “two nouns combined to elicit a prescribed response”), Swayze succeeds in battering everyone to a pulp and, in one memorably harsh moment, rips an opponent’s throat out.
The scene where a character is knocked to the ground by a falling stuffed polar bear is also worth staying up for.
A surprisingly underrated action movie starring Sylvester Stallone, this 1981 post-pub classic can often be found lurking in the BBC’s weekend midnight schedules.
Sly and co-star Billy Dee Williams (who moaned at the time that the Italian Stallion stole all his close-ups) are NYPD detectives who find themselves defending the populace of New York from a crazed terrorist (Rutger Hauer).
Hauer was at the height of his powers in the early 80s, and he turns in a sharp, mesmerising performance as Euro terrorist Wulfgar.
The movie’s pivotal scene, where Hauer holds a group of civilians hostage on a cable car, is an unexpectedly tense piece of filmmaking, particularly after a beer or two.
Nighthawks is also worth watching to catch a glimpse of Sylvester Stallone dressed as a decidedly fetching woman.
Most Jean-Claude Van Damme movies are nigh on identical, and it’s often impossible to tell which one you’re watching from one scene alone. A mainstay of Channel Five, Van Damme’s movies have usually already started by the time the pub shuts, so turning on the television often sparks semi-inebriated conversations along the lines of “Is this the one where he’s in the foreign legion, or the one where he breaks that bloke’s leg?”
If nothing else, Timecop is at least the easiest to spot of Van Damme’s films, with its futuristic setting and the rodent-like performance of villain Ron Silver making it instantly recognisable through even the thickest beer goggles.
Directed by Peter Hyams, the man responsible for the brilliant sci-fi western Outland, a film that, sadly, appears to have dropped out of late night schedules, and the not-so-brilliant monster flick, The Relic, Timecop has a surprisingly imaginative premise to back up Van Damme’s usual high-kicking overtures, with the Muscles from Brussels starring as a US federal agent whose job is to prevent criminals from travelling back in time and causing mischief.
Fortunately for post-pub viewers, however, Timecop is more about Van Damme’s balletic fighting than mind-bending storytelling, and also features the most gratuitously over-the-top exploding house in cinema history.
Under Siege (1992)
Aikido master Steven Seagal’s biggest box office success, Under Siege is a genuine late night treat. Seagal mutters and hisses his way through the movie as ex-Navy SEAL Casey Ryback (top line: “I’m just a COOK!”) who has to defend the battleship USS Missouri from villains Gary Busey and Tommy Lee Jones.
Erika Eleniak of Baywatch fame pops out of a giant cake as the film’s female in distress, and the whole enterprise is an efficiently directed B-movie retelling of Die Hard with boats.
Seagal acquits himself with his usual surly presence, taking down villains with his weird, wrist snapping, close-up martial arts.
The film arguably belongs to Lee Jones, however, who recites his ridiculous lines with plenty of ham and relish, including repeated references to Saturday morning cartoons (“Yeah, never been caught. Meep, meep.”).
First Blood (1982), Rambo First Blood Part II (1985), Rambo III (1988)
A bit of a cheat listing three films in one entry, I realise, but ITV4 appear to have put Sly Stallone’s trilogy of sweating and shooting on its schedules in constant rotation, so packaging them together makes a vague kind of sense. Turn on the television after midnight on a Friday or a Saturday, and you’ll almost certainly stumble upon one of these after a few seconds channel hopping.
As we’ve mentioned before on Den Of Geek, First Blood is the most mature and well written of the three films, but the other two are arguably more enjoyable after a few pints of lager.
In every case, Sly stars as the puppy-eyed killing machine John Rambo, a man who can wade into any battlefield with nothing but a sweating torso and a sharpened stick, and still reach the end credits with nary a scratch.
Seemingly hewn from granite, veteran actor Richard Crenna shows up in each film as Colonel Trautman, Rambo’s father figure and the invaluable source of plot exposition.
For the ultimate in closing time guilty pleasures, be sure to watch Rambo III, in which Sly rescues Trautman from Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, and manages to kill the entire Russian army in the process.
Showdown In Little Tokyo (1991)
The first of three 90s movies to star Brandon Lee before his untimely death in 1994, Showdown In Little Tokyo‘s proto bromance plot places the late kung fu master alongside Dolph Lundgren, who looks even more pumped up than usual as LA cop Chris Kenner.
The pair team up to fight a vicious gang of Yakuza goons in a series of ridiculously macho encounters that were already beginning to look antiquated in 1991. The film’s nevertheless a solid gold piece of post-pub entertainment, not, curiously, for its spectacular displays of physical prowess, but for its quaintly inept special effects, including a man killed in a car crusher (spot the shop dummy), and one of the most risible beheadings seen in the last twenty years.
Wesley Snipes was at his effortlessly cool, charismatic best in 1998’s Blade, a film that adds numerous clever twists to vampire movie lore.
Snipes stars as Blade, the vampire slaying hero of the title, who can turn an entire nightclub full of the undead (who enjoy basking in blood raining down from the sprinkler system) into sushi using an imaginative array of razor sharp weapons.
Stephen Norrington directs with hyperactive, youthful vigour, and the film is loaded with enough imaginative violence, gore and swearing to keep you awake for its gleefully over-the-top climactic battle.
“There can be only one” was the tagline for Russell Mulcahy’s B-movie classic. Unfortunately, there wasn’t only one Highlander production, but several, including four increasingly tiresome sequels, a television series and a threatened remake.
For the most reliable source of post-pub entertainment, stick with the 1986 original, in which Christopher Lambert makes his first appearance as immortal Scotsman MacLeod. Sean Connery co-stars as Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez, a Spaniard with a stronger Scots accent than MacLeod, while the monolithic Clancy Brown puts in a bonkers performance as the evil, granny-frightening Kurgan.
Mulcahy directs the film like a rock video, setting much of the action to Michael Kamen’s memorably pacy score and Queen’s wailing theme songs, including the keening swagger of Princes Of The Universe and Butlins illusionists’ favourite, A Kind Of Magic.
Filled with all the swordfights, beheadings and suspect lines of dialogue you could want, Highlander is an implausible, titter-inducing late night fantasy classic.
A little unfair to choose two Arnie films, perhaps, but then there’s a strong argument for including every single one of the Austrian Oak’s movies in this post-pub run-down. For sheer spectacle and mid-80s violence, however, Commando beats anything else in Schwarzenegger’s extensive back catalogue.
Arnold stars as retired soldier, John Matrix, an indestructible killing machine who becomes murderously annoyed when a gang kidnaps his daughter Jenny (a youthful Alyssa Milano) from their mountain retreat. With the plot out of the way and a cry of “I must rescue Chenny!” Arnie heads off on a solid hour’s neck-breaking, shooting, and firing of missile launchers.
A powerhouse display of 80s action cinema, Commando is one of the most over-the-top films of the era, with Arnie’s character carrying around entire trees in his spare time, and impaling villains on steel pipes when he’s in a mood.
As actress Rae Dawn Chong intones during one fight scene, “I can’t believe this macho bullshit!”
Add your own suggestions in the comments below…