Monday, December 06, 2010

The Expendables

The Expendables is kind of what I expected and kind of not. I was expecting a throw back to the 80s-90s style of action film and it is partially that. There is much shooting and fighting and things going boom. It is sometimes necessary to use the same willing suspension of disbelief that one had to use when watching those sorts of films.
But writer/director/star Sylvester Stallone has learned a few lessons about drama over the years and he apparently tried to bring some of that to The Expendables. The plot, involving a small island country under the thumb of a dictator in league with a slimy drug lord (Eric Roberts) is reminiscent of Stallone’s most recent Rambo movie. Stallone’s character, Barney Ross, is a long time mercenary who has begun to go sour on his profession and question his motivations. Like Rambo he has to see people suffering and witness the self-sacrifice of someone else before he rises to the occasion and decides to kick butt for the right reasons.
Stallone, now age 62, shows he’s still got the action movie chops, though watching the extras shows that he certainly got hurt a lot while filming the movie.
The other stars get their own chances to shine, particularly Jason Statham as Stallone’s right hand man. Something that struck me as interesting is that while Statham and fellow martial arts star Jet Li both have extended fight scenes, director Stallone seemed to be trying to bring their fighting styles down to Earth a bit. There are few high kicks or overly acrobatic movements. Both men look more dangerous as a result, as if they could really do some damage, which is what I think Stallone was going for. The fights in The Expendables don’t come off looking like something from a kung fu movie.
Mickey Rourke, who really should leave off with the plastic surgery, turns in a subdued and affective performance. The surprise great performance though comes from Dolph Lundgren as Gunner, a member of Stallone’s team who has become addicted to drugs. Lundgren manages to be scary, likable, and sympathetic all at the same time.
If you saw the commercials then you know that Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzeneger are also in The Expendables, however they are only there in cameo roles and if you blink, you’ll miss them.
All in all, I really enjoyed The Expendables. While not quite in the class of the last Rambo or Rocky movies, it’s still a fine addition to the later work of Sylvester Stallone and a fun homage to the action movies of the past.

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