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Old 08-17-2010, 02:08 PM
Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:

The Expendables (2010)

The hype for "The Expendables" has been building for months now. Many people had been looking forward to seeing all of these big-name action stars come together for what was hoped to be an unforgettable action flick. Sadly, what we end up with is an incomprehensible, overly-long explosion-fest that could have easily been retitled "A.D.D.: The Motion Picture."

The story involves a group of mercenaries that includes Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), and Ying Yang (Jet Li). The beginning of the film has them putting an end to a hostage situation the only way they know how, with massive amounts of gunfire. Their next job, given to them by the mysterious Mr. Church (Bruce Willis), has them going to a small island in the Gulf where they have been asked to eliminate a general.

As the mission proceeds, they learn there is more going on on the island than there seems to be. The team discovers that there is an ex-CIA agent, James Munroe (Eric Roberts), who has gone rogue and is now working with the general to operate a drug smuggling ring. Also on the island is the general's daughter, Sandra (Giselle Itiť), who Barney has a bit of a crush on, giving him even more of a reason to complete this mission.

What struck me most about this film was simply how dull it was, which is surprising for a film that contains a fair amount of action sequences, though mostly crammed into the last half-hour. You would think a film that combines Stallone, Statham, Li, Steve Austin, Dolph Lundgren, and many more, would be rather exciting, but the action is done so poorly, that this is sadly not the case.

The action sequences were one of the biggest problems, if not the biggest problem, of the film. Academy Award-nominee Sylvester Stallone (I know this seems like an oxymoron, especially after receiving the "Worst Actor of the Century" Razzie Award, but it's true!) has no talent for directing the large-scale action sequences that are required for the film. All of these sequences are shot and edited in such a blurry, headache-inducing manner that it becomes incredibly hard to tell what is happening from one moment to the next.

The film all comes down to what is basically a half-hour action sequence where multiple structures are blown up, shot, set on fire, and so on and so forth. This part of the film reminded me a lot of "Terminator: Salvation," where the audience is inundated with so much incomprehensible action and so little story that it becomes boring, making the audience lose interest.

There are a grand total of two scenes in this film that actually worked well. The first is the scene where Barney receives his team's new mission from Mr. Church, played by another action star, Bruce Willis. But what makes this scene truly memorable was the appearance of Arnold Schwarzenegger as an old acquaintance of Barney's. It was a treat to see him on screen again after such a long break, even if it was only for a minute or two.

The second scene involves another acquaintance of Barney's, this time played by another Academy Award-nominee, Mickey Rourke. This scene involves Rourke's character giving a speech recalling how he could have saved someone's life, and in the process, perhaps save what was left of his soul. This scene showed just how desperately the film needed more Mickey Rourke and how the quietest scene can leave the biggest impact.

There's already talk of a possible sequel of course. If the film turns out anything like this, it could be equally disastrous, but a few simple changes would do wonders for the next go-around. A new director will definitely be needed, one who has more experience (and talent) in staging large-scale action sequences. New screenwriters wouldn't hurt either so that the film wouldn't be dependent on a thread of a story (which is only there in the first place as a backdrop for explosions and general mayhem). Lastly, and probably most importantly, hire some competent editors so the action scenes can be comprehended and enjoyed the way they were meant to be. Just these few simple changes and there may be a movie that's less yawn-inducing and more-so what this first "Expendables" tried to be. 2/4 stars.
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