Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Expendables

Year: 2010
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Steve Austin, Mickey Rourke, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, David Zayas

What do you get when you put together the most well-known action stars in the last 20 years in the same film? You get The Expendables.

The hype surrounding Sylvester Stallone's huge action epic starring some of the biggest names in action flicks has been building for quite some time now, and I have been curious to see if it can deliver.

The story: a group of mercenaries called The Expendables, led by Barney Ross (Stallone) are hired to do a job, which involves overthrowing a dictator in the fictional island of Vilena. Ross and his right hand man Lee Christmas (Statham) fly over there to recon the island. But as soon as they land, they get themselves into a load of trouble and barely manage to escape.

They learn that the dictator, General Garza (Zayas) is merely a puppet whose strings are being pulled by James Monroe (Roberts), a rogue CIA agent. Initially, Ross decides against risking his life to save a woman he had left behind on that island, but eventually changes his mind. Christmas and the other team members (played by Li, Crews and Couture)follow suit.

First off, let's talk about what's good. The cast for starters. We get Stallone, Jason 'The Transporter' Statham, Asian kung fu star Jet Li, iconic villain and sometimes hero Dolph Lundgren, former WWE wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin, regular bad guy Eric Roberts, tough but aging macho man Mickey Rourke, MMA fighter Randy Couture and NFL star turned actor Terry Crews. Putting all these guys together is a feat in itself, so Stallone deserves plenty of credit for making it happen. Word is that Wesley Snipes, Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal would have made it too, but they backed out. How unfortunate. Ah, but that loss is made up by having Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger make cameo appearances! Now, for me, seeing those two and Stallone in the same scene was truly epic. Even Arnie's entrance was awesomely done. Too bad they didn't have bigger roles to play here.

It's an action film, so you can expect plenty of that. Like Rambo, Stallone pulls no punches and delivers numerous action sequences that are violent and bloody. Things get blown up, bullets and knives are flying all over the place and the fisticuffs hit hard. But I have to gripe about the camerawork here, especially in the physical fight sequences. Stallone's cinematographer made a mistake in filming them too close, so we can barely see who's punching who or where, and some of the lighting needs improvement, especially in the climax.

And then there's the editing. Despite it being a good move for Stallone to show some heart and drama behind his characters, in order to explain their motives, it drags on for too long at times. Rourke gets a scene where he reminisces his past, which is probably similar to his role in The Wrestler, and I think that although it was nicely done, it carried on a bit too long. Then there are too many pointless exchanges between the General and Monroe, and lots of other scenes that could have been cut out.

In the end, this film is mainly Stallone and Statham's show. Stallone is the star, and Statham becomes his best friend who gives him plenty of support. Their bro-mance is quite entertaining to watch. Li on the other hand becomes the comic relief, as does Crews. But seriously, Li should stick to being serious, he's better at that. Austin pretty much rehashes his Stone Cold persona here as Monroe's right hand man, while Rourke succeeds as The Expendables' mentor. Lundgren surprisingly delivers as Gunnar Jensen, a former team member with issues. I hope he comes back for the sequel.

Verdict: as an action film, it delivers. But with some tighter editing and better camerawork, it would have been phenomenal. (3.5/5)

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