THE EXPENDABLES … It’s Action/Adventure Porn!
Review by John Harvey
If you’ve been reading any of the film reviews of Sylvester Stallone’s 1980s-style throwback to the golden era of cheeseball action/adventure films, THE EXPENDABLES, then you know that the reviews fall into one of two categories.
Either the reviewer loved the movie because it’s nothing but guns, explosions, bravado, explosions, one-liners, boobs, explosions, testosterone, fistfights and then some REALLY BIG EXPLOSIONS …
… or the reviewer hated the movie because it’s nothing but guns, explosions, bravado, explosions, one-liners, boobs, explosions, testosterone, fistfights, and then some REALLY BIG EXPLOSIONS.
So, it appears that we’re all agreement. THE EXPENDABLES is nothing but explosions, bravado, explosions, etc., etc., and so on. And really, what do you expect when you put Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Randy Couture, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the same movie? A sequel to THE REMAINS OF THE DAY (1993)?
This movie is what would happen if I was 10 years-old and my parents gave me a well-funded film studio for Christmas. It is an entirely juvenile romp through all the best (and lovably worst) action film tropes and gimmicks that were exemplified by the The Cannon Group films in the 1980s.
Here’s the gist of the plot. Stallone and his muscle-bound buddies make up a mercenary team hired to overthrow a South American dictator (David Zayas) and the American drug lord (Eric Roberts) who finances his operation. But really … who cares?
If you’re going to enjoy this movies, then you see it for the popcorn-chomping cheap thrills, nostalgia, chuckles and acts of violence and mayhem that zoom well past the borders of being ludicrous. That’s what I went for, and I came away entirely satisfied. All the actors play (and overact) their roles admirably and with many winks to the audience. While THE EXPENDABLES may not win any Oscars for acting, Stallone should get some sort of trophy for herding that many big egos into one film and churning out something fun to watch.
Is the movie without flaws? No. Remember that THE EXPENDABLES is built on a gimmick rather than an original concept, so certain scenes and sub-plots fall flat because there’s no framework to hold up anything resembling real storytelling. In addition, Stallone used a lot of quick cuts and other camera tricks to juice up the physically-demanding fight scenes and obscure the simple fact that many of the stars are … well … old.
Also, while there’s been tons of hoopla about the HUGE cast of action/adventure stars in this film, the bulk of THE EXPENDABLES’ screen time belongs to Stallone and Statham. After that, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, and Mickey Rourke fall in the “distant second” category. Most of the other featured names are window dressing, while Willis and Schwarzenegger share a one-scene cameo with Stallone.
I have to admit, I had a lot of fun watching Lundgren … err … act in this film. He’s a dreadful actor (though probably smarter than the rest of the cast combined … See Footnote 1), but you can tell that he knows it and doesn’t mind. This makes watching his performance oddly endearing. I also found it humorous and a little surreal to see Mickey Rourke taking up the Obi Wan Kenobi persona in THE EXPENDABLES.
Ultimately, THE EXPENDABLES was great fun and perfectly suited for viewing on the big screen (many awe-inspiring fireballs). It reminds us that low-concept films don’t have to default to being bad movies, as long as you can appreciate them solely at face value. Movies like this need to be taken in as a whole. Once you start nit-picking at the details (like, you know, logic and physics), then that’s the moment when you start missing the point.
For example, if pressed, what do I think would have made THE EXPENDABLES a much better movie? Honestly … more boobs.
Directed by: Sylvester Stallone
Written by: Dave Callaham and Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Randy Couture, Eric Roberts, David Zayas, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Run Time: 1hr 43min
Footnote 1: Not a lot of folks know this, but Dolph Lundgren has a huge brain. He holds a master’s degree in chemical engineering and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He speaks Swedish, English, German, French, Spanish, some Japanese, and some Italian.
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© Copyright 2010 by John D. Harvey