Saturday, August 14, 2010

609 - The Expendables review

“The Expendables,” written, directed by, and starring Sylvester Stallone, is a celebration of the three B’s: Blood, Brawn, and Bullets (you weren’t thinking of something else, were you?). That, and Stallone’s massive ego. This joyously brutal actioneer, about a group of invincible mercenaries, gets the job done right, dispensing a thrill-a-minute in such fashion destined to please anyone (like me) who was titillated by the premise.

The battles, particularly an aerial assault on an island dock, are first rate, though I sense a bit more than what most viewers so far seem to report. In between the sequences of extreme carnage are some scenes that unveil a sort of simple and sincere story about the way hard, scarred men express their affection more through actions rather than emoting. Those folks too smart to enjoy movies will smugly deride this as a sort of homosexual fantasy, when in fact it’s as asexual as a gender pic can get, one about men who would have little use for psycho-analysis babble. Mickey Rourke’s retired merc Tool gets the film’s sole monologue, a nice moment that’s not even close to overwritten and flawlessly delivered. While it’s easy to deride the corniness of the film’s one liners (“Bring it, Happy Feet!” being the memorably worst), Stallone’s dialogue is still light years ahead of ugly-geek tripe like the comparatively violent but significantly more disgusting “Kick-Ass.” Someone who finds too much wrong with the dialogue here is just adjusting the data to match the hypothesis.

Plot is dispensed sparingly, as is character development, but the film then functions, quite knowingly, as a lesson on the reason why star power matters, whether or not the lights have dimmed over the years. With recognizable faces on virtually every character, casting fills in parts of the story that the script itself does not. While Stallone, Rourke, and Jason Statham are the only Expendables we get to know much about, it’s impossible not to let our minds fill in the blanks when we watch characters played by action icons such as Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren (nice to see him again on the big screen). Arnold and Bruce’s much vaunted cameos offer a couple of funny lines in the midst of a film that really could have done without them; it’s a thrill to watch the rest of these old pros at work.

4 out of 5

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