Sure, we all love Danny Glover in “Lethal Weapon”, and there’s no denying Samuel L.Jackson killed it as John McClane’s accidental assistant in “Die Hard : With a Vengeance”, but what about the other action-movie sidekicks? you know, the ones that mightn’t have an action figurine based on their character or, for that matter, an endless array of appearances in sequels and spin-offs. These are the five most underrated but brilliant companions of action cinema – and there’s not a one amongst this bunch that don’t deserve some kind of tardy gold statue for their timeless performance.
As Julie Mott in Michael Bay’s “Bad Boys” (1995), then newcomer Tea Leoni brought both credibility and vulnerability to a role that might otherwise have been played rather one-dimensional and forgettable. Mott is the audience, if you will, as she/we find ourselves catapult into a Jerry Bruckheimer-blockbuster that keeps our ticker ticking. It’s a real wonder they didn’t bring her back for the sequels…. watch this space?
While he batted for the bad team, former football turned actor Howie Long is one of the key reasons John Woo’s “Broken Arrow” works as well as it does. John Travolta, in a change of pace, aptly plays the smarmy villain here, but it’s Long’s hulkish ‘Kelly’ that poses the most threat to our heroes (Christian Slater, Samantha Mathis). Furthermore, Long’s so good in “Broken Arrow” you wonder why he didn’t become a bigger movie star – never too late, I guess!
It might’ve been lead Patrick Swayze who found himself in the film’s umpteen money shots but not to be discounted is “Roadhouse” co-star Sam Elliott who oozed cool and brought charm to a film that encompassed some of the most brutal fight scenes of the ’80s. Wade Garrett needed his own prequel movie.
If Eddie Murphy is responsible for the ‘laughs’ in 1984’s “Beverly Hills Cop”, then its Judge Reinhold that’s responsible for those ‘smiles’. The “Gremlins” actor garnered some new fans with his portrayal of the sweetly simple but capable Billy Rosewood in the original comedy hit -and its two sequels – but doesn’t get nearly enough credit for the film series’ effortless rewatchability and charm. Go back and watch the films and tell me Reinhold doesn’t make up much of the glue that holds that franchise together. They better bring Reinhold back for “Beverly Hills Cop 4”!
But, of course, it gets no better than Tom Arnold in “True Lies”. Sure, he was a highlight of ABC’s “Roseanne” whenever his ‘Shemp’ would appear, and his appearances in earlier films such as “Undercover Blues” (1993) and “Body Bags” (1993) kept us from looking at the VCR timecounter too often, but in James Cameron’s seminal ’90s action blockbuster Tom Arnold really brought his A-game. As Gib, Arnold’s highly underrated comedic chops and undeniable charm perfectly complimented co-star Arnold Schwarzenegger’s swagger and strength, resulting in one of the best action movie duo’s of all time. Tom might be one of our most gifted comic actors – time for studios to realize that again!