I’ve always been a big fan of Thursday. It feels macho to me, named after Thor, the Viking God of Thunder, and all that. Plus it means the ever-lovin’ weekend is finally about to explode!
So after a full day of work, 4-hour total commute time, Lions’ Club meeting, gathering of food donations for the Community Helping Place, and paying the mid-month bills for a Friday mailing, the day is done and I’m ready to crash. Right? WRONG!
When you live with two testosterone pumped sons like I do, you normally spend your Thursday nights going to midnight premiers of action/horror/sci-fi/superhero movies! Sleep and rest are for wimps! So what choice did I really have when, around noon, I get the below text from 19-year old son #2?
Expendables at midnight. Want to go? Trick question because we are going.
And 21-year old son #1, recovering from mono, chimes in.
I’ll be ready!
Hey, I can do anything these guys can do! I’m only 51, after all! So here we sit in the AMC Theater at 1201 am, and I admit to being pretty excited. Maybe this is really 1985 and I am only 26. Ah, 1985 … Stallone unleashed Rambo II (forever setting the standard for action movies), Arnold exploded Commando (moving him beyond Conan as a major player in the action movie set) and a year after Chuck Norris launched the first of his Missing In Action films. Norris appears to be the only member of the gang missing in The Expendables.
I normally don’t write movie reviews because I don’t want to spoil anything. My wife says I always give away plot points when I talk about books, movies, etc. No worries here, because if you have ever seen an action movie of any kind, you already know the plot to this movie.
Taking its inspiration from “macho guy movies” that Hollywood doesn’t make anymore (The Dirty Dozen, The Wild Bunch, The Magnificent Seven, The Wild Geese, etc), The Expendables is an obvious action movie throwback, following a group of mercenaries hired to take down a dictator in South America. Of course, there is a traitor in the ranks! And a woman changes everything! Then it gets personal! See? No plot giveaway here! Just basic action flick, tough-guy movie 101! J
By far, the selling points of The Expendables are the cast and the nostalgia factor. It features 80s icons Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts and Mickey Rourke with current action stars like Jason Statham and Jet Li, not to mention “athletes” like Randy Couture, Steve Crews, and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin tossed in. And while uncredited, the trailers ruined the awesome impact of Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger appearing on-screen with Stallone in what may be the greatest cameo appearances ever conceived. Soon afterward, explosions, car chases, knife fights, kung fu sequences, and mass mayhem take over. And it’s a wonderful ride!
To my surprise, this is really a Jason Statham (Transporter, Crank) film. His “Lee Christmas” character gets the best lines, the best fight scenes, and decent character development. No one outside Stallone and Statham really gets a chance to shine. The great Jet Li (The One, Kiss of the Dragon, The Warlords) exists primarily for comic relief. Dolph Lundgren (Rocky IV, Universal Soldier) gets a decent dramatic sequence and still looks extremely menacing but fails to really deliver. When Mickey Rourke shows some emotion and starts espousing action movie philosophy about lost souls and regaining humanity as he fights back tears, I wanted more! But my sons (and most of the twenty-somethings in the audience) groaned. Give ‘em time, I say.
Stallone, as Team Leader Barney Ross, certainly carries himself well, mixing humor, action and his trademark emotion on his sleeve. He plays off everyone adequately, and his interactions with his macho co-stars allow for him to pull off an enjoyable performance as a result. But Statham is the clear standout. His basketball fight scene, where he defends girlfriend Charisma Carpenter (Buffy, the Vampire Slayer) is the highlight of the film. He’s set to star in a remake of The Mechanic, the old Charles Bronson classic. He appears to be on his way to the action star Hall of Fame himself. And the final assault on the island fortress was cool, although Arnold did it solo in Commando. Who needs these guys? What a bunch of girly men!
Actually, the worst part of the movie was the rather cheap-looking special effects. Perhaps it was supposed to look like an 80s film, but when you see the CGI fire, laser pointers, and blood, you’ll see what I mean. I’m also not an Eric Roberts fan. Even in an action movie with no intent of high-brow acting, I thought he was too over the top.
But in the end, the good guys win and order is restored in the universe. Stallone and Company prove they still have their souls by saving the woman. In these movies, the contact is always a beautiful woman. That’s one of the rules. That’s how I came up with the title for this post. Remember this exchange from Rambo II (1985)? Rambo is on a boat with his contact, Co Bao, played by the lovely Julia Nickson (remember, the contact is always a beautiful woman):
Co Bao: Why did they pick you? Because you like to fight?
Rambo: I’m expendable.
Co Bao: What mean expendable?
Rambo: It’s like someone invites you to a party and you don’t show up. It doesn’t really matter.
Later in the movie, Co Bao says to Rambo, “Rambo, you not expendable.” Indeed! Stallone has proven again why he is an action movie icon. The Expendables delivers total fantasy, raw on-screen mayhem, tough guy heaven! I’m already dreaming up my all-star cast for Expendables II! Speaking of dreaming, I’m gonna take a quick nap. Don’t tell my sons!
The Expendables opens nationwide today. Check it out!