The Expendables (2010)

Amid the deluge of women’s movies such as Eat Pray Love and Eclipse, The Expendables proposes to be the ultimate guy’s movie, a man’s movie, a movie that’s about gratuitous explosions, violence and none of that nonsense touchy-feely stuff. The problem is that this is a Sylvester Stallone film. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Stallone films such as First Blood and Rocky, however, one thing Stallone is guilty of is being very sentimental.

He lays on the sentimentality thick here with a tale about this country under oppression by a military force that conveniently some mystery man called Church (Bruce Willis) wants out of the picture. He hires a gang of mercenaries led by Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his second, Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), to take them out. The two go to scout out the mission only to witness the dire state of the country and meet Sandra (Giselle Itié), a lovely local.

The rest of this film is essentially a variation of Rambo III, but nowhere near as cool as that film. The problem is that so much of this film is people taking. Sure, witty banter is part of the action movie but when you have to hear Lee whine about this girl, Lacy (Charisma Carpenter), back in the states when you could be seeing him throw knifes at people’s head it’s clear that the film’s priorities are mixed up.

And why does Lee even need a girl? The lovely Charisma Carpenter is in this film for all of two minutes and has maybe 6 lines. She’s one of the many expendable characters in the film. Bruce Willis is another wasted talent because he’s unnecessary. The job, spoilers, is not done for the money but because Sly Stallone is a sap and has stupidly loyal friends. Why can’t they just go through the oppressed town after finishing the mission at the beginning of the film and then just have a bunch of kickass action?

Instead, the film has to have this boring stateside story. Granted, there is one cool action sequence, but most of it is just the crew hanging out and talking, which is boring. They could be doing that on the plane over. All it really serves is for a way for Stallone to call in as many favors as he can and get as many cameos of action heroes as possible. I don’t take offense at the pandering, I take offense at how poorly implemented the pandering is.

At least Mickey Rourke has a cool little scene, but mostly the fan service just has little bearing on anything that actually happens in the film. The film should be spending that time to flesh out the main crew that the film focuses on. By the end, I didn’t remember anything memorable about any of these characters besides the fact that Jason Statham really likes knifes. Heck, there was even one crew member I didn’t even notice until the last act of the film.

And when the action does finally arrive it turns out that some Paul Greengrass wannabe snuck on the set because everything is so damn shaky that many of the action scenes are incoherent. Yes, The Bourne Ultimatum made lots of money, but I could actually tell what was going on in that film. Here, I can’t even comment on the quality of the action scenes because I really couldn’t make sense of them with all the fast editing and shaky camerawork. I guess the establishing shots of the explosions were pretty cool.

It’s a sad state of affairs when your action film to end all action films doesn’t deliver on the action. After walking out of the theater, I felt cheated because I got rooked into seeing another one of Stallone’s sappy dramas but without all the cool action sequences breaking it up. I want action, dammit, not Stallone going all soft over some exotic girl and getting a sense of pride. Maybe if his character was interesting, maybe if the film could build a sense of camaraderie, maybe if the film could make me care about something, I could go with it. But even then, I went to see an action movie dammit! There were cooler action sequences in Eclipse, which I hear is for girls but has less sappiness than this forgettable picture.

© 2010 James Blake Ewing