The Expendables 2010 US
Directed by Sylvester Stallone
Screening at cinemas now
Well... we’ve been hearing about this “dream team” movie for a long time now... is it worth a look?
Yeah, it’s okay. I actually have a deep regard for Sylvester Stallone (with his degree in English and his endless crusade to get a movie about Edgar Allan Poe made)... not always been that sympathetic to his choice of roles but then again I might also be the only person on the planet who actually loved Cobra ;-) so I guess it’s swings and roundabouts on whether you want to trust me as a reviewer on this particular slice of Hollywood action fest mayhem.
There’s really no point in going over the plot points on this one... it’s the same thing you’ve seen over and over again. A group of hardened mercenaries do a job involving a target, the targets sexy daughter who opposes her fathers ways, lots of explosions, gunplay, knife wielding, brutality and... oh... Eric Roberts as one of the villains. I guess if you’re going to have a villain of US descent these days you have to have it be played by Eric Roberts otherwise you contravene some obscure union ruling is my guess ;-)
There are big names in this movie including, other than the main man Stallone himself who also directs, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and Mickey Rourke. There’s also a little cameo scene with Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger that I actually found pretty uncomfortable to watch... neither of them were playing nice people.
Like the recent John Rambo (which was a surprisingly good little gem of a movie), The Expendables is directed by Stallone in a very eighties way... I don’t know exactly what it is about this movie but in terms of the shot set ups and the way the non-action scenes are edited, it just felt very much like a late 70s/early 80s movie to me with lots of cuts to different sides of the conversations rather than having the confidence to rely on the master shots, and that’s not doing it a disservice... I think. Considering the majority of the players involved, then that’s probably a shrewd move... intentional or not... it has a certain tone to it that kinda fits the movie like a glove.
There are little niggles I have with it too, though. Some of the characters are a touch misogynistic in their attitudes and it’s probably a deliberate ploy I think... maybe I’m being a little too forgiving here but I don’t think people would have even noticed this if it were really made back in the 80s... It’s certainly not a good thing but, considering the general 80s feel of the movie, then I don’t think it’s totally out of place in this movie... although I kinda wish it wasn’t there in the first place.
Another niggle is the action sequences... Stallone, both in this movie and in the last Rambo movie, has started going for a new... let’s call it super-violence representation, in that he has gotten into showing you just what damage can really be inflicted on the human body when someone gets shot. You will see people cut in half with machine guns or with the top parts of their body blown clean away. Ballistic weapons aren’t nice, people (is any weapon?), but while this film does kinda set out to glorify the violence and lionise the perpetrators of this swift brand of justice as heroes, it at least lets you see the consequences of playing around with this kind of firepower in grizzly detail. However, the editing in the action scenes is like Speedy Gonzales on acid... a lot of the time you just can’t tell whats going on and in this movie you have the added disadvantage of it cross-cutting between various big name stars doing “beat ‘em up” scenes so that it’s not always easy to work out what people are doing at any one time. It’s okay in the earlier scenes in the film and the absolutely best action sequence is the one where Stallone and Statham do reconnaissance on an island and... shall we say... get themselves into some trouble. But overall the action sequences were a bit confusing to me... although I suspect that when viewing it on a smaller screen on DVD, it might be a lot easier to decode and follow the onscreen antics than it is on a massive "in yer face" screen. Jet Li’s fight scene with Dolph Lundgren is the real casualty here. We all know that Jet Li can fight like a madman and take on anyone... so whats going on here? One wonders if, perhaps, a little bit of Sly ;-) editing was undertaken so that Li didn’t fight everyone else off the screen... you know, edited and made a little choppier to tone it down a little in much the same way that a large amount of Alan Rickman’s scenes were cut from that dire Robin Hood remake because he was testing better with the audiences than Costner. That’s pure speculation about the “editing” of Li though... before anyone shouts “slander”. Just my guess is all.
Dolph Lundgren’s character arc was interesting... and you need to stay to the end of the movie to see that one through. It’s a nice little touch at the end which gives a little shot of redemption to a couple of the characters and makes a comment on the stupid, limitless boundaries of male bonding... which probably just about sums the movie up I think. So I’ll just leave it at that and say that if you’re a fan of action movies that you used to rent out for a couple of quid from your local off-licence in the mid-80s... then you’ll probably have a small place in your heart for The Expendables.