Monday, August 30, 2010

The Expendables / * (R)

Image courtesy of Lionsgate

Barney Ross: Sylvester Stallone
Lee Christmas: Jason Statham
Ying Yang: Jet Li
Gunner Jensen: Dolph Lundgren
James Monroe: Eric Roberts
Sandra: Giselle Itié
General Garza: David Zayas
Tool: Mickey Rourke
Paine: Steve Austin
Toll Road: Randy Couture
Hale Caesar: Terry Crews

Lionsgate presents a film directed by Sylvester Stallone. Written by David Callaham and Stallone. Running time: 103 min. Rated R (for strong action and bloody violence throughout, and for some language).

I anticipated that Sylvester Stallone’s new super action extravaganza “The Expendables” could be a wonderful throw back to the action flicks of the 80s that fueled many of it stars’ careers. I figured it would either be an enjoyable actioner that incorporated the largest cast of action icons ever assembled together for the same film. Or, it would just be bad. However, when I envisioned an unsuccessful film of it, I still figured it would have enough camp and charm that it might be a fun bad movie.

The sad reality of it is, however, that “The Expendables” is just plain bad. I’m not sure that’s expressing it clearly enough. “The Expendables” is bad, bad, bad, bad. Not a good bad, but a bad bad. And it’s stupid. Oh, so stupid, stupid, stupid! It’s not just stupid and bad in concept, but it’s terribly made. It’s nonsensical, poorly shot, poorly edited, you barely understand a word that the actors say, and the plot is like something half remembered from a dream after most of the story’s connection points have already been forgotten.

The plot, from what I can gather out of the unintelligible dialogue and stunning jumps in reasoning, involves a band of former Special Forces mercenaries known as The Expendables, lead by Stallone’s Barney Ross. They’re hired by a man named Church (Bruce Willis), who may be CIA, to depose a dictator on a South American island country. After reconnoitering the island with his second in command, Lee Christmas (Jason Statham, “Crank: High Voltage”), Barney deduces that a former CIA agent named James Monroe (Eric Roberts, “Heroes”) is really in charge on the island, running it as a cash crop of drug trafficking.

Barney believes that their target is really Monroe. Let me get this straight.  Since the CIA wants to save themselves the embarrassment of rogue agents, they trust this independent team to figure that out for themselves. What embarrassment does that save them? Isn’t this black ops work off the books anyway? Who would find out what they were really hired to do other than… them?

That’s just an example of the random nature of the developments in this movie. I think the real reason for this CIA secrecy is to create a cameo role for Willis and an even less logical cameo for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as a rival mercenary who also meets with Willis to turn down the job and exchange a moronic muscle-flexing conversation with Stallone. This is, however, the one scene in the movie that created a laugh for me. Willis asks about Schwarzenegger, “What’s that guy’s problem?” Stallone responds, “He wants to be president.”

But other than that one exchange, all of the film’s dialogue seems to be cut from a dozen other action pictures and pasted together, sometimes at random.  Here’s a sample dialogue from a later scene:

“Am I dying?”
“I shot you a few inches above your heart.”
“I’ll take that as a ‘Yes.’”


That was pretty much the recurring theme of my thoughts throughout the movie. “What?!” Yes, I realize I’m not supposed to be thinking in a movie like this, but for some reason screenwriter David Callaham (“Doom”) is under the impression that the audience expects these characters to be deep thinking human beings who do what they do for… well, he never really goes into that. I guess it’s because its what they’re best at. Emoting, not so much, no matter what the script requires from them.

Well, let me take that back for a second. Mickey Rourke (“The Wrestler”) delivers a speech at one point that could easily garner him another Academy Award nomination were it in another movie. His speech is totally out of place and it seems the only reason he is even in the movie is to deliver a well-acted speech. Too bad it’s in the middle of all this other crap. I wonder if he wrote it himself, like Robert Shaw’s U.S.S. Indianapolis speech from “Jaws”.

I’m sure many will feel I’m too judgmental on a movie that is essential only a Smith & Wesson commercial. I’m expecting too much. I’m trying to impose a cultural ideal on something that’s just for fun. Hey! I’m as big a fan as any of Smith & Wesson commercials. I just want mine to be good and make some sense. That’s not a lot to ask when all you have to do is hang some good action scenes on it. As Smith & Wesson commercials go Sylvester Stallone proved he could make a good one with “Rambo”. This one, unfortunately, resembles a gun that’s had a hacksaw taken to it.

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