//Illustrations By Tadd Trueb
Fighting. Never Back Down. Supreme Champion. If you can sit through these recent “MMA movies” without scissor-kicking yourself in the face, you have the patience of Job, the attention span of a goldfish, or narcolepsy. They just don’t make fighting films like they used to during the Golden Age of movies. I’m not talking about the 1940s. I’m talking about the 1980s.
What did cinema in the 1980s prove to fight fans? Easy. Mullets are badass. Actually, the enigmatic ‘80s proved that no man is unbeatable. And, if you’ve got a friend with a chip on his shoulders, no beatdown goes unavenged. In an ode to all things mulleted, I bring you three of the best absurdist-revenge-fighting movies of the 1980s.
3. Road House (1989)
Victim: Wade Garrett (Sam Elliott)
Villain: Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara)
Hero: Dalton (Patrick Swayze)
Quote to Live By: “I’ll get all the sleep I need when I’m dead.” —Wade Garrett
Wade Garrett was one part Caine from Kung Fu and one part dirty old creeper at the end of the bar. The aging cooler (specialized bouncer) was a mentor to Dalton, but the antiquated sensei bit off more than he could chew when he crossed paths with the small town’s head honcho Brad Wesley. Not even Garrett’s knee-kick finishing move and savvy bar-fighting street smarts could keep the knife blade out of his back. In the end, Garrett got all the sleep he needed. However, Dalton (whose hair was slightly more magnificent) exacted his own brand on throat-ripping street justice. The only thing missing was a fight-to-the-death in a trophy room filled with stuffed bears and rednecks with rifles. Oh, wait, it had all of that.
2. Rocky IV (1985)
Victim: Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers)
Villain: Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren)
Hero: Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone)
Quote to Live By: “I’ve retired more men that Social Security.”
When Apollo Creed came out of retirement to fight the unbeatable Soviet machine Ivan Drago, he did it so stylishly that it must have offended the steroided Siberian. Donning an Uncle Sam outfit with “The Godfather of Soul” James Brown in tow, Creed declared it was time for America (hell, yeah) to put Cold War communism in a body bag. Unfortunately for Creed, he was the one getting toe tagged at the morgue after Drago tenderized him like a bowl of borscht. However, if Rocky Balboa has taught us anything, it’s that a diminutive-sized Italian with brain damage can do anything he sets his disabled mind to. One Siberian-training montage later, Rocky defeated Drago, gained the respect of the Soviet empire, and slurred his way through another post-fight interview. Here’s hoping that a script is currently being written for Rocky VII: The Return of Apollo.
1. Bloodsport (1988)
Victim: Ray Jackson (Donald Gibb)
Villain: Chong Li (Bolo Yeung)
Hero: Frank Dux (Jean Claude Van DamMe)
Quote to Live By: “I ain’t your pal, dickface.” —Ray Jackson
Ray Jackson was the American Vale Tudo fighter who befriended Frank Dux upon his arrival in Hong Kong for the Kumite. What Jackson lacked in fighting sophistication, he made up for with raw aggression, sleeveless tees, and a serial killer grin. However, Jackson flew too close to the sun on his Harley Davidson of wax in his fight against unbeaten Chong Li. After giving the champ a substantial beatdown, Jackson caveman-grunted-fist-pumped in celebration instead of finishing the fight. The brief hiatus was the opening Li need in order to head-stomp Jackson into a coma, earning him a one-way ticket to the hospital via rickshaw. This set the stage for Dux (Army AWOL) to harness his inner Tanaka Clan skills and defeat Li in the finals. It should also be noted that Li blinded Dux with quicklime in the finals, forcing Dux to pantomime around the platform before utilizing his early-years-blindfold training. Talk about a movie that comes full-circle.