Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ever step in a pile of dog crap?

I know I'm coming to this party a little late, but I can't leave it alone.  Last night, I finally saw The Expendables.  Part of me wanted to see this movie when it was released in theaters last year, but the bad reviews discouraged me.  Recently the film was made available on Netflix, so I thought I'd give it a tumble.

It's not like I had high hopes.  Directed by Sylvester Stallone, the movie stars Jason Statham, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Steve Austin, Randy Couture, and of course, Stallone himself.  The film also features cameos by Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Hardly an ensemble cast of accomplished thespians, so I went into the film with especially low expectations.

Somehow the The Expendables managed to exceed them.  There are simply no words to describe how bad this movie is.  I already mentioned the cast, but surprisingly, despite the presence of former UFC and WWE stars bringing down the curve, the acting really isn't the problem, or at least, not the most obvious.  The real problem is one of the worst scripts in the history of cinema.  It's written by David Callahan (?), whose most significant previous work is the screenplay for Doom. Watching this movie,  you'd think Stallone bought the story from the 3rd place finisher in a middle school writing contest for $20 and a signed copy of Tango and Cash.

It's essentially a plot held together by a series of one-liners.  Bad ones.  Like, so bad you don't even understand them.  Now you might say, as defenders of the film do, the movie is a throwback, an homage to 80s action films that weren't very good themselves.


Yes, many of those 80s movies that we love weren't all that great, but they at least had some style and panache.  Movies like Roadhouse and Commando are on the Mount Rushmore of over the top, 80s cinema excesses, but they were fun and unabashedly committed to style over substance.  Eighties action movies are legendary for their one-liners, but the story wasn't built around them.  Some were cheesy ("I feel the need, the need for speed!"), some were ridiculous ("Let off some steam Bennett!"), but they always made you smile ("I'm too old for this shit.").  And when they were delivered, there was no conceit, no inside joke, no shame.  Just perfect timing ("Yippee-ki-yay motherf@#$%*").

Not so here.  Expendables isn't fun.  It's boring and incomprehensible.  From what I could figure out, Stallone and co. are a group of mercenaries who are hired by the CIA to kill a "rogue" agent who is taking over some small, nameless South American country in order to start his own drug trade.  But during a recon mission, he is captivated by young woman who refuses to leave when given the chance, choosing to stay and help her people.    Stallone decides he must go back to rescue her.  And of course, his fellow mercs (all four of them) sympathize and decide to join their friend in taking on an entire army by themselves for free.  Not surprisingly, they succeed (with no casualties).

The action isn't bad; well choreographed and fast.  The violence quotient is pretty high with bones and joints being broken and bent the wrong way.  Bodies are shredded and blown apart by weapons fire.  But it comes at you so fast, it begins to blur together. None of the action is in the least bit compelling because you don't really believe any of the heroes are in danger, or care enough about them if they were.

As far as the characters, the only thing that differentiates them is how they prefer to kill people.  Stallone's the crack shot.  Statham is the knife guy.  Jet Li's the martial arts expert.  Crews is the heavy weapons guy and so on.  The acting, like I said before, is about what you'd expect given the screenplay they had to work with, but one guy stands out below the rest.  I don't remember Dolph Lundgren being a particularly bad actor, but his "performance" makes you think a drunk wandered onto the movie set, stumbling and slurring his way around, demanding that he be given a part.  I seriously couldn't understand a word he said.

It's too bad.  With its cast,the film had the potential to be a lot of fun.  Stallone has shown he can direct halfway decent films.  His last two outings, Rocky Balboa and Rambo were actually kind of compelling.  The Expendables, in contrast, is dull, humorless, and I found myself checking my watch hoping it would end soon.  The worst part, however, is that no one, not my friends, not my family told me how bad this movie is.  Shame on them.


Tim Lewis said...

I couldn't tell you because I never saw it. And I don't have Netflix, so I was never tempted to.

Justin said...

That is cause your friends saw the previews and made the correct assumption it would be awful. Dont blame us for your stubbornness and love for Sly. It has caused you to make poor decisions.

Anonymous said...

funny review, gave me a good laugh