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The Expendables

Toward the end of this movie, there's an odd scene that takes place in the passenger area of the Expendables' ass-kicking cargo plane of doom, where the token black guy (Terry Crews) shows off his weapons to one of his fellow mercenaries. His final weapon is an extremely shiny straight razor with a handle made of transparent, neon-yellow plastic. The sight of that weapon literally made me say, "What the fuck?"

This is pretty much a metaphor for the entire movie experience.

I really wanted to like this movie. I really did. It had the hallmarks of the ridiculous but fun action flick. Kind of like The Scorpion King, a movie that I like in a sort of shame-filled way.

There was a good amount of fake, spraying blood. There was a gun that, at the beginning of the movie, literally tore someone in half and left the legs comically standing alone for a moment while the torso splattered against a wall. There were a dizzying array of knives (most of them wielded by Jason Statham's character) which were apparently made with steel with such a strong anti-reality resonance that bone simply ceased to exist as soon as it contacted the blade.

But. But.

I don't ask for a lot of plot out of my action movies. But I do like what little plot there is to be, I don't know, coherent.

The Expendables feels less like a film and more like a series of loosely collected scenes that have been arranged randomly. And all of the dialog was drawn, half a line at a time, from a box. I think that some of the scenes were supposed to be character development. Instead, it normally amounted to two characters saying random things to each other for about three minutes, at which point the spraying blood and explosions would mercifully resume.

I wish I could give you a plot summary, but I really can't. The best I can manage is that Stallone and his group are mercenaries. Except one of them burns out and goes crazy and tries to kill Stallone in the middle of the movie, after miraculously transporting himself to and from the tiny Latin American island hell hole where the Evil General lives. There is a douchey guy in a suit, who I initially guessed must be an American politician; I was close, he was an ex-FBI agent gone evil. There was the crazy general, who spent most of his time oscillating randomly between spanish and nonsensical English. He is sort of the pawn of the douchey suit guy, who wants him to grow drugs, or something, except nothing is getting done because the general's soldiers keep kidnapping civilians and then not putting them to work in the plantations. There was the evil general's daughter, who was Stallone's love interest. There was Charisma Carpenter as Jason Statham's girlfriend, causing a strange little sideplot where Mr. Statham beats the ever-loving shit out of a bunch of jerks on a basketball court.

The movie culminates in an orgy of gunfire, stabbing, and explosions, where the douchey suit guy shoots the general and then tries to kidnap his daughter for no apparent reason, despite the fact that earlier in the movie he was all for just killing her and having done with it. And I can't even say the spraying bullets and blood were all that interesting, because on several occasions during the climactic action sequence the focus was jumping between three or four individual fight scenes with no logic or warning.

That's also how the two major car chase scenes go as well. They actually become boring because it's impossible to tell where the vehicles are relative to each other, and it's really just an unnecessary pause in the bloodletting anyway.

The movie is an exercise in wasted potential. Jet Li appears in the film, but spends most of his time getting his ass handed to him by much taller white guys. Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger appear in the movie for a combined total of five minutes and then, no doubt feeling the threat to their careers, never appear again. Mickey Rourke plays a tattoo artist who was presumably once a mercenary himself - he's quite good at throwing knives - but spends most of his time trying to develop a character that is wholly uninvolved in the plot (such as it is) and has about as much depth and charm as Sarah Palin anyway.

The movie doesn't so much end as drop in its tracks, exhausted by its own meaningless existence, with Statham making up a "poem" that had me trying to crawl between the couch cushions to escape it.

You will notice that at no point do I name any of the characters. This is because, over the course of the movie, I simply could not be bothered to learn them. The names, like the characters themselves, felt like an afterthought, a formality added to the mix to justify this as a movie rather than one hundred minutes of random people getting shot and stabbed and blown up.

Before it was over, I tried to convince myself that The Expendables was some sort of high-level satire of the action genre. What convinced me this couldn't be possible was a scene in the middle of the movie where the general's daughter is waterboarded by the douchey suit guy. That one scene in the midst of the ridiculous mess of a movie was disturbing and strong. And it also made me realize that, to a certain extent, the movie was meant seriously. Which somehow makes it worse.

