Macho, Macho Movies

Does The Expendables, which is smashing into theaters with a cast that includes Stallone, Statham, Li, Rourke, Austin, Lundgren, Couture, Crews, Willis, Schwarzenegger, et al., have the toughest cast of all time?

Well, it certainly is one of the most testosterone-fueled casts in recent memory. Director-co-scripter Stallone certainly did a bang-up job recruiting pals for this revenge tale. The sweat level is about to go to “11” on the meter.

But The Expendables is one of a long line of movies in which macho, macho men unite for a cause.

Of course, no discussion of the subject of macho movies can be made without mention of baby boomer favorites The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, and The Dirty Dozen, all-star affairs that also happen to be excellent movies.

The Magnificent Seven (1960): This remake of Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai stars Eli Wallach as a Mexican bandit who terrorizes a small village. The townsfolk hire gunslinger Yul Brynner to round up a crew to halt the outlaws. Among his multi-talented recruits are Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn and future trivia question answers Horst Bucholz and Brad Dexter. John Sturges directs and the score by Elmer Bernstein, later used for Marlboro cigarette commercials, is a classic. The film spawned three sequels, a TV series in the late ‘90s, and several unofficial reworkings.

Macho Line of Dialogue:

Vin (Steve McQueen): We deal in lead, friend.

The Longest Day (1962): Daryl Zanuck’s dream project, an epic centering on the incidents that occurred on D-Day and the invasion of Normandy, is an all-star affair in which macho stars from around the globe were signed on. The list of male favorites of the era is endless: John Wayne, Henry FondaRobert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Stuart Whitman, Sean Connery, Jeffrey Hunter, Sal Mineo. And that’s not to mention the other performers in the cast: Red Buttons, George Segal, Rod Steiger, Gert Frobe, Edmond O’Brien and Robert Wagner.  Talk about your Allied artists!

Macho Line of Dialogue:

Brigadier General Norman Cota (Robert Mitchum): I don’t have to tell you the story. You all know it. Only two kinds of people are gonna stay on this beach: those that are already dead and those that are gonna die. Now get off your butts. You guys are the Fighting 29th.

The Great Escape (1963): McQueen, Bronson, Coburn and Bernstein team with Sturges again, this time for a crackerjack war epic, based on a true story about the largest Allied POW camp breakout during WWII. McQueen is “The Cooler King,” a rebellious American who continually finds himself in solitary because of his antics. James Garner is added to the mix along with Brits Richard Attenborough, David McCallum and James Donald. McQueen’s motorcycle stunts made him an icon of male coolness.  Plus, any film in which most of the male characters have nicknames makes it immediately macho.

Macho Line of Dialogue:

Ramsey (James Donald): Did the Gestapo give you a rough time?

Bartlett (Richard Attenborough): Not nearly as rough as I now intend to give them.

The Professionals (1966): A gung-ho western adventure from Richard Brooks (Bite the Bullet) tells of a millionaire (Ralph Bellamy) who hires a group of specialists to track down his gorgeous wife (Caludia Cardinale), who’s been swiped by a Mexican bandit (Jack Palance). Weapons wizard Lee Marvin heads a team that includes horsemaster Robert Ryan, tracker Woody Strode and demolitions expert Burt Lancaster. The cast is expert, the action steady and the locations (including Death Valley) gorgeous.

Macho Line of Dialogue:

J.W. Gran (Ralph Bellamy): You bastard!

Rico (Lee Marvin): Yes, Sir. In my case an accident of birth. But you, Sir, you’re a self-made man.

Cool Hand Luke (1967): That’s the sound of the men working on the chain gang. It’s also the sound of a man’s man favorite with Paul Newman scoring as Luke Jackson, a veteran who lands in a Southern chain gang after drunkenly clipping heads off parking meters. At odds with prisoner leader George Kennedy (who won a supporting Oscar for his role), Luke eventually wins respect from the other jailbirds because of his rebellious attitude. Any film with a boxing match, a poker game, an erotic car-washing scene and an egg-eating contest says “guy.” As does the supporting cast that includes Strother Martin, Dennis Hopper, Harry Dean Stanton, Wayne Rogers, Luke Askew and Anthony Zerbe.

