Thursday, 26 August 2010
THE EXPENDABLES (2010)
Directed by: Sylvester Stallone
Screenplay: Sylvester Stallone & Dave Callaham
Starring: Stallone and just about every other action star from 1980s and 1990s
God bless Stallone. The dude is one of the undisputed kings of action cinema and our childhood's, at least all of us now past thirty, would not have been the same without Rocky, Rambo and Ray Tango (yes, even Ray Tango!). Despite pushing well into his sixties now, Stallone has embraced his legacy as an action hero and with The Expendables pays tribute to the film's that made him, and many of the rest of the cast, stars back in 80s and 90s.
Stallone is Barney Ross the leader of an elite team of mercenaries who include the likes of Jet Li, Jason Statham, Randy Couture, Terry Crews and the almighty Dolph Lundgren. Asked to check out some dirty goings on on a South American Island, Barney discovers a place gripped in fear by an evil dictator and a scheming former CIA spook (the always awesome, Eric Roberts). Coupled with new found feelings for sexy lady friend Sandra (Giselle Ite), who wants to free her island and its people from the fear and violence, Barney rounds up his troops and they head on down, tooled up and ready for action, to whoop some ass. And some ass they whoop.
Playing to the tilt on the violence, carnage and insane action that made the action movies of the 80s and 90s so damn entertaining, The Expendables is the perfect homage and an action blast all on it's own. Stallone's purpose is to cram in as many familiar faces from the action world as possible and then set them off against one another in a series of uber violent confrontations. Character development is thin but then it only really needs to be. We've come to see the stars strut their stuff and their stuff is what they strut. Sure not all The Expendables get loads of screen-time with Stallone and Statham being the main leads but they don't need to. It's The Magnificent Seven/Dirty Dozen syndrome with several main characters surrounded by an eclectic array of supporting characters who all do their thing and get at least one memorable scene for themselves. Everyone is great fun, except for maybe Li who despite a few funny lines looks bored as hell by the whole thing, and Stallone gives equal attention to some cool bad guys. Roberts' is great as the slimy Munroe backed by fierce henchmen Steve Austin (proving a powerhouse in the fight scenes) and ace martial arts star Gary Daniels (who surprisingly gets a decent amount of screen-time and action). There is also room for the always welcome Mickey Rourke (riding motorcycles and inking tattoos) and, of course, the cool cameo from action giants Willis and Schwarzenegger.
Stallone and Statham make an appealing duo and bounce off one another well ("I'm buddha, he's pest") and it has to be said Statham almost steals the show in this. Considering he is the newest kid on the block, he holds his own well with the older action gods and seems to be having a blast. But the show is well and truly stolen by Dolph Lundgren, stealing every scene he is in as the somewhat unhinged Gunner Jensen. Really, he should have been in it even more. He also gets to fight Jet Li, twice, and opens the film by literally blowing a guy in half with a shotgun! Stallone knows his action and rams the movie with the stuff. It varies in execution, some scenes brilliant, others edited to quickly rendering them confusing. It's an unfortunate symptom of modern action cinema and disappointingly mares the big fight between Li and Lundgren, the edit and camerawork cut just a little too close and quickly. However, there are still many other great set pieces including a couple of nice fights featuring Statham using knifes to creative and brutal effect, an epic free-for-all in the bowels of the bad guys hideout featuring pretty much the entire cast going toe-to-toe with one another and an awesomely insane sequence involving a plane, a pier, Statham hanging out the nose of the plane and mucho explosions. But the best bit, for this action fan at least, has to be Daniels taking on Statham and Li at the same time in a brutal fight that once again shows what gifted a fighter and underrated performer Daniels is. Awesome.
This sure won't be for everyone, not even every action fan, but Stallone does deliver a fun ride and copious amounts of old school action. Not quite as brutal as the last Rambo (but almost), The Expendables may not always live up to all the pre-release hype and "most-awesome-action-cast-ever assembled" hyperbole but it is a rollicking good time. Stallone has a great legacy of action films behind him and he can safely add The Expendables to it and despite getting on a bit now, I think he could pull one more action ride with The Expendables out the bag before his eventual retirement.