Friday, August 20, 2010

It Came From The Cineplex: The Expendables

The Expendables, directed by co-writer Sylvester Stallone, is like a love letter to old school, 1980s action movies. It’s an enjoyable shoot-em-up, but one that felt somewhat lacking.

From the time it was first announced, the main buzz about the project was in the casting. You could even say the casting is the star of the movie. Stallone wanted it to be one giant Eighties reunion and tried to get every big name former action star in Hollywood to sign up for the project for one last big screen hurrah. Unfortunately he didn't quite succeed.

Expendables stars Stallone himself, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Stallone reportedly attempted to recruit Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal and Chuck Norris, but they declined for various reasons, leaving him to fill the rest of the slots with lesser-known stars and wrestlers and leaving us to imagine what might have been.

Schwarzenegger and Willis have very brief cameo roles, which came as a big disappointment. I can give Arnold a pass for only being in the movie for 5 minutes, as he’s busy running California into the ground, but what was Bruce Willis’ excuse? No offense to Jason Statham, but Willis really should have played his part. Was he busy on another project, or could Stallone just not afford him full time?

Why wasn't Kurt Russell in the cast? He made a movie with Stallone, so why isn't he on the team? And Carl Weathers? Surely Stallone has his email address.

The plot, such as it is, is standard action movie fare, and therein lies the problem. Once the novelty of the casting wears off, there’s just not a lot for the characters to do, other than shoot a lot. Of course that’s why you watch an action movie, but I was expecting something more.

Apart from Stallone and Statham, none of the actors seem to have much chemistry with one another. Some of the stars seem like they're uncomfortable and out of place. It seemed as if Mickey Rourke wandered onto the set by mistake, said a few lines and then meandered back off.

Dolph Lundgren is absolutely wasted as an Expendable who goes bad, disappears for three fourths of the movie, then comes back a bit at the end. Why couldn't they have given that part to one of the wrestlers I've never heard of, and given Dolph more to do?

Most of the dialog is very bland. 1980s action movies were famous for their pithy one liners ("I'll be back," etc). There's not one quotable or memorable line in the entire film.

There's plenty of hand to hand combat, blazing guns and exploding buildings, but honestly there's nothing here that we haven't seen before. Maybe we've become so used to CGI setpieces that good old fashioned 1980s action bores us?

There also seems to be a lot of filler, especially for an action movie. For instance, the totally superfluous subplot regarding Jason Statham and his breakup with his girlfriend. A good amount of time is spent on this plot and it goes absolutely nowhere. The only conceivable reason it's there is to give Statham a chance to beat the crap out of some stuntmen for a few minutes of screen time.

I'm being very hard on the movie, but only because with a cast of action movie icons, I expected much, much more. It’s not a terrible movie, it just could have been so much better. I'm gonna have to give it a C.

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