August 15, 2010

Movie Review: The Expendables

expendables5_largeThe Ocean's series of films were fun (for the most part) heist films that doubled as vanity projects for a to bunch of big name actors to appear in one movie. Earlier this year we got Grown Ups, a project spearheaded by Adam Sandler and featuring a bunch of recognizable faces in a big screen comedy (although it was considerably less successful than the Clooney/Pitt top-lined series). Now we have the action version, an explosive vanity project put together by Sylvester Stallone that brings together a long list of past and present action stars in a feature that is a complete throwback to the action films of a quarter century ago given a modern day sheen.

The Expendables is a testosterone filled romp that is filled to the brim with bullets, blades, and blood. In other words, it is just what you want from a summer action film. It is not a great film, it is not necessarily one that is going to make you think, but it will get the blood pumping and has the added attraction of having all those big name action stars.

The movie is an exceedingly simple affair. The plot reads like something right out of the 80's action play book. The Expendables are a group of mercenaries who will take the jobs that no one else will, so long as the price is right. They are introduced via an action sequence that is pretty much irrelevant to the rest of the film. What it does do is introduce our primary characters in a heroic situation that makes you immediately side with them and get you right into the rest of the film.

Stallone stars as Barney Ross, the leader of the group. Ross has a meeting with a man who offers a job, go to South America and remove the military dictator. It is not an easy job and not one that a government backed military force could go anywhere near.


In any case, Ross and his team head off for the small nation and go about their business. Buildings explode, people get shot, others stabbed, still others beaten, all in the name of the job. Who will win? is there really any doubt? Seriously, you have to know what kind of movie this is going in, there is no way the bad guys aren't going to lose.

The story is very simple and very straightforward that it really serves no purpose discussing. You know what it is, it will either work for you or it won't. I thought it was effective, it does the job of getting our players into the right positions where the more interesting elements can take place.

What we want to see in this movie are the fights and the explosions. We get a number of great action sequences. This is the bread and butter of The Expendables. We get some great pairings such as Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin and Randy Couture, Jason Statham and Gary Daniels, Jet Li and some random bad guy, Stallone and a bunch of people, Crews and a series of South American soldiers, plus others. If there is one thing this movie doesn't have a shortage of, it's big set pieces.


You could make an argument that this is a brain dead movie and you are right. However, I did find some interesting elements on the character front. Nothing terribly deep and nothing terribly original, but it works well within the context of the film and succeeds because of how the actors play the scenes. There is talk about how the job steals your soul, how you lose yourself and all that is left is the work. This is told rather eloquently by Mickey Rourke's character Tool. This sentiment ways heavily on Stallone's Ross. Other characters have good character moments as well. They are generally fleeting but they do help to add some flavor to the film and make the characters a bit more interesting.

Stallone does a fine job directing. it is not quite as good as Rambo or Rocky Balboa, but it is still a fast paced action film. There are a lot of characters to work in and give screen time to and I do not feel that any of them were really shortchanged all that much. Would I have liked more? Certainly. Fortunately they are already talking sequel so maybe we will get it.

Bottomline. Very entertaining, highly effective actioner. If you like over the top action, this is for you. It is just amazing seeing this cast all in one place. The cast is amazing, the fights are strong, and the overall atmosphere is just a lot of fun. Don't miss this!



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