Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Expendables (2010)

Title: The Expendables (2010)

Director: Sylvester Stallone

Writers: Sylvester Stallone, David Callahan

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Dolph Lungdren, Jet Li, Eric Roberts, Bruce Willis, Charisma Carpenter, Arnold Schwarznegger, Randy Couture, Steve Austin


The Expendables to me, was a celebration of 80’s awesomeness. I didn’t get to see it upon its initial release, because the damn recession is holding me back from going to the movies as much as I’d like. Sad but true. But finally when I saw the box at the video store, I swear I heard a choir of angels singing as I reached for the dvd and rented it! I was finally gonna get to see this bombastic explosion of 80’s style action. But the question remained: would it disappoint? Or would it be a great film? At the very least, I expected the film to be fun. I mean, seeing all these action stars up there was gonna be a treat no matter what my expectations for the film were.

Story goes something like this: Stallone is the leader of a group of mercenaries that call themselves The Expendables. They go around taking missions and getting paid huge amounts of cash for doing them. They kill terrorists, save hostages, you know the drill. Well, one day a guy called Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) offers The Expendables a mission. They are to go and kill a dictator named General Garza. When they get there, they realize that what they really want to do is help the rebels fight against the dictator and the men who manipulate him. Will they succeed in their mission?

I enjoyed this movie far more than I thought I would. It wasn’t a perfect film, it had its glitches here and there, but for the most part I really dug everything about this movie! Especially the themes it’s playing with. Let me tell you guys a little something about the island of Puerto Rico, where I reside. In our last elections, a new governor was chosen to rule over our land. Everyone had high hopes for this guy because the previous one had driven the country to poverty, having to close down schools and government offices for months on end. But hey, it was the beginning of the recession and anyone governing the island during those years would have had a hard time doing it anyways. So in comes this new guy offering to do things right, offering the proverbial “change” that everybody needs. So of course he won the elections. Everyone put their trust in him to make things right, to work for the people, to work for our interests. Unfortunately, this was not to be. Once in power, he fired more than 30,000 government employees and used the police force and the national guard to instill fear upon the masses by having them hit anyone and spray pepper spray on anyone who dares complain or exercise their right to speak up against the oppression. He is the kind of polititian that feels more like a businessman than a politian. This is a guy who doesn’t really care about running a country, his priorities seem to be making money, Nixon style. Hell, many have compared the guy to Hitler himself. I don’t believe there has been a more hated governor in the history of Puerto Rico, and believe me, we’ve had our share of assholes in command.

So when I see a film like The Expendables, where it criticizes this kind of abuse of power, it makes me happy to see somebody notices. I saw a documentary a while back on Jamaica called Life and Debt (2001) that showed how Americans got their hotels and their resorts in one part of the island, and now Jamaicans themselves need to have a special card to go into that section of the island. How fucked up is that? Jamaicans themselves can’t go into the exclusive American section of the island? What gives? Sad to say I am seeing the same thing developing in our own island of Puerto Rico. Tourists visit only the capital of Puerto Rico, where the grand majority of the hotels are at, while the government is making it increasingly more difficult for locals to go to that area. Now, don’t get the wrong idea, I don’t hate Americans or anything, my motto is the same one that Jackie Moon had in Semi-Pro (2008) E.L.E. Everybody Love Everybody! But seriously, this situation makes me want to puke! The situation in Jamaica is freaking sad! Governments know that tourists can bring money to the island, so they sacrifice everything else for that?? The rest of the island is falling apart! You should see how many local businesses have closed down, how many buildings are abandoned. It’s an alarming amount. Yet foreign companies like Wal-Mart and Burlington Coat Factory thrive. There is a Walgreens literally on every corner of my town (literally) while I’ve seen more then one local pharmacy go down.

