Conan the Barbarian and more...
This thoroughly entertaining early Arnold film never takes itself too seriously, so you can actually find yourself halfway believing a plot where disgraced former FBI agent Mark Kaminsky goes back undercover to seek revenge on a Chicago mafia boss who killed the son of a colleague. Of course, going undercover to avenge one man’s death entails Arnold working for said mafia boss and doing nefarious deeds to prove his mettle, including: faking his death in a needlessly overdramatic fake explosion, helping the boss kill other rival crime bosses, stealing back millions of dollars in heroin and cash that had been seized by the police (by means of organizing an explosion inside of a police station), engaging in numerous violent shootouts in public places, and generally endangering the lives of innumerable innocent citizens. Personally, I find most of these instances to be unethical rather than implausible.
However, it is hard to deny the utter absurdity of the following lines of dialogue from Raw Deal’s hilarious script:
Kaminsky: [After ducking a cake that has just been tossed at his face by his angry, drunken wife] You should not drink and bake!
Kaminsky: [Splashing red paint in some guy’s face] This is what you’re going to look like dead!
Kaminsky: [Solemnly, in almost unintelligible accent] He molested, murdered and mutilated her.
Baker: [reading ID] Joseph P. Brenner. What’s the “P” stand for? Mark Kaminsky: Pussy.
Kaminsky: This must be what they mean by poetic justice.
Kaminsky: You’re under arrest. Fake State Trooper: For what? Mark Kaminsky: Impersonating a human being.
Perhaps even more implausible of all are the following two items:
1. The producers somehow convinced The Rolling Stones management to let them use “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” during the film’s finalé (in which he brutally murders the entire crime syndicate, rendering the rest of the movie utterlypointless).
2. Arnold inspiring a crippled man to walk during the film’s epilogue. After this heartening finalé, which, might I remind you, immediately follows dozens upon dozens of homicides, the film ends on a freeze-frame of the two men in a loving embrace.
11. Conan the Barbarian (1982) / Conan the Destroyer (1984)
It’s a bit of a challenge to determine the plausibility of the Conan series, seeing as they take place in a fictional land in some ill-determined pre-historic past. Therefore, the only way to fairly assess the plausibility of these movies is to attempt to hold them to their own logic; a logic which includes magic, sorcery, monsters, ghosts, gods, Wilt Chamberlain, rubbery special effects,thinly veiled racism, etc, etc. By this standard, the rather solemn Conan the Barbarian (which features Arnold being crucified and fucking a ghost), fairs a little better than the sillier Conan the Destroyer, which has the internal logic of a particularly dim-witted (albeit enjoyable) Saturday morning cartoon. In the first film, characters act in a relatively reasonable manner based on their particular motives (revenge, pursuit of evil, greed). In the second, everybody acts based on the motives of a seven-year-old boy playing with action figures.
The most glaring implausibility in Conan the Destroyer is Bombaata, the character played by former NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain. First of all, Chamberlain looks hilariously out of place doing anything the movierequires of him, from riding a horse, to wearing lots of fur and primitive armor, to swinging a mace. Also, he’s 7’1”, which is way taller than you’re used to seeing onscreen amongst relatively normal sized people (unless you’re a fan of Kazaam or My Giant). In scenes where Arnold and Wilt sneak around castles and desert landscapes, Wilt looks likehe’s either on stilts, or part human and part daddy long-legs.
However, the most ironic (and implausible) aspect of Wilt’s role is the queen’s assignment for him while accompanying Conan and the young Princess Jehnna on their quest: Bombaata’s main role is to keep Conan and Jehnna separated, and to protect the Princess’s virginity. Yes, Wilt Chamberlain, perhaps the most famous womanizer in history, the lady’s man who claimed to have slept with over 20,000 women in his life, is charged with the all-important task of protecting the virginity of a beautiful young woman. That’s like hiring Keith Richards to guard your drug stash. Even in a parallel universe, that’s just an abhorrently terrible decision.
Although Red Sonja (1985) doesn’t feature Arnold playing Conan, but the oh-so-different Kalidor (duh), many consider it the final entry in his ‘80s sword and sorcery trilogy. However, I’m not including it here because the star of the film is really an unspeakably terrible Bridgette Nielsen, who has the majority of screen time and dialogue (not to mention having the movie named after her). But, if you’re really curious, the most implausible aspect of the movie is that Nielsen’s performance makes Arnold look like a graduate of the Lee Strasberg method acting class.
In a similar vein, Arnold’s first movie is actually the supposedly horrid Hercules in New York (1969), but I probably won’t ever get around to watching that one because I don’t completely hate myself.
10. Collateral Damage (2002)
It bares mentioning that Collateral Damage was originally intended for an October 2001 release, but was delayed after the 9/11 WTC attacks. So, at the very least, the film’s central idea of American foreign policy bringing terrorism to our own land, rife with depictions of bombings occurring on American soil and killing civilians, was seen as uncomfortably familiar in the wake of the tragedy.
That said, although Collateral Damage is just kind of middling and unremarkable for the first hour, an increasingly preposterous and idiotic finalé pushes this film into the top ten. I mean, there is some ridiculous shit that goes down in the last half hour.
First of all, the entire first two acts of the movie turn out to be overly elaborate machinations by the villains; it’s one of those endings that tries to make you go, “Woah!” by pulling the rug out from under you (a la The Usual Suspects), but instead makes you go, “Uh… didn’t that just render everything that happened in the rest of the movie completely illogical and arbitrary?”
Besides that, Arnold chucks a children’s dinosaur toy packed with explosive out the window of a government building seconds before it explodes, crafts bombs out of Macgyver-esque spare parts, out-jumps a fireball, repels down an elevator shaft, seeminglyadopts an orphaned Colombian boy, earns the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and single-handedly wins the war on terror.
9. True Lies (1994)
The central conceit of True Lies is that Arnold is a counter-terrorist agent operating under the guise of a meek computer salesman. In fact, his Harry Tasker is so undercover that even his wife and teenage daughter sincerely believe that he is a dull, white-collar geek. At the time of the film’s release, this was an amusing, albeit fanciful concept, delivered with high-octane action and spectacle by a pre-Titanic James Cameron.
In retrospect, that plot device was far less disturbing and clandestine than the scandal Arnold became embroiled in years later, when it was revealed that an affair with his long-time housemaid had resulted in a lovechild that not even his own family knew about. Yikes.
Then again, this movie also features Arnold shooting a missile, strapped with the film’s central Jihadist villain, at a helicopter filled with lesser baddies. Like, he literally kills bad guys by shooting them with other bad guys. So maybe it is still pretty unrealistic, after all.
8. Predator (1987)
Predator’s placement rests heavily on your inclination to believe the following plot points:
1. Aliens exist.
2. Said aliens have mastered both interplanetarytravel and advanced combat techniques .
3.They also enjoy hunting humans for sport.
4. Dudes are also rockin’ some serious dreadlocks.
I think it’s safe to assume that all four of these sobering prospects are, at the very least, decidedly within the realm of reason. I know what you’re thinking – “Oh, shit.” Thankfully, I also find it completely plausible that Arnold can purge our jungles of these loathsome creatures. Phew.