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MOVIE REVIEWS : It's a Bad, Bad, Bad Movie as Boz Busts Up Bad Boy Bikers

May 20, 1991|MICHAEL WILMINGTON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Quick, let's imagine the most outlandishly excessive action sequence of the year. Something nobody in their right mind would possibly do.

How's this: Drug-crazed, anti-religious bikers attack Mississippi's state Capitol. They roar on bikes through the halls while their leader, dressed as a minister, mows down the entire appeals court and an undercover Alabama cop, strapped to a bomb, battles bad guys in a helicopter about to ram right into the rotunda.

Too late. They already did it.

"Stone Cold" (citywide), which ends with that Capitol sequence, is an empty-headed movie: one more gargantuan, excessive, over-the-top action thriller with one more superhero--this time ex-linebacker Brian "The Boz" Bosworth--battling dozens of deranged villains single-handedly while trucks, motorcycles and cars crash all around him.

It's heavy on torture, mano-a-mano, explosions. The villains are murderous, beer-drenched behemoths who conduct Viking funerals. The plot, in which Bosworth's Joe Huff (alias John Stone) infiltrates that biker group, the Brotherhood, doesn't make a lick of sense.

When we enter this story, Huff/Stone--who wipes out some grocery store holdup punks with canned vegetables just for practice--has been recruited by several surly FBI agents to crack the Brotherhood, which, for some unexplained reason, has been killing Baptist ministers. There's a drug connection and the bikers--who include those estimable villains William Forsythe (as a bearded maniac) and Lance Henriksen (as a suave psychopath)--must have been doing a lot of them. They're so nuts they take on everybody in sight: including the D.A., the Mafia and the National Guard.

Stone is crazier still. He takes on the whole Brotherhood, besides emotionally seducing both the leader and his mama and carrying on a cute flirtation with the shyest FBI agent (Sam McMurray). The "Stone Cold" action unit is daffiest of all: They take on, and pull off, the scene described above.

The movie, full of unrelenting sadism, sleazy posturing and ludicrous dialogue--and some nice cinematography by Alexander Gruszynski--is far from boring. Director Craig R. Baxley seems bent on taking every chopper movie and car-crash '80s action cliche imaginable and hurling them in the audience's teeth. You don't just watch this movie: You almost have your face rubbed in it.

And, for me, it was no pleasant experience--despite the pyrotechnics, despite Forsythe and Henriksen, despite the jaw-dropping excess of that last scene. Since 1985, action movies have begun to seem an end in themselves--as if the whole movie, in each case, had become hostage to its action unit, as if nothing mattered any more but the sheer logistics of reducing some location to fiery chaos and rubble. "Stone Cold" (MPAA rated R for violence, nudity and language) may be the ultimate example of this tendency.

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