Macho Line of Dialogue:

Captain   (Strother Martin): What we got here is… failure to communicate. (What’d you think it would be?)

The Dirty Dozen (1967): Another fact-based story finds U.S. Army Major Lee Marvin leading a group of military convicts behind enemy lines to take out an assemblage of high-ranking Nazi officers attending a party. This sweaty, violent mission is bolstered by a cast that lives up to its macho promise, from Charles Bronson to Jim Brown, Telly Savalas to Clint Walker, Donald Sutherland to rat-like John Cassavetes. (OK, we’ll skip Trini Lopez for our needs here.) Even the officers come through with flying colors on the testosterone scale: Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Robert Webber and George Kennedy.  All of the action and posturing is wonderfully orchestrated by director Robert Aldrich (Flight of the Phoenix, The Longest Yard). Even men teared up when Brown got clipped at the end.

Macho Line of Dialogue:

Joseph T. Wladislaw (Charles Bronson) : Killin’ generals could get to be a habit with me.

The Wild Bunch (1969):  Sam Peckinpah’s envelope-pushing sagebrush saga showcases men acting like men, brandishing guns, stealing, killing people in slow-mo and whoring around. The cast is up to the task with William Holden leading the title troupe on one last big score. Among the members of the ill-behaved bunch are Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates, L.Q. Jones, Edmond O’Brien, Jaimie Sanchez and Bo Hopkins. Their nemeses are led by former ally-turned-mercenary Robert Ryan. ‘nuff said.

Macho Line of Dialogue:

Pike Bishop (William Holden): If they move, kill ’em!

A Bridge Too Far (1977): What producer Darryl Zanuck did for D-Day, producer Joseph E. Levine tried to do for a WWII incident called “Operation Market Garden,” in which the Allies try to capture several bridges on the Rhine. In fact, the book the film is based on was penned by Cornelius Ryan, who also wrote “The Longest Day.” But Levine’s gambit proved to be a major disappointment, despite a cast the boasted a veritable who’s who of male acting talent at the time: Robert Redford, Gene Hackman, Ryan O’Neal, Michael Caine, Anthony Hopkins, James Caan, Eliott Gould, Laurence Olivier, Edward Fox, Dirk Bogarde and many, many more.

Macho Line of Dialogue:

Lt. General Horrocks (Edward Fox): Do you think you’ll be able to pull it off, Joe?

Lt. Colonel J.O.E. Vandeleur (Michael Caine): I have nothing else planned for this afternoon.

Reservoir Dogs (1992): Quentin Tarantino’s much-heralded debut is a heist film highlighted by tough talk and virile posturing. So it comes as no surprise that Q has populated his proceedings by people who deliver the goods—in spades!Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth,Chris Penn, ex-con Edward Bunker and Steve Buscemi join Tarantino, while film noir throwback Lawrence Tierney plays the top enchilada.

Macho Line of Dialogue:

Marvin (Kirk Baltz): I already told you I don’t know anything about any f*cking setup; you can torture me all you want.

Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen): Torture you? That’s a good idea. I like that.

Heat (1995): Michael Mann is no slouch in the machismo department, and this heist drama proves it, while showcasing his expertise as a visual stylist and master at punchy, effective dialogue. Which leads us to his casting of an impressive array of alpha male actors, starting with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, and going down-the-line with Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Jon Voight, William Fichtner, Tom Noonan, Wes Studi, Ted Levine, Mykelti Williamson and Danny Trejo. Also, Mann is no slouch in finding tough but great-looking women for the screen either. Here, Diane Venora, Ashley Judd, Amy Brenneman and Natalie Portman are added to the mix.

Macho Line of Dialogue:

Michael Cheritto (Tom Sizemore): Well ya know, for me, the action is the juice.

Any suggestions for macho movies we missed?