Saturday, August 14, 2010
By Reymundo Salao
The EXPENDABLES is about a group of unstoppable mercenaries taking on an evil oppressive general and his American allies. This is simple ballistic good versus evil; a movie created as a grand homage to the action movies of the 1980’s and 90’s.
I confess up front that I am going to be biased about this review. I love action movies. Good action movies (even the dumb ones). I basically grew up watching action movies, and so, because The Expendables is an all out explosive movie which is an homage to the classic action films of the 80s and 90s, it’s no surprise that this is something I surely will enjoy from start to finish. And surely I did enjoy it.
Commercially and creatively, it is a fabulous idea to combine all these legendary action icons into one movie. Of course, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Bruce Willis, and Stallone, all action movie heroes, Randy Couture on the other hand is himself an icon of the Ultimate Fighting sport, and so is Stone Cold Steve Austin for the field of wrestling. Then there’s Dolph Lundgren who, despite being cast in B-movie projects over the recent years, still remains an active action movie actor (his 1989 movie Red Scorpion and the 1989 Marvel movie The Punisher are his two movies that I really loved when I was a kid), and also Mickey Rourke, who is more of a ‘man’s man’ icon rather than an action hero. And to top it off is the action movie villain icon Eric Roberts as the main baddie (alongside Steve Austin as his henchman). Terry Crews was also a great addition to the team because he's one of those actors that do look like a bad-ass but is often used on comedies and minor roles in action movies, in this one, he gets to be one of the main heroes. Of course there’s a minor appearance from Arnold Schwarzenegger alongside Willis whose appearance is minor also. But it’s a scene that I loved; the exchange between Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Willis was just something I really adored. I can’t really ensure if it's also something ladies will enjoy with much giddy enthusiasm as I did. But yes, this movie made me feel like I was in GRADE 6 again, with ...matching childish cheer & machine gun sounds from my grade 6 teeth.
Stallone's style in action is, by definition, violent, but never gory. Stallone's treatment in gore is pretty much hit, get-to-the-point, and then run; it does not exert any effort to focus too long on the gore as much as Neveldine & Taylor's direction in Crank 2 or the torture porn of the Saw movies.
Unfortunately, Stallone has the same major flaw typical American directors are plagued with; they do not know how to shoot a good martial arts sequence. I think the film failed to really let the audience see the usual martial arts majesty of Jet Li. Even Stallone's, Steve Austin's and Randy Couture's major fight sequences lacked an impressive fight-sequence orgasm to it. The shots of the fight scenes feel shaky and too close. With martial arts and fight scenes, the static should be on the body movements of the characters fighting, a good steady focus should capture every detail of the body static. Especially with a superior martial artist like Jet Li, you need to focus each and every impressive stunt he creates onscreen. This is also very similar to editing; a good fight sequence should not be divided into tiny bits to meld with a grand all-out action mix-up with the other characters doing other separate things as well. If it does become part of a mix-up, make the sequences longer.
With what he has achieved in directing John Rambo (Rambo IV), and with his achievement here in The Expendables, I feel that Stallone's forte is more on the military action. It's just grand, wild, ballistic, and merciless. There is one scene (which involves a plane escape) where I literally even clapped my hands (yeah that's not a usual thing here in our conservative city, but hell I just loved it).
What I like about this movie is that even though his main characters are scary when in battle, their character arcs are that they are never a-holes or arrogant vain dicks. That seems to be what sets them apart from the protagonist in movies by Michael Bay or Neveldine & Taylor whose heroes are too cocky and sometimes break too many “hero” rules to the point that you get tired of rooting for those kind of heroes.
Just because you have characters that are wickedly bad-ass, doesn’t mean they have to possess nasty personalities as well. At one scene, we see Mickey Rourke riding in on his bike with what looks like a hooker on his back, yet, the next time we see him, he delivers this soulful lamentation of how an experience in the battlefield, when he neglected a civilian, has bothered his conscience. As I said, they look demonic on the outside, but they reveal sheer goodness inside. Maybe to younger audiences this appears to be an old school approach to action hero archetypes, but if you ask me, this is THE BEST approach to an action hero archetype.
THE EXPENDABLES is full-price movie for me and for many action-loving audiences out there. Sure you should not expect this to be a smart “thinking” movie. But at least it’s not as dumb as, say the “Charlie’s Angels” movies or that dumb G.I. Joe movie (personally this is what I wanted that GI Joe movie to look like). THE EXPENDABLES earns a solid thumbs up; along with wishes that there should be a sequel! Next Mission PLEASE!!!