Sunday, November 28

Some quick thoughts on The Expendables (2010)

Sad to say this, but for all its heft and hype The Expendables is tantamount to a Hot Topic poser when it comes to the genre it desperately wants to carry the battle flag for. In recent weeks, I've been mulling around the reasons for my love of trashier action, and after seeing Stallone's latest, applying the usual "mindless" definition to these efforts would be a mistake. Instead of deeming the "guy flick" as dim-witted, they should be viewed as models of cinematic efficiency. The best examples, albeit not what the snobbish would hail "high art", are tenacious little fuckers of staying power. Blissfully non self-referential entertainment that eventually can be found airing every weekend on some channel without fail.

During the few bloated explosion excuses in Expendables, my mind kept drifting back to a little scene in Sly's fourth return to his most famous character besides Balboa. Remember when Rambo had to hightail it through the jungle, plant a charge near an undetonated explosive in aircraft wreckage, and then tear out like no other sixty-two-year-old ever before a group of nondescript little brown soldiers became millisecond fire? Or what about Arnold suiting up beachside to slaughter a small army in Commando, Sly cauterizing a bad wound in Rambo III, or Bruce picking shards of agony from his bare feet in Die Hard? Simple slices of macho hubris more exhilarating than anything witnessed in the huge personality pile-up of Expendables. The only real showstopping setpiece is a fantastic seaplane firebombing of a long pier. The slapdash frenzy that infests the rest of the confusing action deflates much of the visceral impact.

That's the biggest problem with this supposed throwback to the glory days of Regan actioners. The summation feels more like a excuse to get these rugged physiognomies together on one marquee than a well developed action concept. Every actor on the cover gets their own specialized screen time or monologue. Rourke breaks up over a girl he couldn't save, Statham breaks the face of an ex's abusive lover, Couture talks about his fucked up ear, Li's skill in English has gotten worse, and Schwarzenegger looks barely able walk anymore in his four minutes. Crews is fun with his hotshit Armsel Protecta shotgun and Lundgren is underused (and underdeveloped) as the addict badboy of the team.

Whether this cast, regardless the project, was a good idea is debatable. Rourke, Austin, Couture, Li, and Schwarzenegger are easily "expendable" and should have never been approached. In their place, define a clear role for Van Damme, he would have been worth it, and expand Willis's turn. Maybe drop the vanilla Eric Roberts and let Bruce embody the villain. Unfortunately that's a pipe dream and in its current state The Expendables bogs down into a few obvious "acting" moments with some slopped together action segments peppered in. And yes, Al-Qaeda should have been the bad guys, not some vague South American faction, since '80s action gave a giant fuck off to topical political correctness. 

It's a shame Stallone hasn't done more behind the camera through his career. When he's not orchestrating action scenes like a post-stroke Paul Greengrass with the shakes, the ol' plastic-faced lug definitely has an eye and pulls off great use of dark cinematography. At times, this aspect was actually more interesting than whatever was happening on-screen. The film also never feels its 103 minute runtime and seemed to breeze by. In the end, I still hold hope for a sequel or a really fleshed out extended cut. The Expendables isn't so much a throwback as it is a bullet someone forgot to pack with gunpowder as they rushed it through the loading press. As for Lionsgate's Blu-ray, the video and audio quality are superlative.


DrunkethWizerd said...

Apart from I don't know how Al-Qaeda versus vague South America would have made one f'n bit of difference in concerns with this film, I agree with you all over.

JCVD should have showed. HORRIBLE photoshop on the multi-face cover. Worst I have seen since 1997. That fuckin bad. I liked parts of the film, but it is what it is. Maybe if it were all chicks instead of dudes, but then again we've got Sucker Punch coming soon.

Buscemi said...

Sucker Punch looks terrible. It basically looks like The Spirit with more detail. And the fanboys probably won't show for it (similar to Jennifer's Body and Scott Pilgrim).

Also, an Expendables sequel is in development. Bruce Willis is rumored to be returning as the villain.

Unknown said...

Fantastic action movie! Hope Van Damme will be in Expendables 2. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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