December 5, 2010

Muscle Milk

Men! We're a brutish subspecies, aren't we? For all our pandering, and romantic bullshit, and our useless groveling, we will always return to our most basic tendencies, those being, desiring to blow shit up, grunting, and doing excessively macho things like fighting wild boars or taking a bath in molten lava.
Ok, fine. Maybe that's a glorified description of how stupid men are compared to women, but, some of it strikes home. Traditionally, men will go for something fun, loud, and exciting, but ultimately hollow and forgettable. Which would explain why The Expendables, Sylvester Stallone's celebration of muscles and bullets and blood did so well at the box-office. It's a whiz-bang, hell of a good time action flick, but one that is devoid of all humanity and subtlety. Oh sure, it's a lot of fun, and you will walk away from the film chatting about how awesome that one part with the stuff and the thing was, but, wait a couple of days, and you'll be hard pressed to remember why you made such a big deal about it in the first place.

Lucky for us, no acting required!

So, there's this team. A team of mercenaries to be exact. They traipse around the world, blowing shit up, recusing hostages, and shooting a lot of people in very stylish fashion. They get along well, constantly bickering about who killed more people in the aftermath of a firefight. It's all good fun. The leader, Barney Ross, is a beefy dude with something of a conscience problem. When his team is offered the job of overthrowing a dictatorship in some backwater Latin-American country, he takes it, hoping that this will offer him some redemption. Meanwhile, his partner, Lee Christmas, is dealing with women issues; the resident kung-fu master, Yin-Yang, is dealing with family issues; the sarcastic one, Toll Road, is deal with anger issues, and the demolitions expert, Hale Caesar, is dealing with no issues at all. You know, manly stuff. Once they recon the country though, Ross and his team discover something far more extreme happening, and find themselves in a fight for their lives as they try and take down a dictator, his small army, a rouge CIA agent, and a former teammate of theirs.

Can I just pause for a moment and acknowledge how ridiculous the character names in this movie are? Lee Christmas? Toll Road? Hale Caesar? The asian guy is named Yin-Yang? RIDICULOUS!!

Writer/Director Stallone stated that this movie was a throwback to classic, macho action movies of the 80s. Given how thin the plot is, that's a pretty apt description. There's a pretty decent setup, sure, but the characters are underdeveloped, with some of them not even getting any development at all. The character of Caesar is pretty funny, and probably has a cool backstory, but such a subplot is not even hinted at. He is only there to shoot things with his absurdly powerful shotgun. Lame! The plot moves along at an incredibly fast click, leaving no time to catch your breath as stuff goes up in flames around you. It's a lot like an 80s movie. Funny how that happened.

Sylvester "Resurrecting the Glory Days" Stallone, ever the narcissist, takes the starring role as Ross. Stallone was never a very good actor. Indeed, his two best performances came from very early in his career, and since then, he's just gotten stupider and stupider. However, he manages to put on a convincing show, and can, at the very least, kick ass very well.

Jason "Will Badass For A Meal" Statham is second-in-command Lee Christmas. His does his usual thing, and stands out amongst a cast comprised of thickies. Statham has always managed to bring charisma to his characters, despite how uninteresting they are, and Christmas is no exception. His superhuman athleticism is used to full effect, but he manages to interject it with some humor and pathos. Not bad, coming from a guy who electrocuted himself to death so that he would survive.

The last guy worth talking about is Mickey "I'm the Best Actor Here" Rourke as the team's handler/tattoo artist. He's not in the film for very long. Most of his screen time is relegated to one scene, but, DAMN, is it a good scene. Rather then have Rourke kill a horde of dudes or drive a car in a destructive manner, Stallone has him monologue about a traumatic time in his life. It's the best performed part of the film, further showing the world how friggin' boss Mickey Rourke is!

The principals are rounded out by Jet "Only Asian" Li, Terry "Only Black Guy" Crews, Randy "Why Am I In This Movie?" Couture, Dolph "Can't Speak English" Lundgren, Steve "Should Stay With WWE" Austin, David "Can't Play Convincing Villain For Shit" Zayas, and Eric "Living in the Sister's Shadow" Roberts. There is a female in there, but, screw you! This is a man movie!

A brief note on the cameos. Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger are only this film for a grand total of five minutes. That's all. They come on. Talk for a bit, then leave. Not worth it? I didn't think so either.

Performances are what you expect from a film of this sort. They are boorish, dumb, loud, over the top, yet oddly endearing at the same time. If you came in expecting Oscar quality theatrics, then you are officially a dumbass and should just go away!

Looks like there's some dissent amongst the ranks. 

Stallone as a director is a far better artistic force than Stallone as an actor or writer. As a director, he has an acute eye for the awesome and the badass! The Expendables, bad acting and storytelling aside, is a fantastic action flick! The violence in this movie is second to none when it comes to modern day films in the genre. Every character gets to do something awesome! Whether it's mowing down a platoon of henchmen with an automatic shotgun, or causing a tremendous explosion, or handling a throwing knife with the skill of a true master, every guy gets his chance to shine. The action scenes are all well shot and directed, giving you a feeling of the tension and chaos that is prevalent on the field of battle. The final action scene, in particular, is feast for the eyes. 

For some reason, I really love how much Stallone and crew rely on knives to do their killing. I mean, their guns still have magazines possessed with limitless ammo, but, this team of badasses is not afraid to resort to the old stabey-stab to get the job done. Don't know why, but I think that's great. 

Also, the blood has been toned down a lot since Stallone's last feature, the perversely gruesome Rambo, and what blood is there looks fake as all holy hell. I also appreciated this, because it gave the film a much needed cartoonish feel, stepping away from the realities of it all and letting you just have fun with it. Rambo was so graphic with its violence that it was impossible to enjoy the film, since you were constantly disturbed by the carnage on screen. The Expendables doesn't have that problem. There are some bloody scenes, as when a dude is blown in half by a shotgun, or another dude gets a blade rammed into his jugular, but, there is nothing in this film up to the level of the 50-cal machine gun vs. Burmese army scene from Rambo. 

The Expendables is a perfect film for a Saturday night with a couple of friends. You pop a brew, chow down on red meat, make crass remarks about women, and watch this. You know. Manly stuff. It is instantly forgettable, boasts bad acting and worse writing, but it's a solid action film, to be certain. I'm just hoping that the planned sequel isn't as brutish. Here's an idea for you Stallone. Maybe you could stop constantly putting the camera on yourself and give the driver seat over to someone else, step back, and do some directing of things other than action, and then maybe, we'll be on our way. Until then? Well, that's why God created the fast forward. 


  1. I was so excited for this because of the cast but man, easily the WORST thing I've seen this year... heck, of any year. Such an abominable. I had to keep apologizing to my friends for suggesting this.

  2. Yeah, I don't know. I thought it was good fun, but I didn't see it in theaters.

  3. Yeah, I don't know. I thought it was good fun, but I didn't see it in theaters.