Aug 13, 2010

The Expendables Review

I'm from the time when action movie characters such as RAMBO, DUTCH, SNAKE PLISSKEN, JOHN MCCLANE, NICO TOSCANI, JJ MCQUADE, LT. NIKOLAI RACHENKO, JOHN MATRIX, COBRA, COLONEL JAMES BRADDOCK, FRANK DUX were the superheroes of the 80's. Often played by action stars such as Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, Norris, Seagal, Van Damme, Lundgren, Russell, considered today by their fans as icons of action movies from an era that not too many young people can relate to. To some fans like myself their memory will always be fresh and relevant.

In today’s time, given that many of those actors are either inactive, in B movies, in politics, forgotten, or struggling to land roles in blockbuster movies (except for Willis), I’ve had no expectation to see them in theaters, nor ever together in a movie anymore. I had always dreamt of seeing Sly and Arnold together in a movie back in the 80/90’s but by now I had given up on that dream. For me they had disappeared from the sliver screen with the end of an era, like it was the case before them when my dad was watching WW2 and Western movies.

When I got wind of an action movie called "The Expendables" put together by Stallone, being promoted as the reunion of old school action legends, I was immediately emerged in my childhood dreams filled with excitement and disbelief. I started watching the trailers, googling the movie and reading articles on it, and fair enough, there it was, Stallone, Lundgren, Schwarzenegger & Willis altogether in the same movie. Although missing a few icons, the reunion of what I always called the tri-legend-angle (Sly/Arnold/Willis) was more than enough and way beyond my wildest expectations. The icing on the cake, the movie is written and directed by the man himself, Sylvester Stallone!

The movie opens in theaters and I’m there. 2hrs later I come out with mixed feelings….

The movie is not what I expected. Let’s get the main disappointment out of the way, Willis and Arnold are barely in it. Glorified cameos, what a letdown and deception. It’s a buddy movie with Stallone and Statham (who is not one the action legends of the 80’s). Add to that a bunch of wrestlers and new B movie action actors, the promised reunion of the action icons of the 80/90’s is simply not there.

I don't think Sly quite managed to do what could have been done. Originally promoted as the movie that was supposed to have more of the action stars from the 80’s, the movie doesn’t deliver on that front. Apart from the cameos from Arnold & Willis, other actors such as Jean-Claude Van Damme, Wesley Snipes, Kurt Russell that were approached to appear in some roles ended up being filled by newer and less known actors such as Steve Austin, Randy Couture and Terry Crews.

Consoling myself with the 5-minute screen time between the 3 legends, I start analyzing things from a “throw-back to old school action movies” perspective….

Good news, the promised testosterone fest that I have been looking forward to as a throw-back to the good old days was there. The action and violence factor were made clear right up front in a satisfying sequence where the team takes down the bad guys without backing down even a fraction of an inch. If you've been looking forward to blood, brutal hand to hand, thousands of bullets flying and tons of explosions then you'll be one happy camper.

The fight scenes are brutal, with lots of bone-breaking and blood shooting and splattering. They go on for a while and for the most part allow you to see what the heck is going on. The big action sequences are pretty amazing as well - the escape from the South American country, both the car chase scene but especially the flight out of there. Sweet for action fans. There's also an over-the-top action sequence combining gun battles, hand to hand, massive explosions, collapsing buildings and a river of fire at the end.

For the rest, the story is just OK, it could have been written a lot better. Sly’s directing is a bit stiff, I think he must have been very stressed and exhausted, adding to that a serious neck injury, and it somehow shows in his directing. But you feel the effort he’s put in.

The acting overall is good. Stallone is the main lead and delivers as usual in an action movie. He is the master of it. It was good to see him back outside Rocky & Rambo, being in his element after so many years of being absent from non-Rambo action movies.
Statham is solid, plays the role of the second in command to perfection. His chemistry with Sly is very surprising and I wasn't expecting it. He is definitely an action star and a legitimate successor to older action icons, just too bad that action movies are not as popular anymore.
Li doesn’t have a lot of screen time. His fight scenes were very solid, doesn't have a lot of dialogue and mostly plays a background role. He is a martial art icon for his era, that's for sure.
Lundgren is great but the story around him is just strange and doesn’t work out well. Specially when he comes back at the end of the move. The fight between him and Li was awesome though. 
Rourke is solid but only appears for a few minutes. Like I said this is a buddy Sly/Statham movie with cameos from the older actors and small roles for the rest of the new gang.

I didn’t think much of Couture, Austin, Crews, etc. I don’t know them well and to me they felt like B-movie actors.

Roberts was solid but again I never thought of him as an action icon although he is from the 80’s.

Despite the disappointment from a lack of "total" reunion of the action legends , “The Expendables” delivers a solid action fest and takes you back to the 80/90’s during many of its moments.

A lot could have been done better, but the short reunion of the 3 legends was still priceless. Let’s hope that the movie is a success at the box office and that Stallone and Co. can make a sequel with more action legends this time.

Overall rating: 3/5 

1 comment:

  1. Good review. Personally I count Statham as an action legend nowadays