Saturday, August 14, 2010

Frakking Shiny Goes to the Movies: The Expendables

A few months ago, I walked into a movie theater and saw something that made me pretty excited:

Sylvester Stallone
Bruce Willis
Mickey Rourke
Jet Li
Jason Statham
Stone Cold Steve Austin
Dolph Lundgren
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Randy Couture

were all sharing space on a giant cardboard cut out for a movie called "The Expendables". Now, I'm not usually a huge blood/muscles/machine guns sort of movie guy, but even I got excited when I saw that this murderer's row of action stars were all going to be in one amazing, gooey, explosion-y, action shootacular.

Fast forward to this afternoon. I went and saw "the Expendables" and I have to say, that cut-out definitely wrote a check that the actual movie couldn't cash.

Oh. There might be spoilers after this, so stop reading if you don't want the movie wrecked.

I think I'd describe "The Expendables" like this: Imagine if the kid who beat you up in middle school wrote fan fiction. We know nerds write fan fiction about Harry Potter, Spider Man, Star Trek, and stuff like that. What kind of fan fiction would a bully write? The premise of a bully fan fiction might sound something like this:

"Oh man, and in the movie Rambo, Ong Bak, and the Transporter team up to fight Gordon Gecko, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Fidel Castro. And there'd be tons of blood, and explosions, and jokes about how short Jet Li is. Oh! And there'd be hot chicks but they wouldn't really do anything except get waterboarded."

Now take that sentence, and imagine a movie that feels just like that, but not as fun.

I think the main failure of the Expendables is a lack of creativity, and a lack of willingness to just totally go over the top. I feel like this was a movie that desperately wanted a director like Quentin Tarantino, or Robert Rodriguez, and if they'd had one of those guys it might've been able to make it over that hump. The Expendables is supposed to be a love song to the big action movies of the 80's that made Stallone famous. And it is. But it didn't revel in itself enough. It wasn't funny, or fun enough. The movie didn't cross that plateau of sheer ridiculousness that it needed to. It tried to take itself just a little too seriously, and I think that's where it failed.

Yes, the movie was fun. Stallone is Stallone. Despite all of the plastic and collagen in his face, he still oozes 80's machismo. And the rest of the cast is fine, they all do the things they do. Alot of the characters and plot points seem extraneous. Guys like Couture and Bruce Willis don't really do a whole lot to move the plot forward or make it more interesting, and there's a whole sub-plot with Jason Statham's girlfriend that doesn't serve into the greater story at all. But so what? Right? It's an 80's style blockbuster. The plot comes second to the bluster.

I guess my point is that the bluster is underwhelming. Let's get ridiculous! I want to see the Expendables crash two airplanes together, then crawl out of the wreckage unscathed, then make out with a team of Brazilian swimwear models, then wrestle mako sharks, then machine gun the Axis of Evil to death. I wanted Stallone to go the extra mile and really blow this movie out of the water, but instead, he seems to think that nostalgia for those wonderful, decadent years of the 80's will get us all to enjoy what's really kind of a boring movie. Without the names, the Expendables wouldn't be worth the experience at all.

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