Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Expendables

As a child of the 80's, my bread and butter were action movies. I also loved all other genres of film from an early age, but there was something truly fascinating about the movies that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Stallone. Movies such as Rambo, Predator, Commando, Cobra, Rocky, and Conan (to name but a few) were some of my favorite movies as a child and continue to be so today. In particular Rambo was an interesting phenomena for it spawned a cartoon and series of toys. The movie was further attractive to me for it told the story of a hardened Vietnam vet, who I saw akin to my own father. These movies (I believe) were also attractive to other children of the 80's for they espoused true heroism. They featured heroes that never faltered and always won when they pursued the right and honorable course of action; such actions commonly centered around defending one's country and woman. The story's protagonists and antagonists were all black and white. There was no questioning the motivations. Such stories are rarely told today, and some of the classics from the 80's are considered today as chauvinistic, weak in plot, redundant, ultra-violent, and etc. Nonetheless, it is for the reasons I outlined above that I am still fond of this genre of movie and why I felt so incredibly drawn to the recently released movie, The Expendables.

(The Expendables panel at the San Diego Comic Con 2010)
The movie, The Expendables, is about a rag tag group of mercenaries. They go into difficult places to perform difficult deeds and get paid quite well for it. The story in the movie is about this group of mercs who get a job to kill the dictator /overthrow the government of a small island. Predictably however, the job is not as straightforward as it seems, but then again the storyline itself is pretty straightforward. The plot is not as interesting as some of the 80's classic action movies and the comedic lines are nowhere near as funny either. Nonetheless, the storyline hearkens back to those classics and it is that nastolgia for this genre that pulls you in. You know it's over the top and corny as all hell but it is still enjoyable because you rarely see this type of movie anymore. Another big factor is the BIG cast the movie has. You absolutely cannot go wrong with a cast that includes: Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Gary Daniels, and Steve Austin. As if that was not enough, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger have cameo roles. Sure there are plenty of actors that could have been added (most notably Jean Claude Van Damme), but you can't have everything; as a side note, at the San Diego Comic Con 2010 The Expendables panel, Stallone mentioned how there were plenty of actors that had commitment conflicts or who had personality conflicts!

One of the notable aspects of this cast is that each actor was featured in their own style of action. Jet Li was filmed as Jet Li with his trademark martial arts style, Jason Statham was filmed in his own style with the fast action sequences, and I noticed that Randy Couture used combat moves he is familiar with in the UFC octagons. This was great as it really took advantage of all the actors they had on the screen. However, what the movie did not allow for was giving the audience a chance to know any of the characters or care for them. This is where the plot was obviously thin and that the focal point of the movie was really only to showcase how many friends Stallone has.

One small downside to this movie is the special effects. There is not too much CGI in this movie (thankfully), but when it does appear it does so with no justice to the scene. In one instance the plane that the mercs use is flying at night over the ocean. For some reason it was shown via the usage of CGI and it looks incredibly fake and pulled me out of the movie for a few seconds. The usage of CGI in these few scenes was even more noticeable because it is hardly used. Like the action flicks of the 80's, the majority of the scenes were filmed with real actors kicking but and using real guns that caused real explosions; it was nice.

Overall, if you are reading this and are a fan of those 80's action flicks that I too was of, then you will enjoy this movie on many levels. However, if you are not (like the annoying lady behind me in the theatre), then DO NOT GO. This is also not the greatest movie of its genre but it also offers something that has not been done before, bring together this large cast and do it well. Hopefully they will make a sequel that bring back even more of these 80's action heroes and this time add in a better story.

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