In the eternal words of Red Foreman, “You are about to read a book that my foot wrote. It’s called On the Road to in Your Ass!” To commemorate the theatrical release of Jeff Wadlow’s Kick-Ass 2 (2013), our contributors have decided to recommend four oeuvres about epic brawls, mano-a-mano fisticuffs, and good old-fashioned cans of whoopass.
Streets of Rage 2 (1992)
In terms of gaming, nothing scratches the ass-kicking itch more satisfyingly than a good old-fashioned beat ‘em up. If you’re feeling the urge to knock out your foes with a fury of pixelated punches, Streets of Rage 2 is what you need. Though it was released over twenty years ago, this classic game stands the test of time and remains available on all major platforms, providing you with the opportunity to destroy all who stand in your path: gang members, bikers, ninjas, robots, dudes with jet packs, Ultimate Warrior wannabes, and, let’s not forget, fat guys.
As for the story, well, who cares? It’s a beat ‘em up. With various levels of difficulty and four characters to choose from, each with his or her own set of power moves, Streets of Rage 2 offers great replay value. Even when you’re taking a break from cracking skulls with your fists, you’ll be tempted to leave the game on the options menu to listen to the sweet background music, as it’ll probably get stuck in your head anyway. Seriously, how good is this game? Back in the day, after experiencing its fluid controls and fast-paced action, I finally forgave my friend for buying a Sega Genesis instead of a Super Nintendo.
Rocky IV (1985)
If you only see one Rocky movie in your lifetime, make it the 1976 original. If you see two Rocky movies, pick up 2006’s Rocky Balboa along with it. If you see six Rocky movies, watch Rocky and Rocky Balboa three times in a row. If, on the other hand, you want to see the good old U.S. of A. duke it out against the U.S.S.R. in an epic fistfight driven by an endless succession of melodramatic clichés and eighties power ballads, then look no further than Rocky IV (1985), possibly the stupidest chapter of the franchise and yet its most awesome.
The film opens with two boxing gloves exploding on impact. One musical recap and a giant robot later, Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) is forced to watch as Russian heavyweight champion Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) kills his best bud Apollo (Carl Weathers), who spent the previous fifteen minutes asking for it in song. This, in turn, leads to two additional rock montages and a brawl to end all brawls as our hero settles the score in the Soviet Union. Seriously, Rocky IV may not offer much in terms of plot, but its final bout will get you on such an ass-kicking high that you’ll barely notice the shot of Lundgren hitting Stallone in the chest for real, landing the dedicated writer-director in intensive care.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (1986)
It seems the American psyche is particularly fond of the aging man of action returning to surmount impossible odds (whether in the guise of inner doubts, demons, physical impairments, or all of the above) only to then fade away. The world has changed, and our hero doesn’t have a place in the new order of things, yet there’s something about his blunt derring-do that we can’t help admiring in contrast to our more “civilized” times. Clint Eastwood pulled this off beautifully in 1992’s Unforgiven, but Frank Miller did him one better in 1986 with The Dark Knight Returns.
Here is the ultimate example of true American grit: senior citizen Bruce Wayne, back from an extended hiatus as the caped crusader, takes down the Sentinel of Liberty himself, Superman. This scene from the four-part comic book series The Dark Knight Returns should hardly come as news to anyone reading this site, I should hope, but the epic fight between DC’s two most iconic figures, wherein Batman literally goes fist to fist against the impossible, should be considered a must-read in light of Warner Bros announcing their plans for a “Batman versus Superman” movie. Go out and pick it up if only to remind yourself why Frank Miller once mattered.
Revenge of the Nerds (1984)
Like Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Dave Lizewski at the beginning of Kick-Ass (2010), I could never accuse anyone of calling me athletic or even coordinated. A good day is when I can walk any distance without tripping over my own feet. I also wear glasses, read all the time, have a Yoda doll hanging from my rear-view mirror, and my friends won’t play Scrabble with me because that’s pretty much my arena for butt-kicking. That makes 1984’s Revenge of the Nerds the most ass-kicking movie I could ever endorse. No, it’s not because the titular heroes keep getting their asses kicked, though that does happen.
Rather, this classic underdog story of misfit nerds serving up a clever brand of what-for to the obnoxious jocks who run roughshod over them kicks ass in two ways. One: the manner in which the nerds use their technology, creativity, and bravado to outplay the Alpha Beta fraternity constitutes a spectacular advertisement for brains over brawn. Two: the fact that their efforts earn them admiration of the entire campus while reinforcing their self-respect is a TKO for nerds everywhere. Also, Revenge of the Nerds features actual scenes of people hitting other people’s buttocks with their feet, and, after all that talk about cracking skulls, boxing, and old-age heroism, it seemed one of us ought to go literal, you know?