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August 14, 2010

The Expendables

2010, Dir. by Sylvester Stallone.

There aren't many insightful things to say about The Expendables, Sylvester Stallone's ensemble action film that rolls off the screen with the subtlety of a carnival barker offering large mallet whacks to any passerby who wants to show off their manliness.   August seems to have become the go-to month for studios to drop their internet hype projects, and this mid August weekend brings titles like Freddy vs. Jason, Snakes on a Plane, and Inglourious Basterds to mind (Plus this week's counterprogramming - Scott Pilgrim vs. The World).  Like each of those movies, Stallone's tribute to the action genre offers exactly what you'd expect.  In my case, I think that's a very good thing.

If you don't know what The Expendables is, well...then I probably don't know you.  In layman's terms, the movie can best be explained by me saying that Sly Stallone and a slew of old and new action stars get together and create carnage.  There's an evil dictator and Coke fields and an over-the-top villain played by Eric Roberts, but none of that really matters.  The point of the movie is that things go boom and/or splat.

Though the ensemble cast gets pretty much equal billing in the film's advertising campaign, and each get their own moments to shine throughout the film (which neatly fits them all into about 105 minutes of action), Stallone and Jason Statham carry most of the action.  This was another good thing in my eyes.  Statham has spent the last decade becoming my favorite action star of recent memory, despite major studios avoiding him since the ill conceived Death Race remake  (Hopefully this will remind Hollywood to change that, but I'm not holding my breath).  Stallone continues his late career surge as an actor, though nothing he gives himself here is on par with any of the monologues he had in Rocky Balboa or Rambo.  The film's "deepest" moment comes from a monologue about past sins given by Mickey Rourke, who appears only in an extended cameo that avoids the action scenes.

As a writer and director, it's clear to see that Stallone was willing to spread material to his ensemble cast, and most of the side characters get their own moments to shine.  I won't spoil details of each characters' shining moments, but will say I was most impressed with the return of Dolph Lundgren.  He shines in his few scenes, presenting a more interesting character than the rest of the side players.  Being the most interesting side player in a mindless action flick like this isn't the greatest achievement in the world, but I wouldn't have bet on Lundgren grabbing my attention going into the film.

The cast is the selling point, and from there Stallone doesn't do much but let the bullets and knives fly.  The action is brutal (the gore level can be compared to 2008's Rambo, with more explosions) and each of the characters is given their own speciality in battle to ensure they each have some kind of purpose.  There are some shades of the Rambo films in Stallone's script (and in the musical score by Brian Tyler), particularly when Stallone uses the "native who stands up for their homeland" card, but the film doesn't dwell on the politics much.  This movie doesn't have time for that, because it is entirely a film about letting a bunch of badasses be badass.

In regard to that goal, The Expendables is a success.  Will it live on as one of the greatest action movies of all-time, or simply as the gimmick film that finally got Stallone and Schwarzenegger on screen together (only to be upstaged by Bruce Willis)?  Definitely the latter.  It's sure to be a big hit on home video/disc/download, and should serve as a great party action film for those who remember life before Hollywood gave up on the R-Rated action film.  If you have any interest in the film based on your memories of the genre and/or the stars, you're sure to have fun with The Expendables' simple pleasures.

(Oh, almost forgot to mention - some of the worst CGI violence ever occurs in this one.  Slight disappointment, but nothing that kept me from having fun.)


Enbrethiliel said...


Great review! I'm glad to hear that Stallone is very generous with his supporting cast. =) It's too bad about the bad bit of CGI, though. That can really pull one out of a movie--even a movie that is so obviously a movie as this one. But a big YEAH for Lundgren! I can't wait to see him in action again!!!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great "turn your brain off and enjoy the explosions" action flick!! Yes, I would see it just to see all these guy in on movie. What true action fan could pass up on seeing Arnold, Bruce, Sly, and all the others together?
Great review!
Dreaded Dreams
Petunia Scareum

The Expedables said...

Stallone probably got more screen time because he's the director. Nonetheless i think he's done an excellent job with this title