This week sees the release of Escape Plan, a prison thriller in which Sylvester Stallone plays Ray Breslin, a security expert who tests the integrity of the toughest jails. Though when he is doubled crossed and incarcerated, he will need the help of inmate of Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to execute his escape. Can any prison hold them both? What do you think?
Escape Plan is a fun throwback to the 80s and 90s when macho was the watchword, and hairspray and tight jeans ruled the world. Stallone and Schwarzenegger are both synonymous with this period of Hollywood hi-concept, and both became huge stars. But which of the two is the most Alpha Male? Who is the biggest, butchest, baddest man of the blockbuster?
Using patented scientific methods, Sky Movies think they have the answer. So oil up your pecs, and let’s lock and load. It’s time to throw down.
1. Acting ability
Although both Sly and Arnie exude a significant screen presence, it’s safe to assume that Daniel Day-Lewis probably doesn’t lose too much sleep after watching a late night screening of End of Days or Cobra. Neither Schwarzenegger nor Stallone are a great loss to the theatre - though Arnie as King Lear would truly be something to behold.
Schwarzenegger’s acting ability lies somewhere between inertia and bookcase. He delivers his lines as though each one is a feat of memory- one of the reasons he was so perfect as The Terminator.
Let us not forget Stallone was Oscar nominated for his performance in Rocky, and although he’s hardly Christian Bale, Sly does out-thesp the big Austrian.
Score: Stallone 1 - 0 Schwarzenegger
2. Body Counts
If we are here to evaluate Alpha Male status, then both actors must be judged on one crucial criteria - killings. No self-respecting action star can be seen to be soft on villains. No disabling shot to the leg is sufficient when a bullet to the head is available. They ain't sensitive liberal pinkos. They are vengeance and they are wrath.
During his film career, Stallone has amassed an impressive 227 kills, with 2008’s Rambo a bloody, psychotic, carnage-heavy highlight featuring 87 slayings.
However, Schwarzenegger has wisely avoided boxing movies, which make it difficult to execute more than one enemy at a time. His total career slaughter of 312 is to be saluted. 1985’s Commando provided his highest tally, with 81 deserving baddies successfully converted to fertilizer.
Score: Stallone 1 - 1 Schwarzenegger
Stallone is a man whose jaw is used by NASA to measure the squareness of shuttle components. His torso is a testament to nothing but gym dedication…and apparently Human Growth Hormone. He got down to an incredible 2% body fat for Rocky III, and his gun show would embarrass the National Rifle Association.
However, Schwarzenegger pumped iron professionally. Before he became an ‘actor’, he had won Mr. Universe four times and Mr. Olympia seven times, though he has confessed to using steroids while they were still legal.
Clive James famously described Schwarzenegger as "a brown condom filled with walnuts". You can bet Arnie was quietly pleased.
Score: Stallone 1 - 2 Schwarzenegger
You don’t became an Alpha Male by wielding a high-pitched, weedy voice. That’s why Michael Cera isn’t in The Expendables 3. Alpha voices are deep and rich - perfect for delivering a withering quip while depositing a round to the temple of a defeated foe.
Stallone’s baritone slur may be deeper, but with that inimitable Austrian accent, Schwarzenegger’s voice remains as unique as a movie cop making it through his last day before retirement.
Actually, very few people realise that Arnie has lived in the US for 35 years and merely puts on his accent. In private, he sounds exactly like Julian Fellowes.
Score: Stallone 1 - 3 Schwarzenegger
The measure of a true action hero must also be counted in the number of franchises he can sustain. In this regard, Papa Stallone is a force of nature. Six Rockys, Four Rambos and with a third Expendables on the way, he is a remorseless franchising machine.
Arnie may have some Terminators in his back pocket, but the upcoming Twins sequel is to be feared, not welcomed.