We don't ask much of our action movies, but this one fails on all counts. You're better off watching nearly any other movie that any of these actors have been in. My personal recommendation would be Die Hard. Or, failing that, you'll still get better quality story and acting from - and it pains me to say this - The Scorpion King.



( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 24th, 2010 10:55 am (UTC)
Quite honestly, I think you're a little young for this movie. There were references and things that were reminiscent of movies and television that my over 50 gen grew up on. If you were looking for something like the Terminator, yes, you would be disappointed. This wasn't even in that category of action.

The Expendables was a What If scenario played out in real time. Low brow all the way. Just what if you got the baddest action heroes together in one spot kinda thing.

And please be careful with the 'token black' thing. For example, that 'token' that you refer to was meant to represent all the black action guys of yesteryear like, Richard Roundtree, Jim Brown, Bernie Casey, et.al. When black folk went to see movies like Shaft, Foxy Brown, The Mack, and Cleopatra Jones, we didn't think of them as blaxploitation. They were just movies with black people as heroes instead of whites.

The movie was also one long running joke. IT was MEANT to be an ORGY of Muscle-bound, badass, explosions, ultra bad guys, one innocent/goregous/misunderstood/badass in need of rescuing chicka, and a bunch of crusty old dangerous, warped guys. The GUYS just happened to be a group of the most recognizable men on the planet, if you ask any 18-30yr old boy or a group of crusty old broads and dudes.. Nothing more. ^_^.

Nov. 24th, 2010 01:54 pm (UTC)
The thing is, I was really trying to see it as one long joke, but it was just so incoherent. I think if the dialog hadn't be made by a random word generator, I probably would have gotten the joke much better.

With Terry Crews, I thought he was another person who just kind of got wasted on the movie. Since the only people who really got much play were Stallone and Statham, and Jet Li kind of if you count all the scenes where he gets his ass kicked. At least Terry Crews got a better deal out of it than Jet Li, considering whenever he was on screen he was being a total badass.
Nov. 24th, 2010 01:56 pm (UTC)
Also, since you mentioned blaxploitation... did you see the movie Black Dynamite, and if so, what did you think?
Nov. 24th, 2010 10:59 am (UTC)
i saw this with my mother who LOVES 80s action films so i have seen them all, schwarzenegger, stallone, willis, norris, i knew them all, and all the medium level ones, the generic villains, even the usual location shots (still very fond of Delta Force 2 - the columbian connection) in fact i grew up thinking all drug dealers had armies of goons
so the expendables - the very idea of it gives her fangasms! all of them - in a movie - with kung fu and guns and knives and kung fu

her assessment of the film after it was over was, and i quote
"well that was crap"

a good action movie is a joy forever, a bad one, well it could have been that last rambo movie, that was crap too

but here, a reassurance something came out of those 80's movies worth remembering (although commando really was bad!)

Nov. 24th, 2010 02:40 pm (UTC)
Have you seen RED yet? My comment on coming out of that (other than the big grin on my face) was "that was the movie The Expendables wishes it had been".
Nov. 24th, 2010 03:34 pm (UTC)
I completely agree, Red rocked my socks!
Nov. 24th, 2010 06:19 pm (UTC)
This, I definitely agree with. I definitely enjoyed RED, though I think it had some problems of its own.
Nov. 24th, 2010 10:25 pm (UTC)
I think I can say with some certainty that Sylvester Stallone had no such aspirations for his movie. It was what it was and no more. To my way of thinking, Red was the movie the new A-Team wished it could be. ^_~
Nov. 25th, 2010 01:57 am (UTC)
Every time I try to think about the new A-Team movie, I black out an lose about an hour of time. And then I wake up, there's blood under my fingernails. Disturbing.
Jan. 21st, 2015 10:04 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed it. It’s not what the Oscars committee looks for, but it’s what I look for in a mindless action flick.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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