Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis
Directed By Sylvester Stallone
Oh no! It’s a new Hollywood Blockbuster! Jasper, you goddamned sellout. You soulless fink. Shouldn’t you be tooling along the lower rungs of the cinematic ladder? Shouldn’t you be rolling around in that piss-soaked cesspool digging up old, shitstained Lucha Libre movies nobody cares about? Or how about boring us to tears with yet another Shaw Bros kung fu film? Come on, it’s been four days now and you haven’t mentioned Chang Chieh or Chen Kuan-Tai… you’re losing your touch, bro.
Before you get all James Spader on my ass… bro, let me tell you that The Expendables pays tribute to the golden age of silly ass, testosterone-fused, over the top actioneers of the 80s in glorious fashion. Sure it’s stupid, loud, and full of more lapses in logic than a Bush presidency, but so were Commando, Delta Force, and Cobra. Those films defied their insipid plots and predictable formulas because they were fantastic action films featuring ripped motherfuckers who could actually dominate you in physical combat throwing around grenades and gunfire like it was rice at a wedding. None of these prancing, pencil-necked geeks who pass as action stars nowadays can even hold a candle to these meaty killing machines of the 80’s. The Expendables knows this and instead of going with some scrawny Hollywood cash-machine like Will Smith, decides to man up and bring old genre legends like Dolph Lundgren back to the screen as well as genuinely capable action stars like Jet Li.
Testosterone. This film is so crammed with the stuff, that I literally felt my gonads tripling in size during the course of its 108 minute running time. My man-hormones were bouncing around in a ricocheting frenzy like a ping pong ball stuck in a vacuum. Literally every 80’s genre staple makes an appearance here. You have kilos of dirty South American cocaine, giant machine guns capable of firing off 50,000 rounds in rapid succession without reloads, and your typical sleazy bureaucratic villain type, complete with an entire army of banana-republic guerrillas at his command. The film knows it is completely ridiculous and simply decides to roll with it. One liners, goofy villain monologues, and tough-guy machismo drip from every scene like sheets of napalm from a B-17 bomber. The younger crowd probably won’t get it, they’ll quickly dismiss it as dumb and then move onto Saw 3D or some similar-themed flavor of the month while us old timers will lean back in our seats while smiling and nodding affectionately.
I was a big fan of Stallone’s woefully underappreciated Rambo sequel of a few years back. I felt that the extreme carnage and over-the-top gore were exactly what the series needed for a serious jumpstart. I am happy to report that all of that crazy shit makes a triumphant return in The Expendables. Dudes are stabbed in the neck, arms are chopped off, high-caliber machine guns slice guys in two, and concussive grenade explosions vaporize heads into a fine red mist.
As with any of the older movies The Expendables draws its inspirations from, there are a lot of things you can bitch about with this film. It’s definitely overloaded with a lot of goofy baggage serving no real purpose other than to get your rocks off. Schwarzenegger’s unfunny cameo was pretty pointless, so much in fact, that it actually got in the way of my enjoyment of the film, as did Bruce Willis’. Also, as much as I love Mickey Rourke, did he really do anything… at all? I’m a big fan, but the scene with him and Stallone together, musing over old times played less like a moving scene about two men with many regrets in life, and more like a Botox advertisement. Don’t tell me you fuckers were thinking anything different either. It’s refreshing to see Jet Li thrown into the mix, but having Dolph Lundgren getting the drop on him, twice? Not gonna happen. Speaking of Jet Li, does any western filmmaker know how to film this guy? I’m sure Cory Yuen’s choreography was great. Too bad it was lost in a sea of shaky close-ups and frantic edits.
But in the end, who really cares? The nostalgia factor runs deep, and the man juice courses through every minute of screen time, making this crazy explosion-riddled romp stand up beyond virtually any attempt at criticism. This film knows exactly what it is. Don’t be a dick and flog it for wearing its inspirations on its sleeve, just sit back and drink the Kool-Aid.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that Stallone’s current obsessions are rooted in vanity. Besides the Botox injections and clinking vials of HGH, his last few films have served as entertaining, but self-serving attempts to defy his age at any cost while proving that his era of action is the only one that truly matters. With such a lofty goal as that I am surprised that he has continuously remained convincing in his argument. First Rocky Balboa, then Rambo, and now The Expendables. As far as Hollywood action films go, I don’t think anybody has been keeping it real like Stallone. Sure Michael Bay can make 37 edits in the span of twelve seconds of screen-time, but can he rip a man’s throat out with his bare hands? I didn’t think so.[Editor’s note: So many badass men and their abundant testosterone is too much for one review to contain, so later on today I’ll post my own thoughts on Stallone’s latest. Enjoy!]