The Expendables

Thank Goodness For Gratuitous Explosions

Rob Morgan said he wanted a crit written on this film. I figure, why not? It’s got things to talk about.

What’s Good About It

The explosions are big, the action is hard hitting. Some of these guys are getting on but they can still pack a punch, like Jet Li. Others like Dolph manage okay, but Sylvester is just not cutting it anymore as a fisticuff-ing toe-to-toe with the baddie guy. That’s probably why the film is structured like a buddy movie with Jason Statham filling in as his able partner. It’s a good move because more than once you wonder when Sylvester’s knee’s going to give out.

The script is so simple the central action takes place on an Island Vilenus (villainous, get it?) and the bad guys are some rogue CIA dude backing up a dictator for cocaine cash crops.

It’s good that the plot is so simple as it hardly needs any explanation beyond the streamlined parade of violence and explosions. Sometimes unadorned simplicity is the essence of beauty.

What’s Bad About It

There’s a fine line between a bit of nonsense and not making sense. The film veers into the “what is going on here?” moment. Also redeeming the Dolph character Gunnar at the end seems to set everything up for a sequel with Dolph but it seems to me they could have done a better job of using him in the script.

Also, Charisma Carpenter is in it like 3 scenes with about 4 close ups. I’m still deciding if this not enough or way too much.

The ending after the credits start to roll, with the guys rolling out in the low-riding Harleys is pretty dumb too.

What’s Interesting About It

I’m trying to rack my brain to find some depth worth talking about in what is a very shallow puddle of a film but with some big fish flopping around in the shallows. In that sense, if I were taking pot-shots, it would be like the proverbial fish in the barrel so to speak, if mixing and extending metaphors is your thing.

The Rogue CIA Plot

This isn’t the only 1980s flashback of a action film that features a rogue CIA operative that has derailed a mercenary outfit. That’s right, ‘The A-Team’ recently graced our screens with this premise. One can surmise that Hollywood really is running out of ideas.

That point aside, it’s worth noting that even ‘Knight and Day’ starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz was built around Tom Cruise being a rogue operative; and Angelina Jollie is playing a character in ‘Salt’, who could be described as a rogue CIA operative; Naomi Wolf playing somebody who was at one point characterised as having gone rogue; and suddenly you have this year’s Hollywood obsession with CIA operatives that go rogue.

The GFC has been really hard on the development side of scripts but its interesting to see how all of this is manifesting itself with the same small pool of ideas sloshing around the market place. Even for gratuitous action flicks, this hasn’t exactly been a good year for plot.

The American Anxiety About The State

Maybe it’s just me, but the American paranoia about the state is a little out of control. The Tea Party and gun-toting so-called libertarians are often seen complaining about government spending and taxes. The assumption seems to be that governments tax people a lot to spend that money on illicit activities and wrack up a huge debt.

The more likely (and simpler) explanation is that the government spends its money on things where people demand it. More likely than not, there are more demands than there is money, hence the debt.

But it’s easier for some people to think the US government is an Orwellian organ. Some even think it’s just a front for the Illuminati. Compared to such arcane thinking, the rogue CIA man backing a Latin American Dictator is merely a sham. That’s sort of interesting at this point in time, after decades of turning a blind eye to such dictators. Now they are merely bad guys in Stallone movies. Fancy that.

One Hundred Minutes Of Attitude

I think Gabriel Garcia Marquez would be appalled at the vision of the Latin American dictator in most American films, but he might actually be moved by this one. The reason is that this film goes for the melodramatic set up of having the insider on the island be the daughter of the dictator, who clearly has some conscience. That story line hints at the sort of tragi-comic drama that Marquez relishes in his work such as One Hundred Years of Solitude’ or ‘Autumn of the Patriarch’.

I don’t know if Sylvester Stallone goes in for reading Marquez. I somehow doubt it, but you should never judge a man by his oeuvre. Perhaps he is an avid reader of Gabriel Garcia Marquez – it just doesn’t show in his own work. Heck, I listen to a lot of J.S. Bach but it sure doesn’t show in my song ‘Dungeon Dad’. All the same, the set up of Latin American dictator and his dissident daughter makes for a pretty good set up for any story. There’s something literary right there, and very much worthy of intellectual conceits.

The shame of it all is that it takes a Stallone movie to come at the set up, which is in some ways, deeply ironic. It’s like the moment where a thousand monkeys at typewriters turn in ‘Hamlet’.Sylvester was actually on to a good thing, like a chef homing in on an exquisite piece of cuisine but he had to cover it in tomato sauce and slap it between two hamburger buns.

Mickey Rourke & Harley Davidson

If the idea of the film was to reunite the action stars of the 1980s, I’m not quite sure what Mickey Rourke is doing in this throng. Yes, he looks like a derelict from the 1980s but he was also the poster boy for extreme method acting, more than action movies. There are two films in his 1980s catalogue that might get him in myth-wise. There’s his seminal role as the Motorcycle Boy in ‘Rumble Fish’, there’s ‘Year of the Dragon’ and the rather insipid ‘Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man’. Let’s not forget the dude also played St Francis of Assisi.

He’s actually a bad fit in this crowd because he alone has acting chops worth spit, while everybody else carries on with the same action-movie-mien of impassive menace. He also gets a soliloquy of sorts, which is baffling but it seems to explain away why he doesn’t go on the shooting mayhem anymore.

As long time readers o this blog know,  I’ll always be a fan boy when it comes to Mickey Rourke, but it has to be said he looked wrong in this film, even if he looks like a bikie monster.

Sylvester Stallone’s Plastic Surgeon

…Did an immensely a bad job.

The Dude’s rich. You’d think he’d find whoever did Tom Cruise or Nicole Kidman.

Jet Li And The Little Asian Meme

It’s 2010 and the meme is still that the Asian guy is small but works hard. Some things die very hard, I guess.

Where’s Mel?

Mel Gibson I imagine is a better fit than either Jet Li or Mickey Rourke, what with his Lethal Weapon series. If even Bruce and Arnie are dropping in for a cameo, the least they could have managed was a cameo featuring Mel. It would have been authentic. Of course since the 1980s, Mel has been found out to have been an anti-semitic girlfriend beater as well as a religious nutbar and Oscar winning director. Still, one would have thought Sylvester could have reached across to Mel. That he didn’t says volumes. Dolph’s in, Mel’s not. Think about that for a moment.

It’s sick.

Anyway, I can just imagine Mel in his conceit – as an Oscar winning director of course – would turn down such a proposal from Sylvester Stallone. Coming to think of it, even Russell Crowe would turn it down. More’s the pity. I hope there’s a sequel with even more of these 1980s action guys in it. If there ever were a sequel to this thing we’ll need Jean-Claude van Damme and Steven Seagal, and a brief moment to mourn Brandon Lee.

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