Rocky (1976)

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When world heavyweight boxing champion, Apollo Creed wants to give an unknown fighter a shot at the title as a publicity stunt, his handlers choose palooka Rocky Balboa, an uneducated collector for a Philadelphia loan shark. Rocky teams up with trainer Mickey Goldmill to make the most of this once in a lifetime break. (Letterboxd)
A great character study: Rocky is a quiet, soft soul (his refusal to let Adrian leave is cringey though) prone to passionate, long-winded rants (his one to Marie misses the mark, but see his rambling rejection of Mickey before the quiet jog out afterwards); he punches cow carcasses to train for boxing bouts before heading to the pet store to buy food for his turtles. He doesn’t care about fame or money or victory, he just wants to “go the distance” and find his love (see the excellent ending).
7.5/10 (Really Good)

Cliffhanger (1993)

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A botched mid-air heist results in suitcases full of cash being searched for by various groups throughout the Rocky Mountains. (IMDb)
The beautiful yet intimidating natural setting of the snow-capped Rockies is a breath of fresh (mountain) air for the action-thriller genre here, and together with the notable performances by all the main players it makes for a solid film able to withstand the test of time, as the unforgiving elements and edge-of-your-seat rock climbs appreciably amplify the character-focused heist/hostage tension. It’s not flashy or deep and its plot is a bit forgettable but it’s a taut and exciting watch.
7/10 (Good)

 

Escape Plan 2: Hades (2018)

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Years after he fought his way out of an inescapable prison, Ray Breslin has organized a new top-notch security force. But when one of his team members goes missing, Breslin must return to the hell he once escaped from. (IMDb)
Honestly, it’s not bad. Sure, the acting and dialogue are a bit cheesy, the plot is under-explained, and the actual escape seems to leave out lots of details, but the pacing is perfect: it never feels slow or boring and the tension is always rising. With the ever-present cool synth-y score, it kind of just feels like one big action sequence, which made for an engaging if unremarkable film. The villain and Huang’s lead have good energy and add some zest to the big boys’ cool and collected vibe.
6/10 (Mediocre)

 

Cop Land (1997)

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The sheriff of a suburban New Jersey community populated by New York City police officers slowly discovers the town is a front for mob connections and corruption. (IMDb)
Well-acted, and that includes action-star Stallone in a softer, more subtle role than I’ve ever seen him in. A simple crime plot is still engaging, and allows the characters to shine (De Niro’s IA agent still feels mostly inconsequential, but Liotta’s complex and volatile Figgis is a perfect complement to the more straight-forward duo of Freddy and Ray), but ultimately feels undercooked, with the issues underlying the initial point of conflict left untouched and the conclusion a little too neat.
7/10 (Good)

 

Escape Plan (2013)

When a structural-security authority finds himself set up and incarcerated in the world’s most secret and secure prison, he has to use his skills to escape with help from the inside. (IMDb)
The “escape plan” aspect here doesn’t disappoint; the film is full of cool and exciting tricks and cons, complete with a couple of badass Stallone voice-overs. Elsewhere though, the dialogue often feels contrived, the acting stiff, the bad guy cliche, the secondary good guys (Ryan and 50 Cent) inconsequential, and the final twist an unnecessary complication. But even with all of the aforementioned said, this remains an entertaining film punctuated by a few classic action-movie one-liners.
6.5/10 (Alright)