Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The Expendables

Stallone gets together with some action mates to bring back some good old fashioned 80s cinema excess. But is it just cannon fodder?

Stallone knows how to put together an action film that people want to see - fact. "The Expendables" has already got some great box office results and it proves that him and the audience agree on what makes a film entertaining. I enjoy Stallone both as an actor (he was Oscar nominated remember) and as a director/writer - he never tries to be more than he is, he sticks with what he knows and is clearly out to have fun and doesn't try to make his films too clever. He knows people mostly go to the cinema for escapism, adventure and to see some bad guys get their asses kicked. Well, "The Expendables" ticks every box.

In fact, you might as well call it "Rambo 5: Rambo & Friends" as it is pretty much the same thing as Stallone's return to Rambo a few years back. Go into bad guys place in some tropical setting, save the girl, kill a load of people, blow the whole thing up. But there is a bit more to it, the plot basically follows a group called The Expendables who are mercenaries that are a bit past it. Stallone heads up the group and Lundgren's Gunner is a bit of a mental and is sacked, Statham plays Stallone's trustworthy sidekick and Mickey Rourke ... does tattoos. They get asked to kill some leader of some island who is really being controlled by evil suit Eric Roberts. The island is ruled under an iron fist and there's a girl who wants to save it and helps out on a recon mission Stallone and Statham take. They escape, come back with the rest of the guys and cause some damage. They try to make it a bit more twisty but essentially it's nothing your half-demented Gran couldn't figure out.

The acting is surprisingly good I thought, for the most part anyway. Statham shows time and again that he is a great cheesy action star and shows up huge beefheads like Vin Diesel by stealing all their work. Stallone does his self-deprecating bit but does go through some kind of journey as he finds what it's like to stand for something again. The 'love interest' was satisfying because it wasn't a sexual thing but rather a paternal thing. The girl wanted a father figure she could be proud of, and to Stallone the girl resembled some kind of hope. It's nice that they didn't just want to fuck as there was probably about 45 years difference between them anyway. Stallone has always been nothing but a gentleman in his films. Jet Li's acting was awful but bearable ("I'm short" - okay I get it! You're being racist about yourself!) and I loved Dolph Lundgren. Rourke did his bit but you could tell when he gives his little soliloquy, he pulls out the acting guns and it does get quite emotional - for a minute, you forget you're watching a beefy action flick. Willis and Schwarzenegger are only in it for one scene, but it's pretty awful and self-aware to the point where they are almost slapping each other on the back. Steve Austin was himself as always, though I thought the reference to him being a woman beater, seeing as he actually did beat his wife, was a bit close to the bone. The real let-down, not for any reason but for his previous work, was the General himself David Zayas. He is better known for being the cheeky, fat cop in Dexter and I couldn't take him seriously as a tyrant at any point. Shame.

So let's get to the good bit, the action. Well, I thought it was great. From slicing heads off, to some huge fucking guns, to exploding helicopters, to some great fist-fights - it had it all. Some of the fighting, especially from Statham was amazing and made me get those tingles at the back of my neck because it looked cooooooooooooool. They are shooting from planes, from cars and generally shooting all over the place. The dialogue isn't too cringeworthy but it does sometimes get a bit much, but the odd one-liner is forgivable.

Overall, this is a definite boys-only affair, Statham even ditches his cheating girl halfway through the film and realises that he always has his mates. Awww. They hang out at some kind of garage/tattoo parlour and ride around on their bikes in their leathers. It sounds slightly gay and to be honest, it is a bit, but in a completely 80s macho way. If you want to see some good old fashioned action where everything explodes then this is for you but if you want a more sensible, serious, smart action thriller then look elsewhere - and make sure it's not Salt.

Rating: 7/10

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