Friday, August 6, 2010

The Expendables: It's the ultimate team-up of all your favorite action stars, except it's missing nearly all of your favorite action stars.

This was originally published as a comment in David Poland's Hot Blog, but it's something that I've been meaning to hash out for awhile, so pardon the recycling.

This is not a review of The Expendables, as I have not seen the picture yet. But the biggest problem with The Expendables as a concept (trailers here, here, and here) is that it promises to be 'all your favorite action stars in one place!' yet lacks some of the prime contenders. If you grew up as an action nerd in the 80s and 90s, you're worshiping one or more amongst Sly Stallone (present), Bruce Willis (cameo), Arnold Schwarzenegger (cameo), Harrison Ford (absent), Mel Gibson (absent) Chuck Norris (absent) Jean Claude Van Damme (absent), and Steven Seagal (absent). Truth be told, if you were a child of the 80s and early 90s, when it came to pure action, it was all about Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Willis. Since most of the 'A-team' didn't show up, who exactly did Stallone corral?

Steve Austin has made ONE theatrical film (The Condemned, which was actually pretty good), Jet Li broke out at the tail-end of the 1990s (Lethal Weapon 4 in 1998), and Dolph Lundgren is simply 'that Russian dude from Rocky IV', the guy who played He-Man, and/or 'the other guy from Universal Soldier'. Jason Statham is certainly the modern day equivalent of Stallone and Schwarzenegger, which would make sense if this were some kind of passing-the-torch film, but I gather it's not. Randy Couture has never had a major theatrical action film, and Terry Crews is known more for his comic work (Idiocracy, Everybody Hates Chris, etc) than his nearly non-existent action-film record (he had a small role as a villain in Gamer about a year ago).

At best you have Stallone, an 80s cult figure (Dolph Lundgren), and two genuine action stars (Jet Li and Jason Statham) who are a generation or two removed from the kind of films that The Expendables is trying to harken back to. Heck, John Cena would already have far more action cred than Austin, Crews, and Coutre, since he was the lead in two theatrical action pictures of late (The Marine and the shockingly good 12 Rounds). As for Mickey Rourke, he's doing a glorified cameo allegedly as a favor to Stallone, as Stallone cast him in Get Carter back when he was basically out of work as a mainstream actor. Whether that's true or not, no one thinks of Rourke as the kind of guy who would have anchored a Missing In Action or Commando type movie back in the 1980s anyway.

Does this have anything to do with the quality of the movie? Nope, but when you look at who did and didn't show up, you cannot possibly argue that this is an All-Star line-up of the greatest modern action heroes of our generation. It's, at best, a B-list of whomever Stallone could convince to play in his sandbox. A nitpick, but one worth noting none the less. Imagine how exciting The Expendables would have been had it been had it actually included a true action hero dream team.

Scott Mendelson


R.L. Shaffer said...

While I do agree, the film is missing some major action players and is basically a B-list of stars who co-starred with A-listers at some point, I think you might have downplayed some of the cast.

Jet Li did have a martial arts career on the cult and/or Asian market throughout the 90s. He just didn't hit it big with the US mainstream until LW4.

I'd say Terry Crews is best known for his early 90s six-year stint in the NFL, where he was a monster linebacker, than the comedies he's done.

Same goes for Couture and Austin. While neither actor is much of an action star on film, they both were major WWE players, and both have a pretty impressive following. I do agree though, John Cena would have been a much better choice.

Alas, all four stars popularity have waned over the years, so "The Expendables" does look like a movie starring a bunch of fading action stars.

That said, I'm wouldn't be surprised if we see a few surprise cameos we haven't been told about.

Scott Mendelson said...

I did try to acknowledge that Li and Statham were genuine action stars, just not the sort that this project always seemed to promise. As for the others, I do know that they were wrestlers or football players, but at the end of the day, the film was supposed to be an all-star cast of action film stars, not well-known athletes that were trying their hand at being action heroes.

I'm guessing if there were any surprises in The Expendables that one critic or another would have spilled the beans.

R.L. Shaffer said...

I still think it's being billed as a "man movie" starring "real men," not just a nostalgia fest with the best action stars of the 80s and 90s. Athletes would work into the "real men" stereotype just fine.


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