Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Expendables

"The Most Appropriately Titled Movie of the Year!!"
"The Answer to Where All the hGH in Hollywood Went"

First, to be fair, one does not walk into a movie like "The Expendables" to judge the line-readings.  It's a good thing, as the only performance worth a damn is Mickey Rourke's beautifully played monologue in the middle of the movie, which stands out like an ice-swan at a spam-carving contest.  Everybody else, it's a crap-shoot (emphasis before the dash).

"Crap-Shoot" might have been a better title for the movie, as it's equal parts both.  The latest in a series of 2010 "Dirty Dozen" knock-offs (after "The Losers" and "The A-Team"), this one takes its appeal in gathering so many testosteroasted hams, all of whom have seen better days.  The main stars are Sylvester Stallone (who directed), Jet Li, and Jason Statham, with extended cameos from the rest of the cast (why, there's even a brief, unnecessary "Planet Hollywood" board meeting between Stallone, Bruce Willis, and the non-acting Gubernator of Kullyfarnyah, Mr. Schwarzenegger*—who seems to have forgotten how to act, along with all his campaign promises).  The only stand-outs are the vascularity on the prominently displayed bi-ceps, not that anyone would look good barking the inane juvenilia contained in the script.  

Okay, so let's forget "art," for a moment, and lower the squat bar to "execution"  (*sigh*  "if only...").  The action scenes (supervised by 2nd Unit Director Terry Leonard, who has done good work in the past) are sloppy, jam-edited for intensity, and often laughable (I lost count of how many times they pulled the never-believable "guy-holds-a-knife-handle-to-his-throat-like-somebody-just-threw-it-at-him" trick), and that applies to whether the "E's" are fighting the bad guys, or amongst themselvesThese guys can hold a gun—and maybe not blink when firing one, I didn't notice—grunt when they're hit, and simulate rough-necking (except for "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, who A) can't act, and B) broke Stallone's neck during a choke-hold), but anything else is far more taxing—like, you know, keeping an accent, or even a consistent personality, throughout the proceedings.

But, there are the numerous neck-twists, blood-spurts, and even the occasional spaghettification of an extra every few minutes, but one wonders why some of these guys, who made their reputations on better product in the 80's, would decide to come out of retirement (or exile) to appear in such a worthless piece of trash.  There's a lot of Human Growth Hormone under the skin of these guys (Stallone, particularly, is starting to look like Robert Evans!), but any other growth—well, they haven't made a pill for that.  After all, the phrase isn't "Better acting through chemistry."  As it is, this film feels lame, and aged—like "Wild Hogs" with evisceration. 

"The Expendables" is a Waste of Time, Money and an army of Ballistic Gel Dummies!

* Stallone must have promised to wash their windows, or something.  The novelty of seeing Schwarzenegger back on anything but a political stage has been heavily promoted in the ads, but he's there for four minutes, tops—hardly enough to get in shape for.  I'm sure there's SOME-one out there, outside of a day-care or the Democratic Party, that's been hoping for Schwarzenegger's screen return, but I think that may be a side-effect of extensive steroid use.


Mike Lippert said...

"I'm sure there's SOME-one out there, outside of a day-care or the Democratic Party, that's been hoping for Schwarzenegger's screen return, but I think that may be a side-effect of extensive steroid use."

Although I didn't like this movie either, I didn't hate it as much as you and would certainly take it over the A-Team any day, which was, in terms of execution, a hell of a lot sloppier (I'll never let this one go with you ;)). However I think your above comment isn't fair. I wish we did have Arnold back because, after he stopped taking himself so seriously in action movies he actually became a quite likable screen presence and a lot of his movies, if not great, are at least very entertaining for that very reason. He knew how to pick roles that didn't exceed his range although, was it just me, or did he kind of look like he was limping when he walked out?

Yojimbo_5 said...

"However I think your above comment isn't fair."

I've never understood why someone would think that anything anyone writes isn't "fair."

Again, you must be condemned to a repeated viewing of "The A-Team," for to say that it is worse than this puerile, horribly executed garbage other way to say it...wrong.

Schwarzenegger was, indeed, very good at picking roles within his range...which was limited...and directors had to go so far as to manipulate the muscles of his face (this was Ivan Reitman) in order to get the proper expression out of him. Oy. It appeared to me that in his whole performance in "The Expendables", he was limping.

Chris David Richards said...

Films that are marketed as being for manly men who like manly things annoy me. Because they're usually rubbish. And if you don't like them you're not manly enough.

Um, I haven't seen this though. That may have been an unrelated rant.

Mike Lippert said...

