Saturday, August 21, 2010

Movie Review: The Expendables

The Expendables
Needed more Zach Dietz

Directed by Sylvester Stallone

Starring... well, look up.

Rated R

One of the most highly anticipated movies of the summer, The Expendables is a collaboration, congregation, collection, and celebration of 80's and 90's action stars who have gathered in one place for one purpose: to make a movie so manly that, upon viewing the opening credits, every female in the theater becomes instantly pregnant. Why? Because it's the only way we'll have the manpower to defeat China.

Indeed, from the very outset of this movie, the manliness is on full display, swinging to and fro and smacking the audience right in the face. The story follows a team of black ops special forces types as they travel to the corners of the world to take on terrorists and various ne'er-do-wells. Most of them have their own general talents, be it knife-throwing, tattoo artistry, or in Li's case, being very small.

As if the manly cast weren't manly enough, we get more surprise manly cameos from manly men over the course of the movie. Arnold Schwarzenegger makes an appearance at one point, apparently playing Dutch from Predator. It's the real Arnold, not a CGI version... and it's abundantly clear why he can't be in any more Terminator movies. He's looking old, 'yo.

Bruce Willis is only in one scene as well, unfortunately. It's kind of surreal seeing him in the same scene as Arnold and Stallone. The bad news is that this was one of only two scenes where the movie really had my attention. Most of the movie's dialogue is pretty bland and unnecessary, and for the most part, the actors seem to be aware of this fact. The other 90% of the movie, the stuff-blowing-up-scenes, also manage to get pretty boring. Even the one-on-one fights tend to suffer from Michael Bay esque shaky cam, which will likely have the audience wondering what the hell is going on a lot of the time.

Audiences hoping for a Rocky IV rematch will be disappointed, as Dolph Lundgren and Sylvester Stallone don't really ever do battle in the movie. It seems like a real missed opportunity for a shout-out to their fans, but this movie is full of missed opportunities. More often than not, every opportunity for something rad to happen ends up turning into more generic action movie brainlessness.

Then again, I suppose the movie has to keep its radness under acceptable levels to avoid getting into trouble with UN inspectors. Moving on, the villain in this movie is a nefarious businessman played by Eric Roberts. It's hard to say exactly what he does or how he got to be an evil businessman, since the movie doesn't particularly do a good job explaining it. For that matter, none of the characters are all that developed. Playing the role of the evil bodyguard is Steve Austin, who has disappointingly few lines. I feel like the movie missed lots of opportunities to make in-jokes with the audience about just who is in it.

Speaking of in-jokes, there was one particularly good one that has to do with Schwarzenegger's political ambitions. Check it out. Aside from that, there was a real wealth of untapped potential for the movie to really make the audience laugh, if only it had been a little self-aware. Unfortunately, it never seemed to have any self-awareness at all, and never achieved any of its potential. For that matter, it never even tried to reach any of its potential.

Perhaps due to how weak the rest of the acting was, Mickey Rourke steals the show with one scene in which he recounts a mission to Serbia. He shows some raw emotion in that scene and manages to capture the inner strife and pain of a guy who has been through hell and back and continues to be haunted by it. I can safely say that this was by far the best exposition scene in the movie, and I think Rourke really stepped up. It was also the only part of the movie where I found myself really caring about the characters onscreen, what with all the forced dialogue in the rest of it.

In the end, that may well be the biggest problem with The Expendables. It just doesn't really have any heart or soul. Taken for what it is, a meaningless action movie, it's okay. It could be much more, though, as a collaboration between so many action heroes that the 80's/90's generation looks up to. Aside from that one cameo-riffic scene in the church, it just never goes there. Late in the movie, Eric Roberts' character points out to Stallone's character that they're both dead inside. He could say the same thing about this movie. It may have Stallone, Schwartznegger, and Willis, but it doesn't have Dietz.

1 comment:

  1. The bad guy was former CIA that went rogue, like Jack Bauer. Except evil.