by Patrick Bromley
The action movies of the '80s and '90s aren't necessarily known for their music. There may be a reason for that.
Frank Stallone, "Peace in Our Life" from Rambo: First Blood Part II
Want further proof of how ridiculous and terrible Rambo: First Blood Part II is? Just check out this video for the movie's theme song, sung by Sylvester Stallone's brother Frank. Hearing him sing about wanting to find peace over SHOTS OF HELICOPTERS BLOWING EVERYTHING THE FUCK UP suggests that "irony" was not a familiar concept in the '80s. The song, like the movie, is self-important, jingoistic nonsense. It's the perfect song for Rambo.
Shooting Star, "Touch Me Tonight" from I Come in Peace
Ok, so this song isn't all that memorable, either on its own or as it's used in I Come in Peace (which some people -- including the studio that released it on DVD -- incorrectly refer to as Dark Angel; this is a bullshit title, because it would sound silly for Dolph Lundgren to say "And you DARK ANGEL in pieces, asshole!" Maybe he could have been all "It's about to get DARK for you, ANGEL!" But that would be weird, because it would introduce a romantic subtext between hero and villain that isn't otherwise there...OR IS IT??). But for those of us who know I Come in Peace -- and I'm guessing most of the readers of a column called Heavy Action do -- the song holds a special place in our hearts. That's the great thing about the songs on this list; as songs, they're not very good, but action movie aficionados love them all for what they represent.
Honeymoon Suite, "Lethal Weapon" from Lethal Weapon
Last week's Heavy Action column was all about Lethal Weapon, and the accompanying music video for Honeymoon Suite's eponymous ballad included on the Blu-ray is what inspired this list. That's because a) I never even knew this song existed and b) I never knew a hair band called Honeymoon Suite existed. There was a steadfast belief in the '80s that every movie needed a song and a video, regardless of whether or not it was a good fit. The song "Lethal Weapon" is not a good fit for the movie Lethal Weapon.
There are so many better titles that Honeymoon Suite could have used:
"Too Old for This"
"Two Cops, One Heart"
"Nyuk Nyuk Kill Me (Riggs' Theme)"
Hardline, "Can't Find My Way" from Rapid Fire
Just based on the title, this might have been a bad choice of song to score the love scene between Brandon Lee and Kate Hodge in the vastly underrated '90s action gem Rapid Fire. It implies a lot of virginal fumbling instead of the tender moment when two people who love each other very much express their love physically despite being in constant danger and it being the eve of their big showdown with a major bad guy. The movie came out in 1992, but the sex ballad sounds like a leftover from 1988. It's probably the biggest misstep in Rapid Fire, but it's easy to overlook because Kate Hodge is in less than pants.
John Parr, "Restless Heart" from The Running Man
Probably the best song on this list. Between "Man in Motion (Theme from St. Elmo's Fire)" and this one, which plays over the end credits of The Running Man, John Parr is the king of the '80s soundtrack power rock ballad. This song has nothing to do with The Running Man AT ALL -- even the tone is completely different -- but it sent me out of the theater happy and inspired as a 10-year old boy. Also, the video is fucking hilarious. THE FUTURE!
Bad English, "Best of What I Got" from Tango & Cash
Yes, I know. Not a ballad. But every freeze-frame high five needs its anthem, and that's just what this song provides. It's stupid. It's empty. It goes down easy and you can come back to it again and again. It might as well be Tango & Cash.
The Pointer Sisters, "He Turned Me Out" from Action Jackson
Again, this isn't a ballad, but it's one of the few songs on this list written specifically for an action movie (it even has its own mention in the opening credits). Plus, it features one of my favorite '80s music video conceits: the stars of the movie show up in the video.
Trisha Yearwood, "How Do I Live" from Con Air
I don't love this song and I don't love this movie, but it's one of the few instances of a pop song actually becoming a hit based upon its placement in an action movie. I guess it's put to pretty good use, too, since the song does most of the heavy lifting in convincing the audience that Cameron Poe wants to get back to his family. It's only a slighter better song than Yearwood's first submission, "Give Back the Bunny."
John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, "Voice of America's Sons (Theme from Cobra)" from Cobra
The more obvious choice of song from Cobra would be "Angel of the City" by Robert Tepper, because it memorably plays over the Cobra-driving/Brigitte-Nielsen-modeling-around-robots montage. But there's no music video for that song, so here you go. Even though the song is not great -- and really doesn't match the tone of the movie at all -- I like them playing in front of a giant drive-in screen playing the movie. Incidentally, this is the band that did all the music for Eddie and the Cruisers, one of my wife's favorite movies. TRIVIA!
Songs that would have been included if they had proper music videos: "We Fight for Love" by Power Station, from Commando; "Freedom in Your Eyes" by Ron Bloom, from Braddock: Missing in Action III; "Bring Me a Dream" by Craig Thomas, from Death Warrant; "Never Surrender" by Stan Bush (the "You've Got the Touch" guy!) from Kickboxer