So hurray for The Expendables and hurray for Stallone in wanting to shed some light on this type of behavior. I thought it was extremely interesting how the island under the dictatorship in the film is unnamed and fictional; it could probably represent Puerto Rico and Jamaica or any other country in which the same situation is happening. I identified with the character of Sandra, the revolutionary who wants to stay and fight against the evil dictators and businessmen, to fight for the freedom of her people. There is one awesome scene in which Eric Roberts (representing big business) tells General Galarza “I own you” and basically lets him know that he has to do whatever Big Business tells him to, because the funding comes from them. And of course, I love the fact that the good guys realize this is all wrong and that something has to be done about it. This let’s me know that The Expendables has its heart in the right place, at least these guys are killing and blowing shit up to stand up for what is freaking right! An action movie with a conscience! Holy shit that’s unheard of! Let’s not forget that Jason Statham stands up for women’s rights as well, defending the love of his life from an abusive boyfriend. Hurray for this movie yet again.

But let’s face it, we came here to have some fun and I gotta say I had tons of that! What I enjoyed the most was the dialog believe it or not. These guys are all aging action stars (most of them anyway) and they have a history behind them of action films. What I loved about this movie was how they kept referencing their personal lives and their film careers through the dialog of the film. Example: when Arnold Scharznegger walks into the film and he and Stallone meet we are led to believe that they are both leaders of different mercenary groups and that at one time, they worked together. Translation? “We both used to be action stars at one point”. Arnold says he doesn’t need the gig so he is giving the mission to Stallone and his crew. The dialog that follows that conversation goes something like this:

Arnold: “Give this job to my friend here, he LOVES playing in the jungle, right?

Stallone: Right.

Arnold: Hey, how about dinner?

Stallone: When?

Arnold: In a thousand years?

Stallone: Too Soon.

Bruce Willis: What’s his problem?

Stallone: He wants to be the president.

In this conversation, the animosity that Arnold and Stallone had during the 80’s is alluded to. You remember how it was right? They use to make fun of each other in their respective movies. They kind of acknowledged each others existence and were willing to make fun of each other, but they still kind of hated each others guts. I always got the idea that it was all in good fun anyways, this movie proves it. And the line “he loves playing in the jungle” is an obvious reference to Stallone’s Rambo films. And then the two go on about weight, and Stallone tells Arnold, “whatever weight I loss you found pal” And the film goes on and on like that. Speaking of Arnold’s participation in this film, it is so freaking robotic. He kind of like walked through the scene not even trying to act, he had this silly grin on his face the whole time, honestly people? To me, Arnold was the worst thing about this whole movie, and in all honesty, that whole scene (though kind of funny) was terrible because the dialog felt robotic. I almost got the feeling like none of the actors were actually together; it felt as if they all filmed their scenes separately; the one sour note in an otherwise great flick.

Its all in good fun!

Speaking of performances, I was amazed to find out that the best actor in the whole film ended up being Dolph Lungdren. Man, Lungdren is a better actor now then he ever was! EVER. The guy hasn’t stopped acting and let’s not forget he directs his own films, so as far as I’m concerned, the guy is still very much in his game. Lungdren has actually gotten better with age! Holy shit, he was devouring his scenes, making all the other action stars including Stallone himself look bad. There is this moment in which Mickey Rourke shows up and tells this story, it is a small part, which can be considered a cameo, but damn, he really gave it his all. Kind of makes you wonder what’s a real actor with some real acting talent doing in the midst of all these action guys, who’s one specialty is kicking, punching and blowing shit up? Lungdren and Rourke both surprised me, and stood out like a cockroaches in a chicken dance.

Statham, taking action to a whole other level!

I liked that fun vibe the film had; it reminded me of the silly premises and ideas that we used to see in films of the 80’s. I mean, seeing these guys flying around on a plane, as if they were this special team of rebels going up against the evils of the world, I kind of got the feeling I was watching another version of the A-Team. Cigar chomping tough guys with secret handshakes, beautiful women, fighting over who kills the best and who kills the fastest.

