Aug 13, 2010

The Expendables Review

I'm from the time when action movie characters like Rambo, Dutch, Snake Plissken, John McClane, Nico Toscani, JJ McQuade, Lt. Nikolai Rachenko, and Frank Dux were the superheroes of the 80s. They were often portrayed by action stars such as Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, Norris, Seagal, Van Damme, Lundgren, and Russell. These actors are now considered icons of action movies from an era that not many young people can relate to. For fans like me, their memory remains fresh and relevant.

In today’s time, considering that many of these actors are either inactive, appearing in B movies, engaged in politics, forgotten, or struggling to land roles in blockbuster movies (except for Willis), I had no expectations of seeing them in theatres or together in a movie again. I had always dreamed of watching Sly and Arnold share the screen in a movie during the 80s or 90s, but over time, I had given up on that dream. To me, they had vanished from the silver screen, marking the end of an era, much like the earlier disappearance of the stars my dad watched in WWII and Western movies.

Then, I caught wind of an action movie titled "The Expendables," assembled by Stallone and promoted as a reunion of old-school action legends. This news immediately immersed me in my childhood dreams, filling me with excitement and disbelief. I began watching trailers, searching for information about the movie, and reading articles. To my astonishment, Stallone, Lundgren, Schwarzenegger, and Willis were all part of the same film. Although some icons were missing, the reunion of what I referred to as the tri-legend-angle (Sly/Arnold/Willis) surpassed my wildest expectations. Adding to the thrill, the movie was written and directed by Sylvester Stallone himself!

When the movie premiered in theatres, I was there. Two hours later, I left with mixed feelings.

The movie wasn't what I had expected. Let’s address the main disappointment: Willis and Arnold had minimal screen time. Their glorified cameos were a letdown and left me feeling deceived. The film centred around Stallone and Statham (who isn't one of the action legends of the 80s), and it featured a slew of wrestlers and newer B-movie action actors. The promised reunion of the 80s and 90s action icons simply didn't materialize.

In my opinion, Sly didn't quite achieve what could have been done. Although initially touted as a movie that would include more action stars from the 80s, the film fell short in that aspect. Aside from Arnold's and Willis' brief appearances, other actors like Jean-Claude Van Damme, Wesley Snipes, and Kurt Russell, who were rumoured to take on roles, ended up being replaced by lesser-known actors such as Steve Austin, Randy Couture, and Terry Crews.

Taking solace in the 5-minute screen time featuring the three legends, I began analyzing the film from a "throwback to old-school action movies" perspective.

The good news was that the promised testosterone-fuelled extravaganza I had been eagerly anticipating, reminiscent of the good old days, was present. The action and violence were immediately evident in a satisfying sequence where the team fearlessly took down the villains. If you were yearning for blood, intense hand-to-hand combat, a barrage of bullets, and explosions aplenty, you wouldn't be disappointed.

The fight scenes were brutal, filled with bone-breaking and splattering blood. They were appropriately lengthy and, for the most part, allowed clear visibility. The major action sequences, such as the escape from the South American country and the car chase scene, were impressive, particularly the flight out of the region. These moments were a treat for action enthusiasts. The film even culminated in an over-the-top action sequence featuring gun battles, hand-to-hand combat, massive explosions, collapsing buildings, and a river of fire.

As for the story, it was passable but could have been better written. Stallone's direction felt somewhat stiff—perhaps a result of stress, exhaustion, and his neck injury. Nonetheless, his effort was palpable.

The overall acting was commendable. Stallone, in his usual fashion, excelled as the main lead in an action-packed role. He truly is a master of this genre. It was refreshing to see him step outside the realm of Rocky and Rambo, returning to his element after years of absence from non-Rambo action films.

Statham delivered a solid performance, embodying the role of the second-in-command flawlessly. His unexpected chemistry with Sly was a pleasant surprise. Undoubtedly an action star, he stands as a legitimate successor to the older icons, even if contemporary action movies lack their former popularity.

Li had limited screen time. His fight scenes were skillfully executed, and while he had minimal dialogue, he played a supportive role. He remains an icon in martial arts from his era.

Lundgren's performance was impressive, but the narrative surrounding his character felt peculiar and ultimately unsatisfying. This was especially evident when he reappeared towards the end of the film. However, his fight with Li was undeniably awesome.

Rourke made a brief yet solid appearance. As I mentioned, the movie primarily centered around the buddy dynamic between Sly and Statham, with cameo appearances by the older actors and minor roles for the new additions.

Regarding actors like Couture, Austin, and Crews, I didn't think much of them. They were relatively unfamiliar to me and gave off a B-movie vibe.

Roberts delivered a respectable performance, although I never considered him an action icon despite his presence in the 80s.

Despite the disappointment stemming from the incomplete reunion of action legends, "The Expendables" did provide a satisfying dose of action, evoking the spirit of the 80s and 90s at various points.

While much could have been improved, the brief reunion of the three legends was truly priceless. Hopefully, the film achieves success at the box office, allowing Stallone and his team to create a sequel featuring a more comprehensive lineup of action legends.

Overall rating: 3/5