I started this week with Centurion, which I really loved. I ended it with a late-night showing of The Expendables with the special lady friend. It was nice to be out with the SLF, but in retrospect…I wish I’d taken her to see Centurion. Because Expendables wasn’t very good at all.
I mean, it was bad, but it wasn’t bad-bad. It’s simply “eh,” but I think when you have a movie like this with a cast like that, being simply “eh” is even worse, somehow. On our walk home, the SLF mentioned that she has three expectations for any action movie in order to be satisfied:
1. Stuff blowing up real good
2. Breasty chicks in slow-motion or wet/sweaty t-shirts, who can look sexy while being dragged at gunpoint. She also defines this as “lack of bust-itude.”
3. Funny jokes/quick one-liners you don’t have to think too hard about.
She later added:
4. A literally ass-kicking soundtrack. If you can’t kick in the door to the first line, then you shouldn’t use it on the soundtrack.
I’m gonna put that shit on a tea-cozy, or at least a notecard above my desk. How did The Expendables fare on this now-patented SLF Action Movie Code?
1. Yes, stuff did blow up real good, and with some frequency. There are a few sequences that stood out and had me laughing and giggling in my chair like a fourteen-year-old. Sure, it’s fun to see Terry Crews mow people down with the world’s biggest shotgun or Jason Statham be Jason Statham, because he’s one of the few action guys working today who is reminiscent of the Willis/Stallone mode. Statham works in these types of movies because he never winks at the camera. He’s authentic. You believe him, and thus, you buy the movie.
But the problem, if you can believe it, is in The Expendables, stuff blows up with too much frequency, and by the end of the movie, I didn’t have a fucking clue what was going on. Besides that, it lacked the emotional satisfaction that you get when a movie saved its stuff blowing up real good for the last act. That’s one of the reasons why Crews’ shotgun opera works, because he doesn’t really get to DO anything for the entire movie, and you’re just waiting for him to show what a bad dude he is. And when he does, you realize that, if President Ronnie were kidnapped by ninjas, he would, in fact, be a bad enough dude to rescue the President.
2. For a movie that is meant to harken back to the glory days of the 80s, there was a surprising lack of hot chicks in this movie. SLF is watching old-school Buffy the Vampire Slayer, like back before Charisma Carpenter did Playboy, and Carpenter is in this. But her part is booooooring, and only seems to exist to allow Jason Statham some more cool stuff to do. Beyond that, the entire movie hinges on Sylvester Stallone’s kind of sort of thing with a female rebel of an unnamed Latin American country that’s not the fake Latin American country from The West Wing. As the SLF says, “if she had gotten killed, nobody would have cared, and that is no way for your helpless female character to be.”
SLF continues with the very good point that if you’re not going to resolve anything re: her relationship with Sly, you should make her fourteen or fifteen and make it a father-daughter thing. Give Stallone’s Barney Ross a backstory with a wife and daughter who left him while he was off capping dudes with Mickey Rourke…or even the regret that he never had a family at all because of his aformentioned penchant for cappin’ dudes. That would cover the lack of brestitude and make the scenes where the female character is tortured more despicable and make you want to see Eric Roberts get his comeuppance.
(SLF has this whole thing about movie villains and it’s pretty awesome, but I don’t really have the time to transcribe what she’s saying. So maybe later.) Thus, Expendables fails on the lack of breastitude, and I apologize to my female readership for harping on that. I’m really a male feminist, I swear.
(By the way, as I write this, SLF is basically rewriting The Expendables in the apartment while she is sewing, and her version of the movie is way better than the movie we just saw.)
3. Funny jokes/one-liners. This where the movie fails, and fails HARD. I found one joke in this movie funny, and that’s a dick-sucking one-liner delivered by Bruce Willis in the infamous Bruce-Arnie-Sly scene. Other than that, it’s the most surface shit imaginable. Randy Couture has a fucked-up ear. Jet Li is short. Let’s make jokes about these for 90 minutes. I mean, there are funny parts. Eric Roberts is very funny, but come on, it’s Eric Roberts. He had some of the worst jokes in the movie, and he delivered them better than anyone else. Like Statham, he knows how to stick the landing with some of these bits — as the SLF says, “if you don’t commit, it’s gonna be shit.”
I think this is the longest review I’ve written for this little blog, and I could go on about the parts of The Expendables I did like, such as Mr. Mickey Rourke. I remember the story about Rourke basically demanding that he have a cockatoo and do all this outrageous shit on the set of Iron Man 2, and it’s clear that he got away with much the same stuff here: A pipe. Low-rider jeans with a beer gut. A touching, nonsensical monologue about Bosnia that is actually somewhat touching, because IT’S MICKEY ROURKE. (SLF: “I don’t think it was about Bosnia, but there was pain there.”) Hell, he basically drives off the cover of Low Rider magazine for his first appearance, with random hot chick on the back of his bike.
Oh, and 4: The movie has a classic rock soundtrack, but it doesn’t use it very well, it chooses the most obvious songs imaginable (and so expensive-sounding!), and there is not one rock song used as the soundtrack to any of the action sequences. Please see the winner of the 2007 Palm D’Or, Shoot ‘Em Up, for a better example of this.
I didn’t really dig it. Neither did the SLF. I’d probably watch it again on tv, though. I kind of wish we’d gone to a midnight screening of Face/Off instead. Because even while Face/Off‘s plot is far more ridiculous and outlandish than The Expendables, its actors hold that shit together.
“I’m ready…ready for the BIG RIDE, BABY.”