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27 October 2010

"The Expendables" Review

People love the heat. I don’t mean the weather condition, I mean the human condition. When something is popular and gets much attention you will see everybody else making something that’s slightly similar to what is popular right now. That’s why we saw a lot of clones from “The DaVinci Code”, that’s the exact same reason why Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer are still employed, and that’s why during 2010’s summer people liked to do reviews of “The Expendables”. The funny thing about this movie is that it falls in the category of movies you either love to death or hate to death, and it stands there with other movies like “Fight Club” or any Stephen King movie adaptation (except those directed by Frank Darabont).

But back to “The Expendables”, it seemed to divide the fuzz of internet celebrities, with the noisier ones saying they hated it, and the calmer ones saying they loved it. I don’t want to give names, but if you are an intelligent person who wastes time browsing websites for video reviews to watch, then you know who I am pointing at here. It was pretty odd to see people hating this movie so much or people loving this movie so much (despite some flaws, of course). I couldn’t understand why it was this, and so I ventured myself with my best friend to go watch this movie. One hour and forty minutes later, we had our answer: This movie is fucking awesome.

It’s a combination of impossibilities that only the kids that had arguments on the play ground about “Who’s better? Wolverine or Ryu?” can really understand. The casting of this movie rivals with the character roosters for videogames like “Marvel VS Capcom” or “Super Smash Bros Brawl”. How often do you have the chance to see Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the same movie? Just to know that Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal were offered roles just makes me imagine how it could have ended. You never have a chance to watch a movie like this, it’s one of those “once in a lifetime” things that happen to make life a little bit brighter.

Now let’s be honest, not everything is good in this movie, and I will point out the worst parts right now before going to the good bits. To summarize the plot will be an interesting exercise since I don’t know if using six words or seven. Stallone wants to rescue a girl. There, that’s the plot. Let me delve a bit into it by saying that the entire movie is a vehicle for Stallone to direct shoot-outs, car chases, and really well done melee fights. It suffers a bit from shaky cam syndrome, but honestly, we have been through the Bourne series, and those movies had more shaky-cam than Cloverfield. This was a big, juicy red spot that the press made a big hassle of, claiming that the action is impossible to follow. It’s not! It’s very easy to see what’s going on. What? They can’t pay attention to this but they can actually follow the confusing fight scenes in anything Paul Greengrass ever directed? This was unfairly judged, and I personally don’t have a problem with it. The violence, when you see it on the big screen, is mind blastingly brutal. You have Terry Crews carrying his automatic shotgun, blowing bad guys in half with blood chunks like in “Rambo 4”, but in hind sight it feels a bit cartoony since the blood is CGI, and not real. Still, it is an awesome scene, and it makes a really good first impression.

Acting wise, complaining for Stallone to be a mumbler is like complaining to water for being wet and cold. There’s no point, he doesn’t need words, he has a gun and he is going to fucking shoot you dead if you say anything about it. What I can complain though is that some roles were toned down to just conversations. The cameos of Willis and Schwarzenegger take place at the same time during a conversation. I understand it for The Governator, he has other responsibilities, but couldn’t Willis use some of his time to do a couple of action stunts? This is one of the few action movies where he doesn’t end up in a dirty tank top. Mickey Rourke does a great job, as always, but he is more Mister Miyagi than Michael Ironside in “Starship Troopers”. He talks a lot, but in the end does nothing in the action scenes. Oh, and don’t say “That’s because he is old”, because Stallone is over 60, and he is a fucking beast in this film. But really, I think I shouldn’t complain about these parts either. The scene in the Church is probably the epitome of a dying era. It’s like the 80’s decided to join for one last conversation before parting each other’s ways to never look back, and it’s filled with inside jokes, like buddies meeting after 25 years of their lives passed. “Give the mission to my friend, he likes to jump around in the jungle” says Schwarzenegger talking about Stallone. “What’s his problem?” asks Willis, “He wants to run for President” answers Stallone about Arnold. Seriously guys, you have to be a meat head not to appreciate this. Either that or maybe you just shoved too much pretentiousness up your ass.

