Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Heavy Action: Action Movie Ballads!

by Patrick Bromley
Shitting on the Classics is on vacation this week while JB celebrates his 25th wedding anniversary (all together: "Awwwww!"), so in its place please enjoy this very special, all-music edition of Heavy Action!

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


  1. No, we had to wait until Team America: World Police to get the ultimate action anthem - "America, F___ Yeah!"

    But my favorite from that movie is "End of an Act." "I miss you more than Michael Bay missed the mark/when he made Pearl Harbor..."

  2. Another good one is "We don't need another hero" from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, which gets bonus points for working the word "Thunderdome" into one of the lyrics.

    1. Good call, Mac! For some reason, I wasn't considering it as an action movie, maybe because it's kind of SLOW.

      More songs should have used the word "Thunderdome."

  3. I come back from being in EUROPE (not the band, but the group of nations that hate us...humble brag?) and there's THIS waiting for me on the F This Movie site?! I'm a lucky man, he says completely without irony. You know, when I watched Rapid Fire recently for the first time after you wrote about it, the music stuck out to me both because it was kind of bad and also because I liked it even though/because it was kind of bad.

    Sidebar topic: of the two versions of "How Do I Live," (LeAnne Rimes and Trisha Yearwood both did it at roughly the same time) which is better? A better sidebar topic, isn't it too bad that the movie didn't come out 10 years earlier and someone like Whitesnake could have done their own version of the song instead of two country singers? They could also have sang the more uptempo "Put The Bunny Back In the Box" (to piggy back off Patrick's joke, and which is also what my wife says to me when I use coitus interruptus).

    Happy Anniversary, JB, wherever you are!

    1. Heath! I thought we had lost you. Glad to see you're still around. HOW WAS EUROPE?

    2. No sir, I'm still here. Well, I mean, I physically wasn't here, but now I'm back here. Europe was good...I mean, I think they peaked with "The Final Countdown" but--oh, you mean-- *driving joke into ground*
      I had a lot of fun. We went to Barcelona, went to many museums, drank a lot of strong coffee, ate a lot of bread products, walked about 3 dozen miles, and tried to look inconspicuous on the metro. I probably shouldn't have worn my "USA: These Colors Don't Run" t-shirt and a cowboy hat.

      Glad to be back and glad to know I was missed.

      *group hug*

  4. "Feel the Heat" by Jean Beauvior is the best song from "Cobra".


    1. Technically, there is no "best" song from Cobra.

    2. "Technically, there is no "best" SCENE from Cobra."

      Fixed it for you.


  5. Official video or not, this needs to be appreciated: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UXwKjMMUQ4&feature=related

    1. Awesome. Thanks, Cameron. I love Commando so much.

  6. In elementary school, I asked my mom to buy all the teen magazines shortly after the release of "Commando" because I had the biggest crush on Alyssa Milano. That is, until 1987 when I moved onto Debbie Gibson.

    Also, I remember asking my mom if she would go the lengths of Arnold to make sure I returned home safely. "Of course," was her answer. Not sure how she'd look in camouflage warpaint so I'm glad I never had to find out.