The Expendables (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

The Expendables (2010)

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It all started in late 1988. I was seven, playing with my toys downstairs, and my dad had rented a movie that he heard good things about. I paid the movie little attention in the beginning and kept playing with my toys, but quickly all the bullets, blood and explosions started to grab my interest.

I slowly started making my way from my play area to the TV. Although he probably knew my mom would not approve he didn’t try to stop my encroachment, and, by the middle of the movie, I was next to him on the couch rooting on John McClane to stop the bad guys.

It was here an action movie relationship was born. Over twenty years later, I have seen most of the "big" action movies in the theatre with my dad next to me. Terminator 2, Cliffhanger, Under Siege, Speed, True Lies, The Rock, Demolition Man, Universal Soldier and more were all viewed just the two of us. And for the Expendables, which had been branded as the ultimate action movie, there was no one else I could see this movie with other than the man who created and nurtured my action movie addiction.

The Expendables wasn't a perfect movie, but, even worse, it didn’t live up to my high expectations. Most of the time when I watch movies, I don’t want it to be littered with clichés, but this film seemed to demand them-- I really wanted this to be the ultimate action movie with every single cliché intact.

I wanted a scene where they bond at a strip club that has no purpose other than to get a few seconds of nudity into the film! I wanted Sylvester Stallone to have angry ex-wives that he still loves but cannot be with because he is spiritually dead inside! I craved the characters to give a witty one-liner after brutally disposing of a bad guy! I wanted all these things, but got none of them. What I did get was a plot that resembled the last Rambo; the main character goes on one last mission because "it's the right thing to do" while being saddled with a lot of superfluous characters with very little reason for being.

The generic plot was not a problem for me because, frankly, a tight script wasn’t what I was expecting, but the shallow characters were still a big misstep. The main draw for this film was having all of these action stars in the same movie, but writer/director/star Sylvester Stallone figured that casting was the big deal and didn’t have anything for them to do in the film. Team action films have been around for at least 40 years and many in the past have given everyone in the cast a little background, but in The Expendables half the team has nothing whatsoever.

Randy Couture, Terry Crews, and, to a lesser extent, Jet Li have nothing to do in the movie but flex their muscles and fire guns. Even the main characters in the film have very little to them. Jason Statham has a love interest that broke his heart (the closest thing to an ex complaining that the hero never was “there for them”) but you don’t know how they met, why they were together, or really what happened to their relationship.

The paper-thin characters could have been easily solved by taking a few minutes in the beginning of the film to show each character individually in their natural habitat but instead we get Mickey Rourke with a pointless cameo. If a movie like Armageddon could give each character in the film a unique characteristic, I think this film could have figured out how to do it also.

The main draw of this film was the action, and the film took a huge misstep with how it was shot and edited. The movie uses and abuses the current mindset in action films that they shoot everything really close, really dark, and then edit it to death. This means that a lot of time you can’t follow what is going on in any fight, and all you are seeing is an elbow here, a knee there, and a punch landing to cap off the fight. I have always hated this aesthetic for action films and it's really a bad choice here because you want to SEE the guys fight each other.

I don’t know if Stallone edited the film in this manner because some of the actors are getting up there in years and couldn’t pull off the stunts or if he was just following the current crowd in how an action movie looks, but if he would have pulled the camera back a few feet and made the shots linger, the movie would have dramatically improved.

I have spent over 800 words discussing what I found wrong in the film, but, even with those points, I honestly enjoyed myself throughout. I did not walk into the film expecting it to be this year's Oscar winner, and I knew the script probably wasn’t great, the actors weren’t the best "actors" in the business, and that most of the stars were over a decade past their prime. All problems I did have with the movie, except for the terrible look of some fight scenes, are passable because the movie delivered what I really wanted to see: a bunch of action heroes both from today and yesterday being the biggest badasses that they can be.

I mean, remember all of those action clichés that I mentioned were not included in this film? Now lets look at the ones that were:

  • - Big freaking explosions that last forever
  • - A bad guy who monologues at the end
  • - Fight scenes between two people you have always wanted to see fight
  • - A evil “#2” henchmen who is huge and very tough
  • - An evil dictator
  • - A love interest who is always being kidnapped or generally put in peril
  • - Chases in various vehicles
  • - Each member of the team having a “class” (for example one who is a fighter, one who is good with knives, one who likes big guns, etc.)

And finally, my favorite one, names that only action characters could have. You never see Stallone or Statham playing someone with a name like Harold Brown or Stanley Jones-- they are always manly names that could only be given to men with rippling muscles. Some of the names in this film that I especially liked were Lee Christmas, Ying Yang, Gunner Jensen, Toll Road, Paine, Tool and, my absolute favorite, Hale Caesar.

What finally won me over in the end was the last half hour that gave me exactly what I hoped for-- over the top and bloody mayhem. The MVP for the film was Hale Caesar, played by Terry Crews, who was not given much screen time and even less dialogue. But when he starts talking about his new shotgun that can fire explosive rounds really fast and really loud, my interest was piqued. I was anxiously awaiting to see the weapon in action and, when this scene finally came, it did not disappoint. My dad and I were both laughing with glee as guy after guy exploded into a red paste. Yet this was not Caesar’s greatest feat in the movie: later on, he does something that was so cool and unrealistic that I had a huge grin on my face, and must bow to whoever was crazy enough to think it up. Sorry I can't spoil it for you, but it's worth discovering on your own.

While Terry Crews might have had the coolest thing to do, the last half hour is chock full of fights, explosions and gunfire to the point that all action fans should be satiated. The film might have taken its time to get to “the good stuff,” but it didn’t hold back once it got there. It delivered its quota of broken bones, gun shot wounds, and people getting “blowed up good”.

At the end of the movie, I left the theater happy. Like most action films, I could see this movie having a sequel and I think if they fix the editing of the action scenes, the sequel could surpass this. If that day ever arrives and the sequel starts to unspool in the theater, you can bet my dad and I will be there, waiting to get our fix.

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The Expendables (2010)

This film is currently in theaters.

Directed by Sylvester Stallone
Starring Stallone, Willis, Schwarzenegger, Crews, Li, Statham, Austin, Lundgren, Roberts, and many more

Posted by Ryan

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