USA, 2010: The Expendables
Genre: Action, War
Sylvester Stallone leads an eclectic band of fearsome mercenaries contracted to take down a Latin American dictator, and end up finding themselves along the way.
For better or worse, The Expendables is everything you expect it to be in spades. Sold exactly how it is, itís a predictable piece with buckets of violence and only sprinklings of story and creativity. For all the fun and camp that the movie brings to the table, I canít help feeling like they could have done more. Itís really more of a buddy film between Stallone and Jason Statham than an ensemble cast, and most of the other characters on the team are severely underused. Instead of a super-group of real characters, the other four members of the Expendables are undeveloped caricatures. Jet Li in particular is given third billing, but is hardly used to the best of his potential. Dolph Lundgren, another famous figure from the 80s, gives an absolutely terrible performance on-screen, chewing up lines like so many pieces of tree bark. Surprisingly, the filmís only saving performance comes from Mickey Rourke, who plays a mentor figure to Stalloneís troubled leader. The rest of the cast give similarly quirky but one-dimensional readings, which doesnít totally detract from the experience, but itís definitely noticeable throughout.
Itís surprising how straight he shoots the movie, but it adds to the hilarity of every exchange. The editing seemed a little unpolished, and it isnít helped by the awkward moments between actors that litter the film. Statham and Stallone have the best chemistry during the movie, and the other characters are limited to a couple choice moments. Randy Couture, former UFC champion, has a surprisingly high number of lines, but unfortunately makes his scenes more awkward than humorous. Still, if you love cheesy one-liners, expect the Expendables deliver with every punchline. The writing isnít Shakespeare, but the sheer ridiculousness of the dialogue will have you in stitches.
Itís fairly apparent from the start of the film that the budget went into the special effects department, and rightly so. Every explosion fills the screen, and every action scene is over the top. Itís intentionally excessive and every sequence one-ups the last. The camp is obvious, but it feels completely self-aware. Stallone knows his audience well, and plays up each stunt to the biggest spectacle it can be. The fight scenes are fantastic, fast paced and high energy. The choreography wasnít the most sophisticated ever, but it worked well for the subject matter. Switching quickly between hand-to-hand combat and blazing gun battles, the action is completely satisfying in every hot-blooded aspect. It takes a while to get the payoff for what you pay to see, but I believe that in the end, The Expendables is well worth the price of admission.