Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Expendables [Sylvester Stallone]

I'm not disappointed in The Expendables because it didn't live up to the hype. Pretty much nothing could have lived up to the hype "the next movie from the man who give us John Rambo" coupled with its testosterone overload casting call garnered. And it was plainly obvious that some of the star turns would be cameos rather than full-fledged roles, so no, that's not a cause of grief. But really, it really should have been a LOT better than this cold kettle.

One of the big problems with this movie is that it takes this roster of lovable badasses and gives the bulk of them precious little to connect with. There is nothing worthwhile in terms of dialog or character sketch. You might argue that the action movies of the 80's and early 90's this film aims to pay homage to were not written by Shakespeare, but the fact is that even in their corniest moments (and with some, especially so) they had a definite likability and recall value: where are those cool one-liners that would be passed on between the fans, those colorful archetypes and boldly etched caricatures, the over-the-top cheeriness? Watching The Expendables is akin to hearing Santana's Supernatural album. You have the odd bit of nice phrasing here and there but it's nothing you want to go back to again.

Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis come together in one scene and what do we get? Tradeoffs so painfully amateurish and unfunny they would embarrass the makeshift writers of kindergarten school-plays. Mickey Rourke comes in with his Wrestler getup and his plum moment is an allegedly poignant story he tells about a woman in Bosnia, which only succeeds in being irritatingly pointless. Steve Austin who rocked hard in The Condemned is reduced to a cut-price henchman. Statham even considering his limited abilities had more fun in the Crank series while Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren are only good for one hand-to-hand scene. The script alternates mostly between bland and cringingly bad, and, unlike the last Rambo, the chemistry between most of the actors is quite tepid. This movie should have had the nostalgic action fan throwing popcorn at the screen going "Fuck, Yeah!". Instead it's mostly "What? Oh, alright, whatever." Hell, The Forbidden Kingdom, with its all-too-late pairing of Li and Jackie Chan had a better overall vibe as a tribute flick for genre fans.

The visuals of the film are mostly drab and soft, surprising given how good John Rambo looked. The action scenes have some good moments, like Statham firing out of the nose-cone of the plane or some of the heavy-weapons large-scale destruction set-pieces in the climax, but little we haven't seen done much better in the erstwhile films this one aims to cash in on. The gore elements for the Indian screening appear curtailed; I'm sure there will be a significantly bloodier unrated edition for DVD, I just don't feel it will make for a significantly better film.

Stallone had a good idea here but he would have really done better to hire a professional writer and director for this, people that didn't get so excited over the casting they totally forgot about the other critical factors that glue the memorable action film together.

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