Historically, during the VHS era and in the early days of DVD, there would always be opportunities in desperation to pick up something for the sake of it when you couldn’t get the film that you wanted. Certainly (during the golden era 1982 – 1984, when corner shops, garages and video libraries thrived on the high street) if a big title like The Evil Dead or First Blood was out of the shop, you would turn to whatever else was on the shelves. The labels inside the covers saying something like ‘Video on Rental’, would grace numerous titles and you would be down to the dregs of whatever else was there. This sort of thinking led to the nadir of our VHS days as a teen, a double-bill of Bronx Warriors and Mardi Gras Massacre.
Anyway - Stone Cold was a film that didn't get good reviews in 1991, but it was certainly lapped up by fans who watched it in its brief cinema run and subsequently on VHS and DVD. Like Rapid Fire, one of Brandon Lee's best films in his sadly short-lived career until his death on the set of The Crow (1994), it may be short on plot and character, but it is a highly effective action thriller.
Stone Cold is a no-brainer of an action film, following a traditional template and with sufficient bang, clever editing and brutal violence to just carry it over the finish line. Former Seattle Seahawks linebacker Brian Bosworth made his acting début in the film, which tells the story of Alabama cop Joe Huff, who is recruited by the FBI to infiltrate a Mississippi biker gang called the Brotherhood, led by Chains (Lance Henrikson), who have designs on taking out a District Attorney for various objectionable reasons. Huff takes on the alter-ego of John Stone and handles himself pretty well in the circumstances, dealing with all manner of rivalries and succumbing to the charms of one of the ladies, Nancy (Arabella Holzbog). Inevitably duty calls and the action hots up towards a reasonably exciting climax at a City Hall.
Director Craig R. Baxley, who replaced first choice Bruce Malmuth (Nighthawks, Hard To Kill) is a savvy helm, given his background as stunt co-ordinator on Walter Hill films like The Warriors (1979) and at the time had made his directorial debut on the Carl Weathers/Joel Silver hit Action Jackson (1988), another cult actioner that did reasonable business, albeit not to the extent of a Die Hard or Lethal Weapon. The film is helped by a charismatic villain in Henriksen, who always lifts everything he does to a new level, whether it is Terminator or Aliens (or even Close Encounters of the Third Kind, back in cinemas in its Director's Cut). Some online reports speculate that had Malmuth remained as director, the film would have had a more family-orientated subtext surrounding Huff.
At the end of the day, Stone Cold is what it is - a beer-and-curry Saturday night special when the rain hits hard and after 25 years remains a passably entertaining cult action flick.STONE COLD (1991) / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: CRAIG R. BAXLEY / SCREENPLAY: WALTER DONIGER / STARRING: BRIAN BOSWORTH, LANCE HENRIKSEN, WILLIAM FORSYTHE, ARABELLA HOLZBOG / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 6TH