THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
The Expendables (2010)
Directed by Sylvester Stallone
“The Expendables is a paper-thin excuse for a shoot em up without anything to really care about beyond the incredible reward of seeing stars together!”
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, straight up man-on-man action flicks were the guaranteed testosterone infused events of the summer. But as heroes like Stallone and Schwarzenegger got older, Hollywood could only find suitable replacements, not anyone to surpass them. In turn, the action movie stalled, downgrading to modest grossing movies (unless, of course, it has people wearing masks). So fast-forward to last summer where Stallone recruited most of his AARP buddies to join him in a throwback film. Back to a day when jokes and bullets flew at the same rate. Where blood flowed like booze at a Hasselhoff keg party. Where muscle size mattered as much as…muscle size (can’t think of a good metaphor there).
Stallone’s idea worked, grossing over $270 mil worldwide. Damn good for a “dead” genre. In fact, it was one of the few movies I really looked forward to that summer. When the credits rolled, however, I walked away disappointed and never figured out why. So I decided to rent it again. The result? Eh. Still a bit of a turkey. My beef? The Expendables is a paper-thin excuse for a shoot em up without anything to really care about beyond the incredible reward of seeing stars together!
Push pause for a second. I know action movies are always paper-thin excuses for a shoot em up. I’m not that dumb. However, even Cobra or Tango and Cash or Assassins or whatever left room to develop a character. Here, Stallone shoved so many characters up our collective asses that he left no room for development. We might be given about a moment or two with Jason Statham’s character and his woman, but those feel forced. He’s really the only character we see outside the group, but why? He ain’t the main character, and if he is, he doesn’t feel like. It reminds me of the shitfest of Batman and Robin, the poster child for character excess. You can only throw in so many people and never give them a moment longer than 30 seconds before its an overdose. Its eye candy of the worst kind like a hot psychotic chick with multiple personalities. I get that Stallone wanted to include all his buddies. I guess that he was inspired by Predator for the group dynamic, but Predator worked because of the villain and the clear-cut Austrian lead. Stallone has neither here.
Pause again. I’ve always been a Stallone fan. Unlike Van Damme or Snipes, I felt sorry for the dude when he started making direct to DVD fare. It was a sad day. I loved his comebacks with Rocky and Rambo, solid films that showed Stallone is at his best when in charge of his own destiny. That’s why I wanted this to be a badass movie, the ultimate man action experience. Instead, everything plays cheap. For a throwback flick, the action here seems awfully CGI. Yeah, I get it that it might be easier or whatever, but it defeats the purpose much like those Grindhouse movies. If you want a movie to look like it was done on the cheap, do it on the cheap. If you want old school action with exploding squids and all, do it. F*ck the computer blood. It seriously irritates the hell out of me. At the same time, I can’t pinpoint when the shaky action cam came into movies (Gladiator perhaps?), but it’s time to ban it. Instead of actually being able to see your favorite hero punch some fool in the face, we get a never still camera, which avoids allowing the audience to watch the action. To me it shows they can’t do it anymore.
Performance wise, I can’t bitch too much. Stallone looks completely rejuvenated here. Dude is in his sixties and makes me feel bad about myself. Seriously, I need to buy a dumbbell or something. Dolph Lundgren is the real standout and shows he has deserved better for a long time. Eric Roberts is entertaining as the villain as well as Stone Cold as his number two. Statham does his usual Statham thing while Jet Li is utterly wasted. Seriously, why was he even in this movie? What a waste of his time. Rouke demonstrates that he can add life any character, no matter how stupidly thin. He adds the only element of character growth. Shame he only had about two or three scenes.
I don’t hate this film, but I feel it came up beyond short of what it could have been. Here’s hoping Stallone cuts out a few characters (Statham/Li) and lets the old guys do their thing in Expendables 2: The Search for More Money. Kurt Russell anyone? Disagree? Get the DVD and discover for yourself.