Monday, August 30, 2010

The Expendables exploded excellently!

The Expendables was easily my most anticipated of this summer's similarly themed movie trilogy which also included The Losers and The A-Team. While The Losers was based on the Vertigo comic book and The A-Team was inspired by the beloved TV show, The Expendables was a unique beast, insofar as it was an original movie that was created to get an ensemble cast of the greatest action heroes from the '80's to today all into one explosive motion picture. The man to do it, the action movie legend himself, Sylvester Stallone.

Stallone starred, directed and co-wrote the screenplay for what was to become one of the most ambitious action movies grounded firmly in the realm of "mindless retro action". The cast list was created from a cocktail of pure adrenaline, testosterone and sawdust - Jason The Transporter Statham, Mickey Iron Man 2 Rourke, Jet Kiss of the Dragon Li, Dolph Universal Soldier Lundgren, Randy Scorpian King 2 Couture, Terry Street Kings Crews, and WWE wrestler 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin. Only someone capable of representing pure evil could be cast as the bad guy, and that honour falls upon Eric The Best Of The Best Roberts who has immortalised bad guys from The Specialist to The Dark Knight. Despite such an auspicious cast, it was a single scene's casting that would resonate most with all viewers, the much publicised church-scene between Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger providing an answer to the age old question: If Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Willis appeared in the same movie would they eclipse each other's awesomeness and start a second big bang?

The Expendables was written by David Callaham the demi-genius that wrote the Doom movie. Much like Doom, Callaham avoided any depth of character and attributed one of the daftest and most simplistic plots ever put on paper, read by executives and then somehow filmed. If it hadn't been for all the "Holy Shit I never thought I'd see those two on screen together!", "Bloody hell I never thought I see those two fight each other on screen together!" and the "Fuck Me! He cut those men in two with a auto-shotgun and now everything's exploding!" moments, this would easily have been labeled as a ho-hum generic action movie. But it did have those moments and it had more than one of each too.

Stallone opened the movie extremely bizarrely and his direction was pretty haphazard overall. The cuts at times seemed like those of Micheal Bay after drinking an Ecstasy, Smarties and Coca-Cola cocktail. His camera angles were a bit dodgy in comparison to his previous masterpiece, Rambo. I wonder what sort of headache DP Jeffrey Kimball had filming this after working so long with such a meticulous action-master like John Woo. It was as if Stallone knew how to film himself, but he seemed to have difficulty in framing other people - well it was either him or the 15 - yes I said fifteen - Second Unit Directors or Assistant Directors he employed.

Nevertheless I think Stallone allowed Statham to shine through as the more complex character with more focused action than Stallone himself, plus it was Statham who got the girl [Charisma Buffy/Angel Carpenter]. It was as if he was subconsciously passing the baton to Statham saying "I'm getting too old for this Shit, you can do it now". Somehow however, to be fair, he did allow one of his "action ensemble" to act - Mickey Rourke was cast as Tool, a retired Expendable himself now their "agent" who secures their work. Rourke was given a chance to frame for the audience the kind of life that a mercenary leads and Tool's seemed to be filled with regret and loneliness - "I promised myself, I'm gonna die for something that counts". The way Stallone glanced at his hand as Rourke describes how it had been injured in the Balkans resonated probably only with people like me who will never shed the scars of battle, either physical or emotional. Outstanding stuff, but I think that this was all but lost in a movie like this and this level of drama was certainly out of place.

Despite that brief lapse into emotional retrospect and scratching the surface of character development, the majority of the movie is intence shooting, expert knife-play, splintering explosions, bloody dismemberment, fast car chases and manly wrestling [Austin vs. Couture in a pit of flame - bring the popcorn]. Needless to say, the action in this movie was awesome. What is on display here is some of the most incredible, brutal, visceral action ever on celluloid. We have aircraft that literally mince a platoon of soldiers on a pier, Stallone's Barney Ross and Statham's Lee Christmas can remove heads and arms from enemies as easy as cutting soft butter with an iron-hot knife, Jet Li's Ying Yang can hold his own against Dolph Lundgen's Gunnar Jenson and Terry Crews' Hale Caesar loads up his MPS Auto Assault-12 shotgun with a drum of fragmentation rounds that can blast explosively through concrete [and of course - people]. The sublime violence on display here is worthy of the greatest action movies of the 80's and 90's and can only be truly enjoyed by those of us who were raised on them.

Final Verdict: A flawed diamond is still a diamond isn't it, but it is flawed. The flaws of this movie while are great enough to deny it an exemption are still so greatly eclipsed by it's own awesomeness that they cannot stop it from being one of the greatest action movies of all time.

Colonel Creedon Rating: *****+


Constance said...

That's an awful lot of words for people who like this sort of movie to read, don't you think?

Lieutenant General Creedon said...

Aye lass, but think of how impressive it is that such an awful lot of words can be written by someone who likes this movie.

Constance said...

Sure and you've got a good point there!

The Expedables 2010 said...

Good point or not, after seeing sooo many teen flicks this is exactly what the doctor has subscribed me!