The Good, the Tough, and the Deadly Book Review
The Good, the Tough, and the Deadly Book Review
The Good, the Tough, and the Deadly, by david j. moore, is a movie reference book focusing on the action genre from the 1960’s to the here and now (2010’s). It features mini-reviews of over 1,000 movies and multiple interviews with the people involved in those movies, mostly actors and performers, the stars of those movies, but a few directors and writers, too. Now, by “action genre,” moore and his contributors (there are ten, not including moore) are not talking about big budget hooha movies likes Die Hard, Transformers, period kung fu movies, or the current crop of superhero epics that rely on CGI enhancements. Instead, The Good, the Tough, and the Deadly looks at the action movies that star martial artists, former pro athletes, pro wrestlers, and really any actor or performer that is so identified by the action genre that they are true action stars eventhough they may have participated in a few movies that aren’t action movies. So guys like Bruce Willis and Kurt Russell are not featured, but guys like Charles Bronson and Sylvester Stallone are included. Bronson and Stallone didn’t play pro ball or prize fight, but when you think of both actors you don’t think of stuff like The Indian Runner or Rhinestone, you think of Death Wish and Rambo: First Blood Part II.
Now, while Bronson and Stallone and Ahnold Schwarzenegger are part of the cinematic story that The Good, the Tough, and the Deadly tells, the real focus of the book is on action stars like Michael Dudikoff, Reb Brown, Olivier Gruner, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, and several others who worked in the action genre back in the glory days of low budget action flicks getting real theatrical releases, video stores, and the direct-to-video movies that not only filled rental store shelves but also played on cable (I distinctly remember seeing several Jeff Speakman movies on HBO and The Movie Channel). The book also looks at the low budget action flicks still getting made by today’s action stars, like Steven Seagal, Dolph Lundgren, Scott Adkins, along with pro wrestlers like Stone Cold Steve Austin, the Miz, and Randy Orton, among several others. It’s a tremendous mash-up of movies and actors and performers that still, to this day, get very little respect from mainstream critical establishment.
I mean, how refreshing is it to read a book that doesn’t make fun of Steven Seagal’s considerable weight gain over the years, or Dolph Lundgren (he was the bad guy in the “cheesetastic” Rocky IV, the movie that “defines” the 1980’s), or Chuck Norris for not being much of a dramatic actor (he’s always been a solid performer in the action genre)? It’s nothing short of amazing. The reviewers don’t pull their punches when offering up their critical opinions on various movies (Seagal has made several direct-to-video clunkers in the last ten years or so, and not every Gary Daniels movie is a classic), but at the same time no one involved is involved to make fun of Attack Force or Misfire. As a super fan of the low budget, direct-to-video action movie, I just can’t stress how awesome that is.
The book looks great and is generally easy to read. There are several cool movie posters and videotape box images spread throughout the book, some of them likely unseen since the days of the “Mom and Pop” video store (like the cover for Ripper Man starring Mike Norris and the poster for Night of the Warrior starring Lorenzo Lamas). And the cover demands to be a poster. Go ahead scroll back up and look at that damn cover. Why wouldn’t you want that on your office or man cave wall?
The interviews are outstanding, too. The interviews with modern action director Isaac Florentine and frequent Florentine collaborator Scott Adkins are great reads, as are the interviews with Carl Weathers, Olivier Gruner, Dolph Lundgren, and Cynthia Rothrock. And the interviews with the people involved with the American Ninja series are enlightening to say the least. And be prepared for the incendiary interview with the now late but always great “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. After reading the interview you won’t be able to listen to the commentary track on the They Live DVD the same way ever again.
Now, truth be told, I haven’t been able to get through the entire book as of yet (I’m about 2/3rds of the way through as I write this). There’s just so much stuff in the book that it will definitely take multiple sittings to get through the whole thing. But then, at the same time, it’s very easy to get lost in the mini-reviews and interviews. You won’t want to stop once you start. And it’s very easy to get caught up in a feeling of “What else did moore and his contributors look at for this book? And what the hell is that movie? Why haven’t I ever heard of that?” It’s happened to me several times already, and I’m sure it will continue to happen as I get closer to finishing the book. Moore and everyone else involved should be commended for that.
The Good, the Tough, and the Deadly is essential reading for anyone interested in the action genre. It is also essential reading for anyone who considers himself or herself a fan of the kind of movies that clearly don’t get made as much as they used to. You won’t regret picking it up.
Search out, buy, and read The Good, the Tough, and the Deadly. It’s worth the effort.
And be sure to check out moore’s other movie reference book, World Gone Wild: A Survivor’s Guide to Post-Apocalyptic Movies. That one is pretty dang awesome, too.