Score: Stallone 2 - 3 Schwarzenegger
6. Box office
Now we’re talking. Talking Hollywood. It’s a town that doesn’t care much for artistic integrity or creative expression - it’s about cash. Lots of it. And the popularity of our two Alphas has delivered it by the truckload.
Sly’s films have seen a worldwide box office of $2.96bn.
Arnie however, has a career gross of $3.9bn. That buys you a lot of cigars and out-of-court settlements for sexual misconduct.
Score: Stallone 2 - 4 Schwarzenegger
Awards? Being the Alpha Male is its own reward. Though a little silverware helps soothe the troubled ego after a hard day of professional manliness.
Many people forget that Schwarzenegger won a Best Acting Debut Golden Globe for gym drama Stay Hungry. He also has a Razzie Award…for being nominated for so many Razzies.
Stallone has managed to amass an impressive 10 Razzies wins. However, surely his 2 Oscar nominations cancel those out. What? They don’t?
Score: Stallone 2 - 4 Schwarzenegger
8. Comedic Ability
You don’t become Alpha Male by being funny. Like a small hen laying a large egg, you may uncomfortably squeeze out some wryness occasionally, but comedy like subtlety, is not the Alpha Male’s friend.
Both Stallone and Schwarzenegger have tried their hands at comedy, but you wouldn’t want either delivering your Best Man’s speech. Certainly both should avoid open mic spots at The Comedy Store at all costs.
Is Stop! Or my Mom Will Shoot a more excruciating comedic experience than Jingle All The Way? That’s like trying to judge whether Sophie’s Choice or Schindler’s List is more chucklesome.
(A low scoring) Draw
Score: Stallone 2 - 4 Schwarzenegger
9. Career Highlight
You don’t become global superstars of this magnitude without an abundance of instantly memorable, immutable, iconic cinematic moments.
Arnie as the battered T-800 at the end of Terminator 2? Stallone in any number of Rocky training montages? Arnie overcoming the alien at the end of Predator? Sly sewing himself up in First Blood? The list is long and probably depends on your mood, beer intake and last film seen.
However, merely the silhouette of Rocky’s arms aloft, atop the steps of The Philadelphia Museum of Art, is so iconic and recognisable, The Italian Stallion takes the round.
Winner: Stallone (On a split decision)
Score: Stallone 3 - 4 Schwarzenegger
10. Career Lowlight
This is a category every bit as keenly fought as their respective career highlight. Both Sly and Arnie have been repeatedly guilty of inflicting their share of witless, egotistical, shambling drivel on cinema audiences.
We’ve already touched on their ‘comedies’, all of which were as joyless as cholera. However, both stars have made as many as many bad films as good.
For Stallone, Judge Dredd, Driven, Get Carter and Rocky V were all tedious, indulgent tax bill-tastic marathons of ineptitude.
However, few performances in movie history have been lazier or more painful (though better paid) than Arnie in Batman & Robin. As Mr. Freeze, he delivered his horrible puns with all the awkwardness of a tube passenger caught between stations needing a dump. A true nadir of American popular culture.
Winner: Schwarzenegger (So Stallone gets the point)
Score: Stallone 4 - 4 Schwarzenegger
Sly may unleash many a mumbled ‘Aaaadriannnnn’, but Arnie doesn’t just possess a catchphrase. He possesses the catchphrase.
And to think that due to his pronunciation difficulties, it nearly became, ‘I’ll come back’. That sounds more like the reassurance of a rural postman than the threat of an unstoppable killing machine.
Score: Stallone 4 - 5 Schwarzenegger
12 Self Awareness
You don’t get to become the Alpha Male without a little appreciation of self.
Arnie may have made a valiant, if flawed attempt to send up his image in Last Action Hero, but with his Expendables, Sly has grabbed action genre irony by the lapels and kneed it in the balls.
It’s the universal greeting of the action star.
Score: Stallone 5 - 5 Schwarzenegger
Final result? An honourable draw.
None more Alpha. Neither less than Alpha - just as the cinema Gods intended.