" But I love you! I can't help but feel what I feel!"
Given that I saw three films on the back of each other today, it is somewhat inevitable that they didn't flow sweetly after each other. I had a bit of a wait for The Expendables, so me and the 200 pound guys with the search and destroy emblems had to chill for a while, no doubt thinking the same things. The first of which was an ongoing complex attempt to rationalize buying popcorn even though we're skint, and the second was that this was a guy's film, a repeal to the open machismo of the 80's action movies, where men were pumped and masculinity didn't have to apologize for itself. Days of men, yo. Well, if you ignore the homoerotic subtext at least. Aside from the obvious, consider the fact that these men worked endlessly on their figure for the sole purpose of looking good. The Schwarzenegger bicep serves no practical purpose, its just about vanity. Which is surely the least machismo thing you could do right? No? They were just being badass. Ok. I apologize.
The Expendables is kind of a post-decomposition hymn to the kind of film that died a long time ago, the testosterone fueled action movie that discharged over a million bullets and every problem, be it personal, political or practical could be solved through brawn and force. They were movies where any kind of intelligence made you a bad guy, and women were pretty accommodating to mass murderers as long as they had a ten inch bicep (not a euphemism unless you want it to be). Sure it has a few post-modernist touches, writer/director/star Sylvester Stallone feels compelled to add a modicum of story and character and much like the recent Rambo reboot, there's a slim, simplistic attempt at politics too. The main problem I had though, is that despite the fact that's its competently made, a film that should have been either ridiculous or awesome ends up so generic and familiar. Generally I found the action uninspiring, perhaps because pretty much everyone aside from Statham is on the wrong side of 40 and looks it, particularly Stallone who made me feel everyone of his 64 years whenever he tried to run or engage in a fight scene. Stallone is a smart man, a capable screen-writer and the occasionally talented actor (obligatory Cop Land shoutout) but there's over the hill and then there's this.
Statham is the only action star in his prime, and as far as the carnage goes comes off the best by a long way. Annihilating legions of faceless South Americans with an impressive amount of grace. As a closeted fan of the Crank movies, I like Statham in a certain context. He's droller and more with it then most action stars and that's to be commended. As far as everyone else goes? Well. Its much less of an ensemble piece then advertised, with Stallone and Statham taking center stage. Even Jet Li gets dissed. People keep having to save his ass, and if I learned anything from this movie its that muscles beat kung-fu every time. I mean obviously guys, its not like kung-fu is an art or anything. And why oh why, did the wildcard of the group have to be Dolph Lundgren. Traditionally, an action movie revolving around a squad of badasses will have a wildcard, the guy who's either crazier, unstable or a bit more apathetic then the others and just kind of follows his own rules. Be it Stiglitz in Inglorious Basterds, Spoon in Dog Soldiers or the John Cassavetes character in The Dirty Dozen, there's always one. They usually steal the movie, but the problem here is that Dolph Lundgren can't act for shit, so when he tries to be all crazy it just ends up being hilarious. Sorry Dolph, but there's a reason you went straight to video.
Similarly the villains are pretty much pathetic, a thinly drawn dictator played by Dexter's David Zayas, and a sleazy CIA agent played by Eric Roberts. Seriously, fuck Eric Roberts. This guy is awful, how has his career been revived like this. I know he was in The Dark Knight and all but come on. Irony can only go so far. The Expendables I think may be a fan only kind of deal, I found it to be OK I guess, but there's not much plot, not much good acting, and Statham aside, not much good action. So what's the draw exactly? Nostalgia? And FYI the Schwarzenegger cameo is beyond embarrassing. Although not as much as The Terminator Salvation one.