[Fresh Read] ‘ONE TOUGH BASTARD’ a testosterone throwback to ‘80s/’90s action movies

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Travis Leamons // Film Critic

ONE TOUGH BASTARD

Published by Honey Badger Press, Adam Howe’s new book is now available for purchase.

Which one of these statements bears the greater truth: never judge a book by its cover, or a picture is worth a thousand words? The cover of Adam Howe’s ONE TOUGH BASTARD immediately draws the reader’s attention as it is a complete homage to the Sylvester Stallone movie COBRA. Only in place of Stallone’s face is the face of a chimp and a tagline that reads, “One’s a big dumb animal. The other’s a chimpanzee. Sh*t just got real.”

 If that’s not enough to entice you to read the synopsis and thumb through a few pages, then clearly you aren’t a fan of the over-the-top action flicks of 1980s and early 1990s, produced by the likes of Joel Silver and Golan-Globus (the Israeli cousins behind Cannon Films), and starring Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Dolph, Seagal, Van Damme, and full of unapologetic violence, cheesy one-liners, explosions, and yellow dye No. 5. Everything a growing boy needs. 

Howe clearly is, and he knows his stuff. His novel is one long ‘80s hair band love ballad to mullet-haired action heroes. The kind of guys that don’t have time bleed, eat Green Berets for breakfast, and kick-ass when they find themselves all out of bubble gum. 

Everything that our hero, Shane Moxie, is not.

Shane “The Mox” Moxie would consider himself among the indispensables of THE EXPENDABLES, but this native of Toad Suck, Arkansas, became Hollywood’s unlikeliest action hero thanks to a tax dodge that backfired (think THE PRODUCERS if Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom made movies). Then his sleaze-to-please superstar rise would end thanks to being overshadowed by a more popular co-star. While Riggs had Murtaugh, and Tango had Cash, The Mox had Duke – a chimpanzee. Like a wrestling tag team where one member goes on to become a huge star, Shane became an afterthought. The star of such low-rent hits as AMISHING IN ACTION and LAMBADASS would feud with his COPSICKLE chimpanzee sidekick and then make a string of flops that make Cuba Gooding Jr.’s post-Oscar win movie choices seem like good ideas. Even after KKKOP – where Mox stars as a black cop that infiltrates a neo-Nazi group as a Klansman after being rendered white thanks to The Melanin Machine (you read that right) – became the most reviled film released by a major studio, he was undeterred.   

Twenty years removed from the success of COPSICKLE, Mox stages a comeback with a publicity stunt that erupts in a hail of gunfire as our hero becomes the target of assassins. Or so he thinks. It turns out the quarry is Duke. Begrudgingly reunited, the two stumble upon a crime syndicate headed by an iconic German action star so powerful he could break Ivan Drago in half and have the Terminator terminate himself. 

Like a trashy buddy actioner where writers Shane Black and Joe Eszterhaus are at the opposite ends of a line of coke and Lady and the Tramp their way to the middle as if it were a shared strand of spaghetti, Howe’s mind goes gonzo. He infuses meta-humor with a megaton of pop culture movie references as he ushers action badasses back while superheroes dominate the box office. An original and homage all in one, ONE TOUGH BASTARD apes (pun totally intended) Hollywood’s golden age of guy cinema, giving us an out of shape, Joe Dirt version of an action star who at one point is chased by ANTIFA, squares off against a former female bodybuilder-cum-assassin that would frighten Brigitte Nielsen, and would see a replica of his manhood used as a killing device. Not bad for a guy whose hair Howe describes as if “Motley Crue, Dog the Bounty Hunter, and Sax Man from THE LOST BOYS pulled a train on Vidal Sasson.” 

Come on, if this was a movie, you know you’d buy a ticket. 

Howe knows his audience and gives them the great and gross of ‘80s decadence in a 21st-century setting. Shane may be a legend in his own mind, but you can’t help but admire his moxie (pun totally intended again). Duke is a total scene-stealer, especially during the ludicrous high-octane ending where he shoots up baddies as if John Woo were directing. Moxie’s crackerjack timing is just as epic, with his dumb luck saving his hide time and time again. 

Cool points to Howe when describing the movie memorabilia our villain has acquired over the years for his Hollyworld themed restaurant. Die-hard action fans will be salivating like Homer Simpson holding a doughnut.  

He even ups the ante with world-building and exposition after the novel is finished by including fake synopses and poster art for Shane Moxie’s filmography. I kind of wish some of these movies existed. The laughs continue as director Sam Firstenberg (AMERICAN NINJA) describes what it was like working with the Mox on a DTV dud. The capper is a Moxie-approved workout playlist that includes Power Station, Joe Esposito, Stan Bush, and Frank Stallone. 

Cinematic junk food that’ll give you a paper cut…Once you’re done with ONE TOUGH BASTARD, you’ll feel like a GD sexual tyrannosaurus sporting a Miyagi-Do headband as you walk around on the carpet barefoot and make fists with your toes.

Grade: B

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