Monday, August 16, 2010

Movie Review: The Expendables

The Expendables ***
Directed By:
Sylvestor Stallone.
Written By: David Callahan & Sylvestor Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone (Barney Ross), Jason Statham (Lee Christmas), Jet Li (Ying Yang), Dolph Lundgren (Gunner Jensen), Eric Roberts (James Munroe), Randy Couture (Toll Road), Steve Austin (Paine), Terry Crews (Hale Caesar), Mickey Rourke (Tool), David Zayas (General Garza), Giselle ItiƩ (Sandra), Charisma Carpenter (Lacy), Arnold Schwarzenegger (Trench), Bruce Willis (Mr. Church).

The Expendables is without a doubt the biggest, loudest, dumbest action movie of the year. It is also one of the most entertaining. It is a film with no delusions of grandeur, but does precisely what it sets out to do - gather a bunch of action stars from the 1980s and 90s and spend two hours blowing shit up really good. And if you’re like me, and were practically raised on the action movies of that era, there is a nice sense of nostalgia to go along with all the explosions. I’m not going to claim that The Expendables is a great movie, but it does what it does well.

Sylvestor Stallone, who also co-wrote and directed the film, stars as Barney Ross the head of a mercenary group who will pretty much take any job offered to them. Also on his team is Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Ying Yang (Jet Li), Gunner (Dolph Lingren), Toll Road (Randy Couture) and Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) (by the way, when did action movies stop giving their characters names as gloriously cheesy as these?). There latest assignment is to assassinate the military President of a small Latin American island. Ross and Christmas go down to scope it out before the job actually happens. They meet with their contact - Sandra (Giselle Itie) - but don’t like the lay of the land. It seems that the President is just a figurehead, and the real guy running the show is James Munroe (Eric Roberts - gloriously slimy). But Ross has developed a conscience - brought out during a recent conversation with Tool (Mickey Rourke), who used to be on the team, but now runs a tattoo palour, and simply puts Ross in contact with people who need his help. Tool is haunted by all the lives lost during his years of service, and Ross realizes that if he doesn’t go back, than Sandra will haunt him as well.

That is essentially the story of the film - but the movie not about its story, but about the action. And here is where Stallone really excels. The film opens with a bloody shootout in Africa before the main action of the film begins. When it does there are multiple shootouts, car chases and more explosions than any other movie that I can recall seeing. Stallone, who is never going to be considered a great director, knows how to stage an action scene. And even better, he doesn’t do the rapid fire editing so popular among action filmmakers these days. I could actually tell what the hell was happening during the almost none stop action sequences.

Perhaps even better to me is the way Stallone presents violence in the film. Like the latest Rambo movie (which is my mind was the best of the series), this is a movie that doesn’t skimp on the violence. When people get shot in this movie, they bleed, their arms fly off, their heads explode. The bloodshed is extreme, and to be this helps to make the movie better. Unlike most action movies, when people die in a Stallone film, it ends messy and in pain. You get the sense that they are actually dead. Rambo, with its massive half hour ending sequence that is among the bloodiest shootouts in cinema history, did this better, but it still works in The Expendables.

In a movie like this, performances are really secondary, but most of them here are pretty good. Stallone is still able to pull off the He Man like performance as the almost unstoppable man of violence. Statham is fine - better than normal actually - and Jet Li has some fun lines. The rest of the performances - by Crews, Coutre, Lundgren along with Steve Austin - are all fine, but nothing remotely special. Far and away the two best performances in the film belong to Mickey Rourke, who brings more gravity to his role as the depressed Tool than I would have thought possible, and Eric Roberts who goes way over the top, but creates a memorable screen villain.

The Expendables is by no means a great movie. It really isn’t that well written. But it is a movie that I have to admit I had fun watching pretty much from beginning to end. It does what it does with no pretensions. It doesn’t try to be anything other than what it is - an entertaining action movie where a bunch of shit gets blown up. If that’s enough for you - it was for me - than you will probably have as much fun as I did. If not, well, you’ve been warned.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for your excellent review of this movie....I will definitely go see it...I love all the guys and my special favs are Mickey Rourke, and Eric Roberts, two of the best actors to ever come out of Hollywood. And Sylvester Stallone? What can I say....I have seen all the Rocky's and Rambo's many times and like the Godfather, whenever I find these flicks on TV, my remote stops there, even if its in the middle of the damn movie.