Saturday 14 August 2010

Review: The Expendables

Year: 2010
Director: Silvester Stallone
Screenplay: Silvester Stallone
Starring: Silvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Randy Couture, Eric Roberts, David Zayas, Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Synopsis is here

I'm getting the sneaky suspicion that a few Hollywood players are worried about their relevance.

After Tom Cruise's lousy piece of film (Knight and Day) comes Silvester Stallone's last hurrah for the 80's action movie: The Expendables, A surprisingly mediocre vanity project, which at times manages to garner moments of entertainment but for the most part is a uninspired Merc on a mission flick that has been not only been done twice already this year (The Losers, The A-Team), but fails to even better them. For all it's big names and claims, ultimate action flick this is not.

Of course, my ramblings will be drowned out with yells off "just switch your brain off" and other cliches as well worn as the ones in the film, but the problem is, if you want this to be THE throwback to those past glories, you should at least remember why they were good in the first place. What we have here is a reaches the heights of the weaker comic book movies that saturated the market let alone the meathead flicks of the past.

You see my main problem with this film is not it's incoherent story or bad dialogue (you expect it in something like this) but it's the fact that Stallone as a director almost betrays those action flicks of old. The Expendables is more concerned about close ups of it's craggy stars and MTV editing that would make Micheal Bay blush than anything else. In a film where you have Dolph Lungdren and Jet Li scraping you should really be able to see the fight.

Unfortunately most of the action scenes within in the film are not only haphazardly edited but shot without a sense of place or direction. I'm all for big bombastic set pieces but Stallone is pretty aimless when it comes to capturing them on film. The films final assault is the best example of this with much of the scene accumulating as more of a series of randomized shots than an actually constructive action sequence. Another worrying issue of the action (as well as the horrible reliance of digital blood and fire) is how "normal" the actual scenes are. When compared to the OTT moments of The A-Team, The Losers and countless other movies of the same kind, The Expendables doesn't really hold up. It's good to see and action film wish to go back to the raw essence of those 80's movies, but if your going to use present-day filming techniques at least have the gaul to match present day spectacle.

Surprisingly, the movies more entertaining moments come from the energy of the cast rather than anything else. This melding of macho minds isn't Di Niro and Pacino in Heat (the meeting of Bruce, Sly and Arnie is actually pretty cringe worthy) but these guys have a do have a good comradely with each other. It's a shame however my favorite players are more bit parts than anything else as Stallone needs more screen time for his close ups.

From an acting point of view, Mickey Rouke looks like he's really enjoying his resurgence of popularity with a tight performance which makes Stallone's dodgy dialogue sound like poetry. Terry Crews is a man who clearly seems born to be in films like this, while Eric Roberts is on the right side of sleazy. These three aside, there isn't any real stand outs. Stallone is Stallone, Statham is Statham, Jet is uncomfortable with the English language and Dolph Lungdren really could be putting his Masters Degree to better use. It doesn't really matter that the performances are bad because most will be there for the action. It's just a shame that the action is so sub-par.

I didn't have massively high hopes for The Expendables but I really expected more. There's a horrible rushed feeling about the whole thing. A horrible inkling that as long as you have all the names turn up on the shoot, everything will be ok. A cliched plot, thin characterization and all the rest is a given here. In fact to some it may almost be a pass. But the lack of balls in something that's supposed to be so testosterone filled is a little embarrassing. I left the screen that it? And wondering if John McTiernan can get his career back on track to direct the sequel.