The Expendables review
|REVIEWS - MOVIES|
Stallone's assembly of hard men have difficulty living up to 18 months of hype...
Security was tight for the press screening of The Expendables: a last minute change of venue, phones handed in, a friendly frisk, hordes of impatient people fumbling non-disclosure agreements. All in all you could forgive us for being a bit paranoid. Perhaps they thought Wikileaks were on the hunt for a scoop. Whatever it was, there was a certain buzz in the air as the opening credits rolled. Thunderous applause. Whoops as Sly’s name appeared. Hollers for Jason Statham. Mumbles for Jet Li. Nothing for Terry Crews - clearly none of us had seen Everybody Hates Chris, or perhaps we just didn’t want to admit it.
Expectation, in short, was high. The first kill would tell us everything we needed to know, and, as you can imagine, it did not disappoint. The real question, though, was whether these relics of a thousand cuts and bruises could still prove relevant in the genre they defined, or would they now be known as The Expandables, slowly slipping from public view? Certainly, given the cast at hand, with cameos from Bruce, Mickey and Arnie, you could be forgiven for considering the film a ‘This Is Your Life’ testimonial rather than an action movie.
The plot as you can imagine is rather straightforward: a team of mercenaries led, to all intents and purposes, by Barney Ross (Stallone) are hired to overthrow a South American dictator General Garza (David Zayas) who is being bankrolled by evil US-born businessman James Monroe (Eric Roberts). The rest of the story is difficult to pick up on – not because it is in the slightest bit complicated, but rather the testosterone growls of the actors make it quite difficult to hear what is going on.
As the story gradually developed along predictable patterns I found myself wondering quite why Stallone had chosen this moment to call in all his favours in assembling such a star-studded cast of veterans. For a man who has made over $200 million dollars from his films and created two iconic action roles in Rocky and Rambo, perhaps he is afraid of life away from Hollywood and the adrenalin rush of pushing his body to its extremes.
Focusing back on the film I realised that The Expendables is no different from an ageing rock band that refuses to reinvent itself for the modern day. Stallone’s creation is not going to go down in history as a great film, but rather as a marker for the end of a great era of gritty action output, a last hurrah, if you like, for some of the film icons of the twentieth century. Despite some enjoyable moments, including a few rib-tickling laughs during Schwarzenegger’s brief entrée, the action has become standard fare and the cheesy one-liners, whilst amusing, have all been said a thousand times before. Statham was the best of the bunch, as he danced like a ballerina through some tough choreographed scenes, whilst Rourke stole every scene he was in.
By the arrival of the end credits, however, it felt like the death toll had finally sounded for gratuitous blood-bath films which lack the sensitivity of the real-life wars going on around us. Compare this with the recent A-Team movie full of great acting and flying tanks and you see the cold, stark truth.
It seems that time has finally done what no bullet could ever manage. The Expendables are dead, long live their successors.
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