In honor of Friday’s release of “The Expendables,” we’re taking a week-long look at the action films of Sir Sylvester Stallone — which is to say we’re skipping his comedies. Out of respect.
Setting: A tunnel connecting Manhattan and New Jersey that is obviously the Holland Tunnel but is only ever referred to as “the tunnel.”
Our hero: Kit Latura, a disgraced Emergency Medical Services worker seeking redemption who happens to be nearby when the tunnel goes kabluey, and who happens to have intimate knowledge of the tunnel’s geography.
Our villains: The various laws governing our physical world, including those related to gravity, friction, combustion, torque, and redemption.
The stakes: About a dozen survivors will die if Kit Latura doesn’t get them out of the collapsed tunnel!! Possible means of death include fire, electrocution, asphyxiation, drowning, and hypothermia. Oh, and being crushed by falling debris after Kit Latura specifically warned you not to try what you’re trying, which is what happens to an arrogant outdoorsman played by Viggo Mortensen.
How long until our first confrontation? The explosion happens at the 15-minute mark. Kit Latura and science are at each other’s throats constantly thereafter.
Line of dialogue that nails it: (Kit Latura is yelling at the tunnel itself, which is in danger of collapsing completely. I repeat, Kit Latura is yelling at the tunnel.)
“Keep trying, you piece of s***! Keep trying! How many chances do you need? You killed everybody else, but you know what? You should have killed me! ‘Cause I found your heart! I found your heart, and I’ll blow it out of your body!”
Critics agree that this is the finest soliloquy ever delivered to a tunnel.
Line of dialogue that is inspiring but untrue: “Together, we can do it! We can do anything!”
Thing that is hilarious: A lady and her husband have treated their dog like a son ever since their actual son died, and then the dog drowns in the tunnel and the lady is heartbroken, and then the lady dies, and then it turns out the dog isn’t dead after all, which would have cheered the lady considerably had she not died, and then the husband has to leave his wife’s body behind, but at least he still has his dog-son.
Coolest display of might: Kit Latura rappels down a ventilation shaft after dropping from one giant exhaust fan to the next during the few seconds that each is stopped.
Oddest lack of consistency: There is a tendency for people to be submerged in water one minute, bone-dry the next. There is also a tendency for a dog to hold its breath underwater for like 10 minutes.
Moral of the story: Man was not meant to cross back and forth between New York and New Jersey.
Stallone Action Scale: 4 out of 10. He never shoots or punches anyone. In fact, he’s sad when people die. It’s like I don’t even know him anymore.