USA 2010 Directed by: Sylvester Stallone Written by: Sylvester Stallone, David Callaham Story by: David Callaham Produced by: Avi Lerner, Kevin King Templeton, John Thompson Cinematography by: Jeffrey Kimball Editing by: Ken Blackwell, Paul Harb Music by: Brian Tyler Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Randy Couture
When you’re a seasoned professional, people expect certain standards from you. They expect your style, formula, methodology, however you want to call it – because that’s what they pay you to do. When there’s money on the line, few want surprises.
When you’re an action star, you have a certain shelf life. It’s not going be that long, and mostly likely it will not go down gracefully. Sylvester Stallone thought he’s the exception. And, he thought he’s so apt at it with the responsibility to shoulder, he’d gather an assemble cast of action stars from yesteryear and jam them together for an opus of action movie that will light the way for (or pass the torch to) the next generation of hopefuls.
“The Expendables” was a sleeper from the get-go. From its slow start to the unsatisfying finish, it had little substance to digest and nothing left over to reminisce. The script ran like a headless chicken, clumsily jumping from one scene to the next. Characters popped in and out like wild mushrooms. It almost made me upset to see all this money went down the drain and the outcome was a slash-and-burn piece.
OK, maybe there were too many characters to get into it. So little time and effort was invested to develop. The story centered on Barney (Stallone) and Lee (Jason Statham), two buddy mercenaries with more buddies that knew how to kick ass and blow things up. To garner a bit of international flavor, and consumer spending, Jet Li was tossed in to bill the headline. Although, he had little to do with the story whatsoever. As a matter of fact, he looked like a washed up commie accountant with a high-pitched whine.
Barney and Lee’s team of wetwork misfits shot up and beat up everything in the movie. Everyone was on a loose leash, save one – Toll Road (Randy Couture), mild-mannered and soft-spoken, and had a point to his dialog, which was about how he got his cauliflower ears (a bi-product of being a wrestler). His and some of the other scenes that did carry some weight and humor all seemed improvised. In moments where Mickey Rourke’s Tool yanked Lee’s chain about tattooing his bald head, you could sense the camera was on auto pilot while the cameraman went to lunch.
As expected, a movie of this caliber should have plenty of good action sequences. But, with today’s choreography and special effects, “The Expendables” didn’t live up to what is expected. Although the hand-to-hand combat scenes were the most palatable, I’ve seen countless non-action actors pulling off equally impressive moves (ref. Scarlett Johansson in “Iron Man 2”). The camera was always way up close in the actors faces, shaking and jutting – a cheap trick to make the audience believe that the scene was intense. Even with the flying-kicking Jet Li lashing out on Dolph Lundgren, the camera never pulled back to allow a moment’s clear view of what the fighters were doing. I felt like I was being caught up in a sorority pillow fight – hands, feet, feathers and the stunt doubles giggling in the backroom.
If you want a solid action movie that measured up to its marketing hype, “The Expendables” is going to disappoint. If you are a fan-boy that wants to relive moments from the ‘80s, this will whet your appetite, somewhat. As you should expect, this was a movie made by cock jocks, for cock jocks. Just sit tight and bear with it, this self-homage celebratory flick will bring out the man-boy in you. If that doesn’t, then at least Eric Robert’s slippery rogue agent turned warlord James Munroe will entertain for what is expected – a solid, professional, wanton B-list movie star of the highest caliber.
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