The Expendables (Sylvester Stallone, 2010)

13Sep10

Sylvester Stallone (Barney Ross), Jason Statham (Lee Christmas), Jet Li (Ying Yang), Dolph Lundgren (Gunner Jensen), Randy Couture (Toll Road), Steve Austin (Paine), Mickey Rourke (Tool), Arnold Schwarzenegger (Trench), Bruce Willis (Mr. Church). Screenplay by David Callaham and Sylvester Stallone. Directed by Sylvester Stallone. Rating: 15. Running time: 103 minutes.

Oh dear. What a complete and utter insult of a movie. I cannot believe I let Stallone shit on me yet again. What on earth keeps him going? Why the hell did he think this film had potential in any respect? IMDb’s box office figures gave me hope we would never again be subjected to this pathetic torture fest that may as well be called Rambo 10 or whatever number we’re on now. I found it about as excruciatingly painful as the men who Stallone’s crew casually killed will have. But, tragically, it has been stupidly commercially successful. Stallone, like Schwarzenegger in a camero here, will, infuriatingly, return.

I’d hold back on the scathing comments if I thought this was all made in good faith, conscious of its stupidity and by-now absurdly cliché and bloody boring plot. The point is, though, that I’m really not convinced Stallone wants The Expendables to be funny because it’s not funny. The fact there is actually – quite shockingly – very little action in the film’s first half is evidence that he genuinely thinks he’s onto a winner with the dialogue here, the script for which he’s boasted about rewriting over 100 times (just, how?). The amount of scenes which merely consist of watching either Rourke, Willis, Statham or Stallone himself slapping a girl’s ass, glaring at another guy with violent intent in the eyes, and then churning out some one-liner and insult that’s supposed to be hilariously witty yet manly at the same time borders on repetition, and every time your head dives into your hands not quite believing how bad what you’re hearing and seeing is. All of these scenes are – of course – set in some random testosterone-fuelled location: either a warehouse perfect for a miniature shootout, a tattoo parlour where they all chill with their tops off, a bar with a board for throwing knives into or a garage where they can all work on their motorbikes. Yeah, what a great life.

But then, to worsen the wounds, when the mission to overthrow an evil South American despot (if you either didn’t guess or somehow care) finally arrives, it’s initially inspired by financial reward but ends up with the real motivation all being Stallone’s, consisting of nothing more than saving some girl from death to help stabilise his ruptured soul. Naturally he blows up another 200 or so men in the process of doing so (in a sequence of explosions shot from so many rapid-fire angles that nobody has a clue what’s going on; we just hear bangs and observe rising fire for half an hour, with the occasional head splattering like a red paint ball when hit by a bullet), but this doesn’t seem to play on his mind too much. The worst thing is, however – and brace yourself, because this really is just fucking terrible – the whole premise on which Stallone has this desire to save a girl isn’t apparently just to kick some ass in the process, nor to end up scoring some action at the end of it. It’s because of a God-damn anecdote spilt out onto the screen from the bottom of Rourke’s soul, as he remembers a similarly-structured encounter he faced on a mission in Serbia. Oh how my heart aches. When this one is shot silently with Rourke’s head down and Stallone listening on solemnly and intently in the background, The Expendables becomes beyond a joke. It’s just an out-and-out farce.

‘But it has lots of guns and explosions!’ I hear you say. Big deal. If you want to see a film that becomes an action game, but is infinitely superior in style and structure, then see Hard Boiled. If you want an action film that’s actually enjoyable in its outrageous sequences and cleverer than Stallone can ever hope to be, see this summer’s Salt from Philip Noyce. I’ve realised just how good the latter actually was now. Angelina Jolie could shit on this gang of morons any day of the week. But to be honest, after seeing The Expendables, there’s little that you won’t re-appreciate in a better and more considerate light. Bye bye, Stallone. Time to give it up.

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