These blokes are not expendable - they'll be back to die harder

Action heroes Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis take aim at new villains, writes Glenn Whipp, of the Los Angeles Times.

Time to pull on the legwarmers and wriggle into those fingerless gloves. The '80s are back. Or, more specifically, in a trend that may raise your hair to the teased heights of yesteryear, three vintage '80s action heroes are kicking down the doors of multiplexes again.

Can nostalgia and testosterone coexist? I took a look at the upcoming wisecracking, explosive adventures starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis.

BRUCE WILLIS (57)
The movie:
A Good Day to Die Hard (February 14).
The (anticipated) catchphrase: ''We're not a hugging family.''
Saving the world from: Russki no-goodniks.

Last time in the saddle: Schooled Joseph Gordon-Levitt on life, love and vengeance in the bloody, trippy sci-fi mind-bender Looper last year.

Obligatory reference to ageing: Riding up an elevator with Jai Courtney, playing Jack McClane, son to Willis' John, a Muzak version of Ode to Joy tinkles in the background while father and son lock and load. ''I guess you've done this before?'' a passenger asks. Jack: ''Don't encourage him.''

Return to action: The fifth entry in the Die Hard franchise sends McClane to Moscow with a story that incorporates elements from a host of film formulas - the fish out of water, the buddy movie, the estranged father-and-son, apple-never-falls-far-from-the-tree routine.''

It's a little bit of a callback to the culture shock John McClane felt in the first movie as a New York cop in LA,'' producer Wyck Godfrey says.''

Only now he's older, even more set in his ways, and in Russia. That's a problem.''

Yippee ki-yay or yippee ki-yawn? Marketing materials equally split between explosions and Beethoven. Willis already talking about a sixth film. Die-hards might be satisfied.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (65)
The movie:
The Last Stand
The (anticipated) catchphrase: ''I am the sheriff!''
Saving society from: Mexican drug cartels.

Last time in the saddle: Aside from cameos in Stallone's old-dog Expendables romps, Ah-nold's last starring role came in the 2003 pre-Governator franchise sequel Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, an efficient and, at times, exhilarating entry in the series.

Obligatory reference to ageing: Diner manager: ''How are you, Sheriff?'' Schwarzenegger: ''Old!''

Return to action: Korean director Kim Jee-woon makes his American debut in this tale of a border-town sheriff chasing an escaped drug kingpin. He came away impressed with his star.''

I have always felt that the best of any industry embodies unique qualities, and Arnold was no exception,'' Kim says.''

If I were to pick just three of the smartest people I have met during my two years in the United States, Arnold would be one of them.''

Yippee ki-yay or yippee ki-yawn? Luis Guzman owns nearly as much time in the trailer as the 65-year-old Schwarzenegger. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn't exactly signal that this movie will return the former governor to relevance. Then again, Kim has made six diverse movies, and they're all solid.

SYLVESTER STALLONE (66)
The movie
: Bullet to the Head
The (anticipated) catchphrase: ''Bang. Down. Own.''
Saving society from: Cold-blooded condo builders.

Last time in the saddle: Stallone starred in the two fossil-fuelled Expendables blow-'em-ups, co-writing both and directing the first. A third is in the works ... with Jackie Chan!

Obligatory reference to ageing: Stallone and partner sit in a car while Foreigner's Hot Blooded plays on the stereo. Partner: ''You mind if we listen to something from this century?'' Stallone: Stony silence. (Perhaps a single tear rolls down cheek afterwards?)

Return to action: ''It's a retro movie, a homage to the action films of the 1980s,'' says writer-director Walter Hill, who, as the man behind the 48 Hrs films, knows a thing or two about the particular subset of this genre.''

People call them buddy movies, but, to me, that doesn't work. They're partners forced together. They don't like each other. They're anti-buddy movies, really.''

Yippee ki-yay or yippee ki-yawn? At its premiere in November at the Rome Film Festival, the movie earned solid reviews as a lively enough 48 Hrs knockoff that showcased Stallone's timeless ability to dish out punches and tough-guy quips.