Tuesday, August 24, 2010



I definitely did not walk into this screening expecting much. This movie is loaded with a bunch of actors who are better at pretend fighting than pretending to act. So, consider my pre-screening feelings skeptical. However, my cautious perception of the movie was not mirrored by the movie-going American public. The Expendables ended up pulling a decent take with $34.8 million in its first weekend, $16.5 million the second, and finishing atop the box office both weekends.

The true crime here is that so many viewers skipped the best movie to hit theaters the past two weeks, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World The Edgar Wright concoction of American culture has been a box office dud, finishing 5th its opening week ($10.6 million) and 10th its second week ($5 million). I am truly baffled at how Scott Pilgrim vs. The World could be completely missed by so many with such a positive reception from critics and buzz from those who have seen it. But some internet folk point to the marketing campaign used by Universal as the true reason The Expendables has flourished and Pilgrim has floundered. In a last ditch effort, I will reiterate how great Pilgrim is. Anyone reading this should go and support this unique film, it is actually worth the price of admission.

Speaking of not worth a lofty admission price, The Expendables! My driving motivation to see the Stallone creation was to understand why it took the weekend box office crown two weeks in a row. The answer resides in the simplicity of the concept (guys, guns, babes, MURDER!), the "big" names attached to it, and the wonderfully violent fight scenes. Sad thing is, Scott Pilgrim is a much better product and features its own uncommon blend of exciting fight scenes.

For me, The Expendables was worth seeing simply to catch some of the better choreographed action I have seen this year. Even with the bombardment of action, the viewer is unfortunately forced to sit and watch the actors try to carry out the mostly mindless plot that is almost devoid of any real meaning. The Expendables pretends to be a complex story, but with a weakly written screenplay it falls flat on its face. It is not only very basic in nature, but more importantly it isn't written well enough to even work as a simple story. The ending standoff between "good and evil" is moronic to say the least. I was in disbelief when I realized the reason for these soldiers going on their final mission in the movie.

The movie almost seems abstract for how little it focuses on itself. The vague construction of the characters, their relationships, and the story itself leaves the viewer sitting and waiting for more action to kick in so the blandness in between adrenaline rushes doesn't lull them to sleep. Don't misinterpret vagueness for absence of these pieces in the project, but they are so poorly defined I had no interest in the parts bridging the action sequences. Yeah, I know its a "mindless" action movie, but it still needs a strong reason for the story to motivate the audience to follow along.

Another thing bothering me was the inclusion of names like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis in the film's previews like they would play a part in this movie. But in reality, both were included like cameo actors in a seemingly forced scene where Stallone has a secret church meeting with the two. The dialog did have some comical jabs at Arnold's new career as a politician, but nothing to make the scene worth including or featuring "The Governor" in the tag line. I was mildly surprised to see how terrible an actor Arnold has become in his absence. He was pretty bad before his new career with his typical flat, difficult to decipher delivery, but in The Expendables he was next to atrocious. The biggest casting disappointment comes from the talented Mickey Rourke playing such a small role as Stallone's tattoo artist.

While I do believe Stallone has talent as a director, his credit as a writer and actor is scraping the bottom of the bowl. Especially his laughable acting attempts in The Expendables as he tries to show some emotion with his stale, stiff face. His top lip looks permanently controlled by two fish hooks as he struggles to spit out words. He could definitely survive as a supporting character, but he cannot carry a film. It is hard to rally around an actor who seems like an emotionless idiot outside of the action scenes.

The only worthwhile character was Jason Statham's role of Lee Christmas. The role bonded the story like fresh Elmers Glue (not well), but his character wasn't given the chance to really bind the narrative together. What the film really needed was Statham's character to narrate the story to help the audience better understand him, his environment, his fellow characters, and most importantly, give the film so needed emotional value. A perfect example of a stone-faced character showing emotional range with narration is one of the best shows on television, Dexter.

Speaking of Dexter, the actor who plays Angel in the Showtime series, David Zayas, had a role in this movie as General Garza. He most likely will not get consideration for other big movie roles because he was terrible as this hardened General torn between allegiance to his country and love for his family. He was way too soft for this role and I was thoroughly disappointed with his delivery of this character.

The rest of the supporting cast like Jet Li, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin, and Randy Couture all seem like shadows in this project. Austin did a fair job as the lead henchman and had a decent amount of screen time. The only reason I can imagine why Jet Li took this role is because he isn't getting any other film offers. He just seemed to pop in every four scenes to be a part of the team and sometimes muddle his sketchy English.

Overall, The Expendables possesses awesome action that made me fret with excitement, but the rest of the movie was mostly garbage. The supporting cast all take a backseat to the un-dynamic duo of Stallone and Statham, which is surprising considering the previews proclaiming love to all the actors involved. Stallone should be prevented from writing, directing, and starring in his own movies from now on. It probably is the only way he will ever be cast in a movie again though, only by writing himself as the male lead. The Expendables contained terrible acting, sub-par writing, and a laughable story-line. It truly is a shame this movie was the box office king two weeks in a row.

Don't waste time unless you are an action junkie looking for thrill for a matinee price. But with the quality movies in the theaters right now (Inception, The Other Guys, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), you will be less disappointed with one of those choices.


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