So now that I got the negative points out of the way (and yeah, those are the worst things I can think of this movie) let’s talk about the best bits, and what better way to start than with Dolph Lundgren. First of all, Dolph Lundgren is not a good actor, as that he will never portray Hamlet in a theatre, but thankfully he is not the type that hams the hell out of a character (unless he is directed by Roland Emmerich). Here he plays somewhere close to Ivan Drago from Rocky IV, with a cool, calm personality and I have to say he does a pretty good job at it. His fight scene with Jet Li is memorable and pretty fun to watch, and the dialogue between Stallone and him brings you back to that final speech in the 4th Rocky movie. I only regret he wasn’t more in this movie, but honestly guys, how many movies can we watch nowadays that have Dolph Lundgren in the first five names of the title credits!? I say, great work Mr. Lundgren, and kudos to Stallone for bringing him back.

But it’s not only Lundgren who stands out, all the other Expendables are great characters too. Okay, they are in the same character development curve as those from “Gears of War” but when something works, it really works. You can feel the chemistry between them when they are chatting, arguing over the mission or about Randy Couture’s cauliflower ears. People say that the dialogue gets ruined because of the accents, the mumbling and other speech impediments, but me being Spanish I am immune to accents in other foreign languages, so I could enjoy the movie not caring a fuck about it. Besides, it’s pretty impressive for a movie that was developed as an 80’s action movie vehicle time machine to have good dialogue when the main focus is the action, and there’s so much of it and so good you will leave the theatre thinking that all the other movies made in the past decade are famine eaten rodents. There’s a scene early on where Stallone and Statham gun down a bunch of army assholes in a port, throw a rain of gasoline over them and then set it on fire with a flare gun. This was my thought process during the scene: “Oh wow, they are chicken out? That’s not likely…Oh hold on, they are gunning them down, awesome! Wait, what’s Statham doing? Why are they pouring gasol-…No. No way. No way they are going to d- Oh shit, they did it! HOLYSHIT, THIS IS AWESOME!!!” I was poking at my friend all the time and he was poking me back, maybe to wake each other up from this, because not even in dreams this would have happened. It was orgasmic, and it was about to get better.

You know that quote “Screw the rules, I have money”? Change the second part for “I have manliness”. Many times when watching old 80’s action movies I was always pissed at how one of the good guys has to take on one of the bad guys (always the nastier one) and get beaten up to a bloody pulp. Here they take that, chew it, and spit it out the window. Jet Li faces this slimy karate fucker ass, who’s only purpose is to be a smug fuck, and when he is about to get defeated, Jason Statham joins in and together they obliterate the guy. I won’t spoil what happens, but I just say that the bad guy ends with his mouth stuck in his lungs. Stallone himself jumps into the freight of battle too, taking on a one on one fight with Steve Austin, and it is the most painful, realistic and awesome melee fight I have seen in years. It’s really well done, and it feels real too. But not only fist fights happen in this film, as I mentioned before how Terry Crews tore through a bunch of bad guys with his shotgun, Stallone manages to turn his normal pistol into a machinegun, shooting round after round and proving that any action star from the 80’s knows how to use the “Infinite Ammo” code.

People called this movie clichéd, they said it makes nothing new that it rehashes, it refries, and doesn’t invent anything. This is what happens after two decades of experimentation that only brought us head-ache inducing shaky cam action (in the worst side of the spectrum) and Michael Mann (in the best side of the spectrum). After 20 years missing these actioners, we grow thirsty and hungry for more of that old school action, we want to see one more movie before drowning into the artsy, pretentious, dickish and snobbish types of movies. “The Matrix” started the death of the action movie as we know it, trying to make it sleek, and artificial, riddled with CGI and special effects, diminishing it from its realistic atmosphere. “The Expendables” brings that back, maybe not at 100%, but it feels exactly as it wants to be: A cheese 80’s action movie with the quality of a modern movie. Good stuff. Very good stuff.

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