There's an armed robbery going on at this store tonight, and the hoodlums shoot up the place, sending products flying and shoppers cowering. But suddenly the criminals fall silent as they hear a trolley squeaking along the aisles, and one of them is sent to dispatch the newcomer, only to be dispatched himself. That's because they're not messing with any ordinary civilian, but disgraced cop Joe Huff (Brian Bosworth) who knows very well how to deal with a hostage situation: see to it that the bad guys are rendered unconscious. The police show up too late, and Huff's boss warns him he's still on suspension - but now he is offered a deal he cannot refuse...
Between the years of 1988 and 1991, former stuntman Craig R. Baxley moved from second unit direction to helming his own movies, and although they didn't make a huge splash at the time, those three efforts have gone on to cult status. First up was Action Jackson, then Dark Angel, and finally this one, Stone Cold, which was not a success and not only stopped the budding movie career of former football star Brian Bosworth in its tracks (he would be back about five years later for decidedly lower profile roles), but ensured that Baxley never really made much more in this vein of slightly spoofy, winningly over the top action thrillers.
It could have been the turn of the decade telling us that the heyday of eighties action was drawing to a close and audiences wanted a change in their heroes, or it could be that the mightily mulleted Bosworth simply wasn't enough of a draw, but Stone Cold was fairly expensive to make - the money is all there on the screen - and equally there was a difficulty finding investors in what was becoming more lucrative as straight to video fodder. Certainly that's where most of the action stars of the previous decade had found themselves by the end of the century, and Bosworth may well have been the first casualty of that. Yet why this, his first starring role, isn't now mentioned in the same breath as Road House is a mystery.
They share the same dunderheaded macho quality, with just enough of a wink to the audience to say, come on, we know this is ridiculous, but we'll take it seriously if you will. There are also some choice lines of dialogue, although oddly Bosworth takes second place to his co-stars in delivering them and chief villain Lance Henriksen comes close to stealing the movie out from under The Boz's nose. If only they had come up with a far simpler plotline for the hero to coast through then it might have been judged a more accomplished work, as for too much of the time the actual plans of both Huff, working undercover, and Henriken's Chains, leader of the biker gang being infiltrated, are too obscure for the narrative's good.
It's enough for us to know that Chains is up to no good and Huff is out to stop him, although the cop's alter ego is known by the name John Stone, which may ring bells with fans of Australian exploitation movies, specifically, well, Stone. That was the tale of a cop going undercover with a rough and ready biker gang who are breaking into the criminal underworld, and showcased some incredible stunts, which is a pretty fair description of this film that happened along around fifteen years later. But those similarities are not necessarily detrimental, as they're both perfectly serviceable examples of their genre and if you were to graft the best elements of both into one great big movie, you might well have a classic. As it is, you can see where Stone Cold is lacking, but the barrage of testosterone-fuelled physicality proves to be cumulatively enjoyable, so by the end with the siege at the courthouse (which has Huff conspicuously failing to save anybody) you're right there with the movie. Music by Sylvester Levay.