Movie #23: The Expendables

I’m not quite sure why I watched this movie. Even though I was not really a fan of those old testosterone-fueled movies from the 80s and 90s, I guess there’s something intriguing about gathering together Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Steve Austin into a single movie. Add to that minor roles for Bruce Willis, Eric Roberts, Mickey Rourke, and even Arnold Schwarzenegger the Terminator, and this is going to be a rockin’ movie, right? Hmmm… can you overdose on testosterone? Or maybe these action stars were all just too far past their prime. Whatever the reason, this movie limped along much lamer than it should have. Co-written and directed by Stallone himself, the plot focused on a mercenary band led by Stallone’s character Barney Ross (even the name sounds lame). This is one of those band of buddies type of groups who come together to do missions, drink beer and throw knives at a dartboard. They were hired by a mysterious man (Willis’s character) to take out a South American dictator. As Stallone and Statham went ahead for some reconnaissance, they got on the bad guys’ radar but also met a spirited local rebel (who unfortunately got captured). After the other two barely escaped, Stallone went back in, determined to rescue her with his whole crew in tow. I guess the story was no more ludicrous than any of those classic action films, but still the movie was quite a mess. The fight scenes were often at night and all the mercenaries wore black, so it was difficult to distinguish one from the other. It didn’t help that there were so many quick camera cuts throughout. Amazingly, even when they were not fighting, just sitting around the circle in a planning session or talking, director Stallone continued to use quick cuts to jump from one guy’s face to another, showing multiple reactions to every comment. It’s almost as if they had to all get equal screen time in every scene. It was very distracting. I also couldn’t believe the pacing of the movie, which went from dragged-out heart-to-heart (really??) conversations between characters that we barely know (which only highlighted these guys’ poor acting skills), to frenetic action and big explosions. There was very little in between. If I were to pick the performances which I thought were the best of the lot, I think I’d go with Statham and Willis. There was definitely none of the sophistication here that we’d expect in a modern action movie. They didn’t even do much with the title concept of “The Expendables“. To whom are they expendable? Why did they choose to call themselves that? Even if this was a self-parody, it might have been alright, but I think everything was meant to be taken seriously — except the jokes, I guess. When did Dolph Lundgren become the cut-up of the group? He was whipping out as many zingers as Statham was knives! In any case, this movie was kind of a jumbled wreck, and I’m extremely surprised that a second film was green-lit. Who knows, maybe the sequel will prove that this “Retired Action Hero Collective” gimmick is worth pulling off. (2.5 out of 5)

23 down, 27 to go!

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