Stallone, behind the camera, directing

It seems to that with this film, Stallone is passing the torch to Statham as the current king of action films, not a bad assessment. The film ends with Statham and the rest of the crew relaxing at Mickey Rourke’s tattoo shop (makes perfect sense for his character to have one don’t it?) having a knife throwing contest, all the other action stars kind of miss, but Statham ends up winning, perfectly hitting the middle of the mark with the knife. It’s as if Stallone was saying “this is the guy who’s taken my place okay and I give him my blessing” Plus, its obvious Stallone likes Statham. Statham is the one with the most screen time out of all the action guys and hes always next to Stallone through out the whole film. Hell, he is next to him in the freaking poster. So, according to Stallone, Statham is this generation king of action films.

"So you want it to say Schwarznegger sucks? You Sure?"

Final words: fun times. Storyline might be generic cause we’ve seen this story of the good guys going against the oppressive government before, but hey, guess what? This type of thing is still happening in the world, so it’s freaking relevant. We need some real revolutionaries NOW, but whatever, till they arrive, I guess we got The Expendables to take care of business and make things right, at least in the film world.

Rating: 3 ½ out of 5

The ExpendablesThe Expendables (Three-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)The A-Team


Andrew said...

This one was an absolute hoot for me....
An unabashed return to the glory days of crazy action.

Great review!

Unknown said...

Yes, excellent review! I have a copy of the DVD and am eager to check it out and relive my youth of '80s action films.

Direct to Video Connoisseur said...

Excellent review, and great perspective, especially coming from your own experiences. The other message I noticed they had was one against violence against women. Every character that attacked a woman was dealt with very harshly. Obviously this was an action movie, not a political statement, but it's good to have solid messages like these in and among all the explosions and whatnot.

But as you rightly pointed out, this was all about the kickassness, and The Expendables had it in spades. Tons of fun.

Chris Regan said...

Awesome review - nice to see someone sticking up for this film as I really enjoyed it but have read a lot of bad reviews. Refreshing to get an insight into the political background too. And I agree that Lundgren is awesome in this.

Franco Macabro said...

@Andrew: Totally agree!

@J.D.: Hope you have fun with it!

@Direct to Video Connoisseur: I did like that scene where Statham's character kicks the abusive boyfriends ass right in the middle of his basketball game, and then he ends it by saying "now you know what I do for a living"

It does have a bit of a political statement, which I enjoyed wholeheartedly, though Im sure I identified it more with it than the regular viewer, because of the way things are in Puerto Rico! People are getting their asses kicked by the polie force simply for voicing how they feel against the abuse. I wish I could call on The Expendables sometimes! ;)

Franco Macabro said...

@Chris Regan: I loved it, I mean, people giving it a bad review are people who are expecting a different kind of film, and this movie delivered where it was supposed to.

I really felt like I was watching something like Commando or something. I guess those that lived through the 80's 'got it' a bit more then those who never lived through and saw the action films of that decade.

Thanks for commenting!

HorrO said...

Also enjoyed this movie. Brings back memories of good action movies of the 80's and 90's. Great cast of characters. Love the moment you brought up with Willis, Stal., and Arnold. The action was great. I really do hope they go through with it, and make a sequel.

Franco Macabro said...

I hear the sequel will probably include Segal and VAn Damme in it...that sounds like a step up!

Aylmer said...

I haven't seen this yet, but really enjoyed Stallone's new Rambo flick, so I'm looking forward to this. He's really on a roll. I caught his new Rocky movie on cable the other day, and much to my surprise I thought it was pretty great. So how does the gore in this compare to the recent Rambo?

And yes, the "divided island" situation in Jamaica is horrible. It's similar in a lot of Asian and Pacific holiday destinations as well.

Franco Macabro said...

@Aylmer: The gore on this one isnt as abundant as it was on Rambo, but its there. Especially in the first frames of the movie where Lungdren blows a guy in half with this big ass gun! So you could say that gore is still there, but I thought is was waaay more graphic on Rambo, which by the way I just got through watching for the first time this weekend, I'll have a review up for it this week!

And I totally agree, I think STallone is really on a role as far as his career goes.


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