Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Expendables (*)

Directed by Sylvester Stallone


There's a certain level of stupidity and insanity within The Expendables. So much so that I feel like writing a one-star review for it is actually like giving the film a complement. The movie sets the art of cinema back about a century, while fully embracing its own racist, sexist, politically ignorant, dumb self to a point that you eventually have to shrug your shoulders and appreciate its lack of shame. Stallone was only interested in one thing when crafting this movie: devising a collection of (washed up) action mega stars to create a super team so badass that no one will give a shit that there literally are no redeemable qualities to anyone.

I would give you details about the plot, but unfortunately, The Expendables didn't seem to have one. IMDb and Yahoo! both explain that its about a group of mercenaries trying to overthrow a South American dictator, but to be honest, I didn't feel like I saw that movie at all. Perhaps I was too distracted by all the explosions and flying limbs. This movie is simply the ultimate man-venture, and trying to delude anyone into thinking there was an actual functioning screenplay is highly irresponsible. As one of the movie's stars, Dolph Lundgren, put it: "this is an old-school, kick-ass action movie where people are fighting with knives and shooting at each other." [citation needed]

There are a group of mercenaries, though, and they are named The Expendables. They are lead by gun-toting Barney (Stallone) and the knife-wielding Christmas (Jason Statham). Also within the group is Ying Yang (Jet Li), their martial arts expert, whose small stature and lack of a family make him emotionally-insecure for some reason. There is also Toll Road (Randy Couture) and Hale Ceaser (Terry Roads), who don't appear for most of the film until the end and exist mostly just to be completely badass. In fact, I didn't know the characters had names until I looked it up on IMDb. There is also Tool (Mickey Rourke), an old school tattoo expert who used to be part of the gang until he developed what some people call respect for humanity. For what its worth, Rourke has a scene of stunning gravitas which kind of sets up the entire plot of the story and does its best to lend credibility to the movie--it fails. Good try, though.

Now, why do they go to this dictator-ruled, impoverished South American country? Because some guy named Church (Bruce Willis) offers them $5 million to do so; half up front, and the other half when the job's done. He also says that he will "fuck them" if they don't show results. By the end of the film, you realize that the Church character has completely vanished from the film, and despite the fact that they didn't seem to accomplish what he wanted them to accomplish, Church doesn't fuck anyone. The 'Church-fucking' plot hole would have probably been somewhat of a big deal to most audiences if we actually understood what it was that Church was asking them to do in his one scene of work.

Of course, in that one scene, anything that Church says is overshadowed by the appearance of Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Trench is Barney's former rival in the mercenary business, because obviously there are several competing conglomerates in that line of work. But surely, the appearance of Schwarzenegger as Barney's former rival is meant to be a duality of how Schwarzenegger and Stallone used to be box office rivals throughout the 80's and early 90's. I applaud the film for actually pulling off something that close to intellectual. It came as no surprise to me that Ah-nuld was originally approached to play Church, but had to ask for less screen time cause he was a little too busy, I don't know, being a fucking United States governor.

So, off they go to this third-world country. Things blow up, people get shot and decapitated. Terry Crews pulls out an automatic shotgun at some point and performs yard work on about three hundred people. They meet this girl named Sandra (Giselle Itie), who happens to be the dictator's morally-conscious daughter, and Barney does a terrible job trying to mask that he wants to bang her. Oh yeah, and inexplicably the main villain of the film ends up being played by Eric Roberts, and he has a henchman played horribly by Stone Cold Steve Austin. More stuff blows up and Jason Statham tries to prove an ex-girlfriend that despite having a body count higher than Hiroshima, that he's actually a nice, sensitive guy. There's a plot synopsis for ya.

It's not that The Expendables didn't have some enjoyable moments. In fact, I would say that I enjoyed the movie as much as you can enjoy one that is worthy of the dreaded one star. I just feel that in writing about it, I should show it the same amount of respect as a film that it showed me as a viewer. It accomplished its goal of being the the biggest, dumbest action movie of all time. Part of me wishes it would have gone further down the big, dumb rabbit hole (a la 2007's Shoot Em Up), instead of trying to insert moments and actors to try and legitimize it as a piece of cinema. But you get what you paid for with The Expendables. I just hope that Bruce Willis is out there fucking someone.

No comments: