Friday, August 13, 2010

Review: The Expendables (2010)

The Expendables
103 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

The Expendables
is not the be all-end all action picture of our time. It is not the film that will revitalize the genre, turning a B-movie genre into A-level material once again. But it is 103 minutes of macho men killing bad guys and blowing stuff up for a good, apolitical cause (the main villain is an American tycoon, and he actually water-boards one of the heroic characters). The film is better than some of the lesser 80s/90s efforts (Red Heat, The Specialist, Hard to Kill), but not as good as the very best the genre has to offer (Eraser, Demolition Man, Under Siege, and Under Siege 2). It is fun to see the bigger names (Stallone, Statham, Li, and Lundgren) play off of and beat the crap out of each other. I dearly wish that Eric Roberts had been a more larger-than-life adversary. Of course, in the pre-Die Hard/Batman world, most of those 80s action films had pretty bland villains (quick, who was the villain in Cobra?). As far as the 'meeting of the classic action stars' talking point, this is really just a star vehicle for Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham, with meaty glorified cameos for everyone else.

Point being, the film is loud, action-packed, and quite violent. Ironically, with almost no real profanity, no sex/nudity, and mostly CGI blood and gore, it's quite obvious that The Expendables was intended to be PG-13. Most of the third-act gore is either CGI or disconnected to the main action, as if it were shot later in production after Stallone realized that his original cut would get an R anyway. When Eric Roberts uses the word 'freakin' twice in fits of anger, you know something was amiss (I heard only one 'F-bomb'). Still, the final cut gives you plenty of blood and an occasional dash of gore. This isn't Rambo, but it's a more crowd-pleasing movie (it's not nearly as mournful and depressing as the fourth Rambo picture). The action takes a full act to get rolling (the opening curtain raiser is low-key and brief), but the set pieces come at a brisk pace after the first thirty minutes or so. Some of the set pieces are shot too tight and edited too quickly, but there is a sense of geography to most of it anyway.

The much-discussed moment with Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is actually the worst scene in the film, as it feels very forced and Sly is the only one of the three who is attempting to act. The film almost achieves subtlety, as it implies without outright stating that Stallone's team of mercenaries is just as expendable to the real world (due to their lack of any family, roots, or connections) as they are to the battlefield. And three cheers for not letting a major character actually state 'we're expendable!' during a climactic speech that seems to be leading to that bullet point.

Oddly enough, The Expendables seems to almost be a rebuttal to the hopeless pessimism of Rambo, as our heroes find themselves fighting to protect one person (Giselle Itié) who might be able to make a difference all on her own in a revolution-wracked nation. In the end, The Expendables is a throwback to that optimistic era where America still believed it could solve the world's problems, even ones that America created. Today, whether or not we get to win seems no longer up to us.

Grade: B-


Glenn Dunks said...

I really enjoyed it, but I had one big criticism and that was the female character. Would've been great if she'd been able to pick up a gun or do something other than that brief fight sequence 40minutes in. Missed opportunity there, I felt.

Jack Clark said...

haha this is a really cool review, i dont think it was up to the standard of any of the cast's previous films, especially the classics like schwarzenegger and stallone. i had some thoughts about it at leave a comment if you like =]

The Expedables said...

You definetly got it right when you said that it's not Rambo. But i think that people who've enjoyed the first whould also like the lesser.

Karthik Rao said...

Watch the full movie here

Myra Lopez said...

A kind of ho-hum experience, wherein a lot of bullets are expended and a lot of structures exploded to minimal dramatic effect.

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