Steve Austin - Keeping It Old-School
Since the former WWE Champ stepped out of the wrestling ring and turned his attention to acting, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was, at first, met with reservations as to whether his larger-than-life ring persona would carry into a believable (and likeable) screen presence. Aside from anything else, I have this view that wrestlers make naturally charismatic and generally solid action stars (eg. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, John Cena) and the transition across arenas may seem obvious. Under his better known stage name of "Stone Cold", he earned 19 champion titles throughout his professional wrestling career and became WWE six-time world champion.
Having made TV appearances in Celebrity Deathmatch and Nash Bridges, Austin landed his first feature role in the 2005 remake of The Longest Yard. He followed this up starring in The Condemned, the big-budget survival fight-fest pitting convicted felons against each other in a brutal hunting sport setup for the entertainment of the viewing public. Starring alongside Vinnie Jones, he worked under the creative influence of fight choreographer, Richard Norton, who blended MMA with street self-defence. In 2009, Austin delivered a truly badass performance and gave his acting chops a stretch in one of my personal favourites, Damage. Sharing the screen with acting heavyweight Walton Goggins, Austin blended the persona of tough, bare-knuckle fighter with quiet, humble loner. This was followed by the less satisfying The Stranger, before teaming up with Eric Roberts and Gary Daniels to take on The Expendables! Although the role of Dan Paine was essentially a two dimension baddie, appearing alongside such a high calibre of action stars was a unique opportunity and Austin still got to flex his monstrous mass in fight scenes against both Sylvester Stallone and UFC legend, Randy Couture. He is even rumoured as one of the potential names attached to the sequel, The Expendables 2, though this is only a rumour.
Austin's most recent release to date was Hunt to Kill, a solid, no-nonsense action/thriller combining influences of First Blood and Commando. Teaming up with Expendables co-stars Gary Daniels and Eric Roberts, while battling sadistic bad guy Gil Bellows, Austin plays a hard-as-nails Border Patrol agent trying to save his daughter, taken hostage by a gang of criminals. As the bad guys evade the law through the dense forest and woodland, they systematically become human targets for our unforgiving hero. The film was also given a strong boost by skillful DTV director Keoni Waxman, who has spearheaded some of the best lower-budget action outings in recent years.
Next up, Austin stars in Knockout, a coming-of-age Karate Kid tale as Austin's school janitor and one-time amateur boxing champ mentors a student who wants to join the school's boxing team and fight back against the resident bully. Austin's other forthcoming release is Hangar 14 which sees an LAPD SWAT Team exercise gone wrong as the team become trapped in an abandoned hangar in the company of two feuding gangs armed with nothing but blanks. Austin stars alongside a solid cast including Michael Jai White, Darren Shahlavi and UFC star, Keith Jardine.
It's great to see there's plenty coming up in the world of Steve Austin and despite what anyone may say, I genuinely think the man has earned his action stripes and ranks with the best in the action arena. Embodying a commanding physical presence, humble easy-going attitude and likeable, understated persona, he embodies the best qualities of the classic, old school action star. For any action cinema fans who haven't yet seen his work, I advise you to give it a try and enjoy some bruising screen-time with Mr Austin. Whether living up to his gentle giant real-life image or stepping into badass mode playing the human wrecking ball, there's a lot to be admired from his sheer energy, hard work and the fruits of two impressive careers.