Yojimbo, the comment isn't fair because, despite it being in good humour, you stereotype all of Arnold's fans as being, basically morons, but of course, my response was in good humour as well.

You can't tell me that, purely from a technical standpoint, the A-Team was better made than this. Nothing in the A-Team was visible, the shots cut away right as big action was happening and the fights were filmed so close and cut so fast that fists were connects but who belonged to them and what they connected with was impossible to tell.

However, when the camera films behind Statham when he's in the plane and you can see with perfect clarity all the terrain he is flying over, well that's exciting. Never once during the chase with Jet Li in the back of the truck can you not tell what is going on and the scene is cut to the momentum of the action.

They are both bad movies. A-Team is just a little more unwatchable.

Yojimbo_5 said...

Chris, I am, indeed, not a manly man, but I do like me some good red meat in an action film—I just want it to have all the muscles controlled by a brain-stem! "The Expendables" is such a lame (and, dare I say, limp) film the likes of which I haven't seen since Cannon Films stopped making movies.

And Mike, in all seriousness (for once), I never called fans of Arnold morons (although I did say the direction of "The A-Team" treated its audience like morons). I just can't imagine anyone on pins and needles waiting for him to get back into making movies, certainly not after his pre-politics out-put ("End of Days?" "Eraser?").

I did, indeed, note that it was Statham, himself, in the nose of that plane in those two shots of the strafing run on the dock. Kudo's to him—Statham's pretty good in the movie, actually, and at least he was given more cred than Jet Li, who was treated like a rag-doll and comedy relief throughout the film.

But I, at least, found "The A-Team" "entertaining," and frequently clever, far more than the eye-rolling melodrama, and jock-joshing that was stuffed into the sausage-casing that was "The Expendables." I was brutal in my review of this film because I genuinely hold it in contempt. I've enjoyed films with most of these people, certainly, but this one was for the easy buck, with an emphasis of shucksterism in the presentation and many tough guys, so little time...that I found dishonest, and with the intention of deceiving folks out of their hard-earned money...and here, at LNTAM, where I emphasize value along with creative artifice, that sort of crap deserves to be kicked to the curb, and kicked until you hear the last gurgle. Which I did, hopefully entertainingly—I, at least, made the guys I saw it with laugh.

Mike Lippert said...

Ah Yojimbi let's agree to disagree and remain friends ;) because I know, deep down, this is a pretty bad movie. Although you maybe get a pass on this one, there is still no acceptable reason for you to have given Salt a lesser rating than The A-Team, but that's another story.

Yojimbo_5 said...

Don't worry, Mike. Deep down, I know that we're debating the quality of turds, and we should be on to better things. But, the discussion helps to clarify arguments of mine that needed clarification (because...of COURSE...I think I'm right!)

The "acceptable" reason to give "Salt" a lesser rating is that it sets up its situation in a way that is completely artificial to story-logic for the benefit of audience hood-winkery. It's like the guy wrote the interrogation scene only, and then said..."I'll figure it out when I sell it."

It's been out long enough that I think I can toss out some spoilerage (doesn't salt PREVENT spoilage?—but I digress) Guy who says he's a Russian spy walks into CIA headquarters, says there's a plot to assassinate the Russian premiere by a secret cell of Russian agentry—put aside Russian agents killing the Russian premiere, as that one is the least of our worries.(!) Salt goes in to interrogate him, gives him a ration of shit...then the guy says "The assassin is named Evelyn Salt." To which, Salt looks at him and says..."MY name is Evelyn Salt." "Then you're the Russian agent.." he says.

Interesting scene...if it wasn't all TRUE! If she was a secret Sov' agent (in the middle of CIA headquarters, btw...and of, course, she's the ONLY one..) why would this guy then reveal...the PLOT...the AGENT carrying it out...and his own ROLE as the leader of the group...STILL operating it the U.S.?

Then, of course, she carries out the plot...without carrying out the find her husband, that manages to fool the CIA, but not the team of doctors who declared the premiere legally dead...That's some CIA we got there...

Then, it becomes a chase movie with revenge elements, in which she basically blows away her old allies because they killed her husband, except of course for the OTHER Russian agent hiding in plain sight, who started this whole plot rolling in the first place. It makes no sense. Is mind-numbingly illogical. And Noyce's directing is far less interesting than his Clancy/Newfront/Dead Calm days. I'm surprised he even took this job with this bone-head script. I think Noyce has made some great movies...This is garbage, and I wasn't impressed by the fights, although they were directed by the 2nd unit guy did the "Casino Royale" fights.

"Salt" LOOKED smart, but it was SO dumb. Another case of Hollywood hucksterism. LNTAM no like.