Monday, August 16, 2010

Critic *heart* The Expendables.

Movie-wise this summer has been pretty weak.  Iron Man 2 seems like eons ago, and most everything else for the exception of Inception was Meh.  This also seemed like the summer of "Men on a Mission;" with things getting kicked off with The Losers, next came The A-Team, and bringing up the rear is The Expendables.  The Losers ended up being a good concept that was defeated by a shitty villain.  A-Team was decent but frankly Liam Nissan was a horrible Hannibal.  So what started out as looking to be a strong return to a time tested genre (kicked off by last years very awesome Inglorious Basterds), was ending up looking like a wash...

The came The Expendables.  For me, this was one of the few movies this summer that I really wanted to see.  Every since I heard Sly float concept early last year, my mind began to tick with all the possibilities.  Gather all of of or as many of the 80's and 90's action stars and make a tribute film to the 80's style action movies, where men were men.  They felt no pain, they all carried huge guns with God Mode and Infinite Ammo turned on.   Sylvester Stallone was going to finally make the move that we've been asking for forever. 

The biggest story of this film is the cast.  Of course it was a near impossible task to truly assemble the "Dream Team" of action stars for a movie like this.  Any one of use can tick off a list of potential participants.  Of that list he did a good job of getting who he could.  The only notable absentees were Wesley Snipes and Van Dam.  Sly said that invitations were extended to both of them.  Snipes turned it down for "Scheduling" reasons i.e. no knowing if he was going to be in jail, and Van Dam didn't like the money.  Their parts were re written for Terry Crews the former NFL player, TV Actor, and Old Spice man; and Randy Couture the MMA fighter.  Frankly they did stick out like soar thumbs amongst the more experienced cast, but it didn't detract from the overall chemistry.  The rest of the cast, if you didn't already know, is Stallone, Statham, Li, and Lungren along with Crews and Couture as The Expendables.  Mickey Rourke is a former Expendable who is retired but lets the team use his tattoo shop as a hangout.  Eric Roberts and Stone Cold Steve Austin are the primary antagonists.  There is also a notable cameo by Arnie and Bruce.  

Despite how much I like the movie it did have some issues.  The first was Dialog.  This was strange because Stallone last two outing were actually really good on this front.  Some of the jokes just didn't hit with me, and the banter between the characters wasn't that clever, Oscar winning dialog isn't why I came to this movies.  The acting was somewhat wooden.  The principals were fine but you could tell that Crews and Couture were amateurs.  I was also reminded why Dolph doesn't talk in most of his movies.  On the other hand Roarke has an absolutely awesome monologue, that again asks why he let himself get so fucked up over the last 20 years.  Frankly the biggest issue I had was the cheap post-production special effects.  It's obvious that they were making this movie on a really night budget.  It's also obvious that at the time of filming they weren't sure if they were going to be able to make this PG-13 or R.  It seem during production they did not use very much movie blood.  Once they got the go ahead to make it hard R they went back and added CGI blood splatters and mists.  It looked really cheap.  

Regardless.  This was all about the action.  This movie was never out to win any Oscars.  The pacing reminded me a lot of First Blood: Part II and Rambo.  It starts off fairly slow, and builds to an awesome crescendo.  The Final action sequence is exactly what you're looking for in a movie like this.  It's 30 minutes of non stop action.  All the bases are covered.  Superhuman pain thresholds abound.  Unlimited magazines everywhere.  There's even a complete WTF moment when Crews and Stallone work together to become a human artillery piece. 

In Short, Is it the greatest movie ever?  No.  Does it belong in the same category as The Dirty Dozen?  No.  But it's a very good action movie.  The best part is it's an action movie that doesn't try to be anything more than an action movie.  Sly Achieved exactly what he intended to achieve.