Saturday, August 14, 2010


I grew up in the greatest era for action movies ever, the 80s. I got Rambo, Commando, Die Hard, Predator, Delta Force, Above The Law, all the best action films came out for me between the ages of 14 and 19. Reaching back into that time comes The Expendables a high octane, rollicking and violent , mantastic super action film from Rambo himself Sylvester Stallone.

The story centers around a group of mercenaries who decide to defend a small country against an evil Dictator and a drug lord. Sure it's flimsy but who cares, The Expendables is a really good time.

The thing I like is that all the cliches are pushed right in your face in a very unapologetic way. Stallone and his co-writer must have watched every action movie they could find and listed every touchstone to each movie. Then they checked off these cliches as they wrote them into The Expendables. Even the characters are really action movie cliches come to life. In all of these movies you need the following:

The leader who has seen too much blood and lost too much so he tries to keep everyone at arms length: Stallone

The 2nd in command who is the same as the leader when it comes to guts but he's trying to be more of a normal guy and is more modern in what he does: Jason Statham

The high energy comic relief: Jet Li

The weapons obsessed guy: Terry Crews

The weirdo kind of crazy guy: Randy Couture

The ex-member, the guy who knows The Leader best and has seen so much blood shed he had to leave the life: Mickey Rourke

The turncoat: Dolph Lundgren

So that's the mercenary group. Add Eric Roberts as the FBI guy gone rogue and turned drug lord, Steve Austin as his cold blooded back up and Giselle Ltie as the incredibly hot woman looking to fight the oppressive system she's stuck in and her guts and honor in turn melts The Leader's cold heart. With those cliches set in stone Stallone then moves on to the plot cliches.

Jason Statham has a woman who leaves him for another man because even though she loves him he's "never there". Of course the guy she goes to is a wife abusing asshole so Statham beats the shit out of him. There's the "soul searching" scene where Stallone needs to know what to do so Mickey Rourke tells him a sad war story to show him the way. The cliches keep going on and on.

Nobody checks into a movie like The Expendables expecting anything but bloodshed and Stallone realizes that. The movie basically says "Yeah we know all your favorite action stuff and here it is". The action is so over the top and the fights so cool I was actually laughing at how fun it all was.

Of course the dialog is corny and filled with tough guys making little quips at each other as well as "we're brothers forever" parts and the whole tough guy alpha male bonding thing. Sure it makes no sense that the girl from this war torn little country strife with poverty has perfect teeth and gorgeous skin. Yes the movie asks us to buy five guys against an army. That's what these movies do.

The plot is mainly a way to push us into the next action parts so it doesn't even come close to making anything that could charitably be called sense. The way I figure it this is Eat Pray Love but for guys. Everything guys want in an action movie with very little filler.

To let you know the big scene with Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger together lasts about 7 minutes and shouldn't be a selling point for the film. Schwarzenegger looks bad, especially next to Willis and Stallone who've stayed in shape for the movies while he got fat on the Republicans money. The scene is cute but didn't need to be in the movie.

Do you care about any of these people? No. Do any of the characters develop beyond a two dimensional point? No. Who cares though, none of the characters did in the eighties films either. People who say The Expendables is stupid or start bitching about the script clearly just don't get it. This is nothing but popcorn flick escapism and it's nice to see it done with such unabashed honesty. Stallone knows exactly what this film is and he seems wicked proud of it. For me, at least for two hours, I was 16 again without a care in the world except what would blow up next.


  1. Iann, I would love to hear what you thought of my 2nd favorite Stallone pic - 'Copland.' We should talk some James Mangold.