Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Expendables

This has been the summer of the 80's flashback after hits and misses like Karate Kid, Predators and A-Team. Studios tried to get butts in theatres and other than Karate Kid, most have failed. In fact the action genre this summer has been next to pitiful as big names stars with big vehicles have crashed and burned all over the place. As I now look at the weekend box office total it looks like the Expendables has survived their first weekend coming up with a number one spot with about 35 million. Now I had heard that expectations were already low and they supposedly shot the thing for about 85 million, so all in all a decent haul for the weekend. And on some level I'm happy that a big action movie could take number one at least once this year, but I feel kind of mixed about this movie in particular. The Expendables, unfortunately, has shown Stallone's age in the worse way possible. I really wanted to love this movie I really did, but the dialogue and Old Man Rocky made that almost impossible. I really hate to say it but I think Stallone helped to drive in the final nail in the coffin that was-- 80's action films.
Barney Rubble, I mean Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his rag tag team of mercenaries are sent on a seemingly impossible job to kill a dictator (David Zayas) and the ex-CIA agent (Eric Roberts) that is funding him. Barney's team is nothing to sneeze at, these guys are all pretty bad ass. His right hand man Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) is a master of knives. Yin Yang (Jet Li) is the resident martial artist and short person. (It was funny the first few times, but then that joke got lame.) Toll Road (Randy Couture), I think he was a munitions guy but I'm not sure what his specialty was, but his fight with Steve Austin was certainly the high light of the entire film. Then you have Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), yeah didn't realize that was his name, thank God they didn't mention that too much. He pretty much just stayed in the background until the end where he blew shit up good with his massive hand cannon. His scenes were pretty fun too, kind of reminded me of those scenes in Terminator 2 with Arnold and the big ass machine gun. Lastly you had the wild card Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) who was totally out of his gourd and at one point flips sides for a while. They had their handler, Tool (Mickey Rourke) who seems to be there for moral support and to kick around to talk about the old days. Given what Mickey had to work with I thought he had the most heart of anybody in the film.
This should have been a really fun flick, I was really hoping for it to be the big action movie of the summer but it just fell so flat. I can't complain about the action scenes, they were gritty and huge and at times amazing. I can't say enough about Steve Austin in this movie the guy really knows how to make a punch pay off in both his battle with Stallone and Couture. As I said before though it was Sly himself that made this thing almost unwatchable. I think it's time he stayed behind the camera instead of in front of it. I say this with the upmost respect, I really have enjoyed most of his films growing up. I will admit I was never a big Rocky or Rambo fan but he really won me over in movies like Cop Land, Demolition Man and Cliffhanger. Yes, I said Cliffhanger, it's a fun ride and Stallone was great in it. He looked tired, he looked worn out. He honestly looked like he was 65 years old and he was having trouble keeping up. I think his talents are best served behind the camera. That being said it would serve him and his compatriots when shooting Expendables 2 to get a screenwriter worth a damn. I got some suggestions; Shane Black (Lethal Weapon films, Die Hard 2) or Jeb Stewart (Die Hard) or how about Brian Helgeland (LA Confidental, Man on Fire & Payback). These are all damn fine writers who wrote great material for super badasses. They also know how to write a great villain cause that is sorely missing here. I enjoy Eric Roberts most of the time and again no one will deny that Stone Cold Steve Austin kicked major ass in this film, but he was just the muscle. He was Karl to a non-existent Hans Gruber. There was no character there for Roberts to play he was just an asshole with a suit, not very compelling. Also this thing is called the Expendables, I thought it was supposed to be about a group of guys. The film mostly just focused on Statham and Stallone, I didn't really feel like this was about the group. I wanted to see more Terry Crews, I wanted to see more Couture, but they kept going off on weird subplots with Christmas and his wayward girlfriend and dealing with the madness of Dolph.
Oh, and you really aren't missing much if you happen to miss the cameo of the trinity of action stars which is Stallone, Arnie and Bruce. I thought the scene was friggin horrible. Bunch of cheesy one-liners and Arnie just looked uncomfortable, I guess he's been away too long, reminded me of his Red Sonja days. Again the dialogue creeps back and makes you just want to shake your head for all of it's lameness. I think this film proves that a successful action movies needs it's big heroes and it's big bang but it also needs as most things do a fun story with at least clever writing. In which the Expendables fails miserably. I know it feels like I put the hurt on Stallone and his movie but there are many redeeming things in the flick, most importantly the big fight pieces and Mickey Rourke. If you are looking for mindless action with a plot similar to Rambo from a few years ago, then this is right up your alley. If you are itching for clever fun explosions with a solid story like Die Hard or Predator then you are barking up the wrong tree, you might as well go to the bargain theatres and see if the A-Team is still playing. At least they know how to make a fun action flick with mercenaries.
Grade: 2 and half buckets

No comments: