Film criticism by Ian Kay.

Dispensing with “The Expendables” (2010), dir. Sylvester Stallone

This is a movie with plenty of good action that would make a fun rental but is a mildly disappointing visit to the theater. At one point in the movie, Stallone’s character has a discussion with Mickey Rourke’s character about a woman from Rourke’s past. Stallone gets it into his head at that moment to return to an island controlled by a dangerous military junta to rescue a woman from his own life.  The scene is only about six or seven minutes long, but it decides the direction of the rest of the movie. My guess is that it took Stallone about as much time and forethought to put together the story for The Expendables.

I suppose the movie would have been truly, horrifically bad if none of the many action stars that appear had been absent. But even with them, the movie drags a bit for the first forty-five minutes, and then explodes into nonsense.  Of course, it wasn’t the rumor of a clever plot that interested me. I, like many others, was attracted to the movie because of the involvement of so many of the action stars I have enjoyed in the past. But after Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis make their cameos, the cast feels relatively thin on charisma. Mickey Rourke brings a little depth, but his is a side character who is probably on screen for about twenty minutes total. Stallone and Statham are the stars, and they do a good job with what they have, but neither is able to raise the screenplay out of “B” territory.

Now don’t get me wrong, there were a good handful of laughs, and some very cool fight choreography. The fights with Statham and his knives and Jet Li kicking at people’s legs finally hit on what most of us wanted to see: our favorite badasses kicking ass.

Some classic “action movie mysteries” arise in The Expendables. For instance: Why are they called the Expendables? It’s never really addressed. Why is it necessary to kill all of the soldiers on the island? There is little to make us believe any of the soldiers are evil. Eric Roberts and his crew certainly are, but after the general and his soldiers turn on Roberts, why do the Expendables have to keep killing them? Where do the other guys go when Stallone and Statham are doing their own thing? It’s always a good laugh to have those characters who seemingly wait around at the “home base” with guns in their hands, waiting for the stars to return. All of these questions are remnants of the 80’s actioners, which threw this kind of logic to the wind. It’s a fun throwback, but still makes the viewer say, “Hmmm”.


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