Review: The Expendables
PLOT: A group of bad-ass mercenaries are hired to overthrow a dictator in South America.
REVIEW: THE EXPENDABLES is exactly the kind of all-out, balls-to-the-wall action flick youíd expect from something starring not only Stallone, but Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, and other demi-Gods. From the first action sequence, where THE EXPENDABLES take on a group of Somali pirates, this film worked as the single greatest shot of cinematic adrenaline Iíve seen in ages. From the first second, Stallone grabs hold of your balls and doesnít let go until the credits roll one hundred minutes later.
One thing people have been wondering about is the action breakdown by actor. First and foremost, Sly is the star. Despite being sixty-four, the man is insanely ripped, and looks to be in nearly the same shape he was twenty years ago. While in RAMBO, he mostly just went around blowing shit up, or mowing down baddies with guns, the action is more varied here. Sly uses plenty of firepower, but he also rocks a bunch of MMA style hand-to-hand fights (including a bout with Stone Cold Steve Austin), and even gets in a kick-ass car chase for good measure.
The film is pretty much broken up into four clearly defined quarters. The first quarter establishes THE EXPENDABLES, and shows how the crew gets along, with lots of good natured ribbing, and one not so good natured rivalry between Lundgren and Jet Li. The second quarter teams Stallone with Statham, and climaxes in a huge action set piece involving the teamís private, heavily armed plane. Stathamís pretty much the second lead here, and whatever time isnít spent on Sly, shows the way Statham yearns for a more normal life at home. If this is like THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, and Stallone is Yul Brynner, than Statham is Steve McQueen.
The third quarter gives Jet Li some face time with Stallone, and features the filmsí best action set piece: an extended car-chase that climaxes in a fantastically shot and edited fight between Li and Lundgren. Considering how light Slyís previous films were on martial arts, I was amazed at how well this was shot as the fight choreography is exquisite. I also dug the fact that Sly makes Li much more human than he's ever been in any other North American films. Here, Li's not some killing machine, but instead a slightly over-the-hill hand-to-hand expert, that feels isolated from the rest of the crew, but sticks with them due to his genuine desire to do good, and his respect for Sly's character. One thing Sly gets, that seemingly no current North American action directors understand is that, if you want your fights to be exciting, the hero needs to be an underdog. By the time Li faces of with Lundgren, you'll know that he's no match for this lumbering, junkie giant- but you'll be rooting for him, making their fight all the more exciting.
Finally it all climaxes in a bad-ass final assault on the villains (slimy Eric Roberts, henchmen Steve Austin, Gary Daniels, and puppet dictator David Zayas), that finally allows the other EXPENDABLES, Randy Couture, and Terry Crews some action. I was surprised at how charismatic both ended up being, with Crewís giving us a few nifty one liners, while Couture kicks ass in one of filmís strongest mano-a-mano fight scenes with one of the main baddies.
But yeah, Slyís our guy all the way and itís his movie. The major character arc is his, and his relationship Giselle Itiťís character is the heart of the film. Now, the screenplay for THE EXPENDABLES isnít going to win any Oscars but it works. After first seeing it, I dismissed the storyline and dialogue as the weakest aspects of the film, but then I saw another movie that made me realize that, despite the fact that they're ll action Gods, Sly actually did a good job making them all human. In a recent pan, a journalist dismissed this as another WILD GEESE. I donít see how thatís a bad thing, as WILD GEESE is actually a good movie and this compares favorably.
As for Schwarzengger, Willis and Rourke, donít get your hopes up. Arnie and Willis have one brief scene, that has some great one-lines from Bruce (allowing him to finally say ďfuckĒ again), but not much else. For what itís worth, they seem to be having a ball and Willis looks as good as Stallone, but years as the California governor have definitely softened Arnie and he even gets the piss taken out of him once heís off-screen. Meanwhile, Rourke has a few meaty dialogue scenes, but no action, which is a bit of a shame, but thereís always the sequel (fingers crossed).
As you can no doubt tell, I loved THE EXPENDABLES. If you want a true, R-rated action flashback, this is the film youíve been waiting for. Itís an almost perfect action throw back that I canít wait to see again. If you a guy (or cool gal) that likes action flicks, itís your DUTY to see this opening weekend. Iíll be going again- because there no way in hell Sly ainít getting my ten bucks.
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