Boy, where was the robot when you needed him? I would have paid money to have someone stop me from walking into the theater today to watch Sylvester Stallone's new flick The Expendables. This is a story of a band of mercenaries who, for lack of a better word, merce about blowing things up, and that leads to fights. They of course love each other, so they always stick together, and that leads to fights. Some of them have girl troubles which lead to fights. The only two women in the film get beat up which leads to fights. One of the members turns on the group and tries to kill them, and that leads to fights, but by the end of the movie, everyone (including the turncoat) kiss and make up and have a big party.
Maybe the film might have worked at some level if anybody had acted in the film. Everybody seemed to be doing bad impersonations of Jack Webb doing his Sgt. Joe Friday Dragnet character. Giving credit where credit is due, if there was bright spot in this film, it was Jason Statham. He had an anemic character, but at least he was not excruciating to watch.
This film might have even worked at some level if the violence was entertaining. I'm all for a good demolition derby, but the violence here was gratuitous and insultingly unrealistic -- a stream of gasoline when ignited does not produce a series of successive explosions along the course of the stream.
This film might have worked at some level if it had even had a plot that was remotely interesting, but I am sorry to say that this had to be perhaps the most boring film I have ever seen. It was kind of like the old black and white art house films where a man and a woman sit silently across the table from one another, and after a very long period of time the woman says, "I'm hungry." The man winces, stares at the table and after five minutes or so says, "Ham?" The woman turns away, lights a cigarette, then wipes away the tear that has leaked down her cheek. She stares up at the ceiling and says, "Yes." The man sighs deeply, pours himself a shot of whiskey, downs it and through clenched teeth says, "I will kill the pig." The woman stares at the ceiling, the man stares at her. After a long time the woman stares at the floor, the man stares at the ceiling. After a (long) while the woman closes her eyes, the man scratches his chin. Finally, the man gets up and moves slowly off camera, and the woman stretches out her hand and opens her lips as if to speak but says nothing. Then a pig blows up, the woman's chair breaks and she falls backwards with feet flying in the air, and the table burst into flames. After a long time, the camera fades to black.
If only The Expendables could have come up to that level of cinematic excitement.
We saw the trailer for The Expendables some months back. I remember seeing a few explosions, maybe a chase scene, lots of gunfire, a little martial arts, a lovely view of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a lovely view of Bruce Willis. Aging action heroes taking on a mission could make for a funny story, so we elbowed each other, giggled, and looked forward to the movie's debut -- we're always game for Arnold and Bruce. What could be better than seeing them in the same movie?
If only it was any other movie, and if only their appearance hadn't been about 30 seconds longer than in the trailer. Willis appeared briefly to snarl off-color language; Schwarzenegger stepped on camera even more briefly to stiffly make a few jokey lines. It was a very stilted scene, shot in a completely different style than the rest of the movie, and almost totally pointless.
I honestly thought that I was going to see a smash-em-up comedy. Indeed, some scenes were so ridiculous and over the top that I laughed out loud, but it was supposed to be a serious action film.
Having seen The Expendables, I would classify it as a guy flick, of the genre "Big War Toys and Dirty Kill-Em-All Men." As such, if that's what you want to see in a movie, this might just be the film for you, because the "Expendable" gang, mercenaries who all actually have hearts of gold, kill everyone who gets in their way. Everyone. They stab them, they blow them up, they shoot them with automatic weapons and single shot weapons, they stab them and slice them some more, and martial-arts the crap out of them, too. Also there's some pro wrestling moves here and there that crush the life out of some of the enemies. Lots of crotch-kicking for aficionados of that sport, as well.
For those who are fond of gore, there were some raspberry-jelly sauce dismemberments, and exit-wound red pulp explosions, the bloody bits artfully heightened by CGI to a just-more-slightly bright shade of red so that they sparked against the darker background.
However, there was not a spot of snot, vomit, or poop -- sorry, if that's part of your action expectation -- although in one scene, (the only one that began to gross me out) Stallone's character "Barney" smokes a huge greasy brown cigar that looks like it came out of the non-teeth end of a rottweiler.
Of course this is an opinion piece, so just keep in mind that I was probably not part of the intended target audience. With that in mind, I have more observations.
Stallone is too old to be a believable action hero. Sorry, Mr. Stallone, this is just a fact of nature. Also, his face is getting too old to gracefully hold those long seconds of camera time as he grimaces, sneers, and sticks his lips out. Ugh.
Mickey Rourke ... now what his role was supposed to be in this film is beyond me, as he just hung around a tattoo parlor looking even uglier than he did in Iron Man 2. More ugh. Put a bag over that poor man's head, or at least give him a bath and comb his "hair."
Jet Li's character (named "Ying Yang" -- what the --?) at one point complains that he needs more money. Apparently that's why he agreed to appear in this whack mess.
Bernie has told me that he believes this movie to be worse than 2012, but I do not agree with him on this point. 2012 was 55 minutes longer than The Expendables.
It is to be noted, that although the Expendable Gang kill the entire army, they themselves never get more than a few scuffs. It is an ensemble cast, and at the end they are all happy and partying. I suspect that a sequel in already in the works, a sequel in which the two really old guys -- Stallone and Rourke, sacrifice themselves to save the world and the rest of the Expendables.
Good came to me through this movie, though. I learned a profound lesson.
No matter how good the trailer looks, I shall check out the early reviews on IMDb.com and know what kind of film I'm thinking about going to see.