I finally got around to it. I finally saw The Expendables. Despite the mixed, predominantly negative reviews available to the public in regards to this action-packed, testosterone-driven, pissing-contest of a movie, I really enjoyed it. Again, knowing me, there were some flaws…
The difference between The Expendables and another action flick of the past decade is that Sylvester Stallone knows how to make a movie. It has a pulse, it’s character-driven and it speaks a universal truth. To watch a Stallone film is humbling to say the least; you can take all of your pretenses on film watching, shove them outside, sit back and have a good time yet walk away with some form of political awareness.
Critics have not been generous with their reviews on The Expendables and I don’t blame them because most of them enjoy a specific type of movie (There Will Be Blood for example). Just because there are over the top action sequences, which are the pulse of the film — it is a genre film after all, geared towards a specific audience — does not mean it cannot hold any narrative merit.
The Expendables has a clear narrative. It’s about a group of mercenaries who go to South America to overthrow a dictator. Moreover, these mercenaries are a group of men with a job they can’t escape, thus they are unable to lead normal lives even if they no longer partake in the field missions themselves.
I guess what I wanted out of the film was more of an ensemble piece rather than a buddy film with Stallone and Statham as the leads. Oh and not enough Dolph Lundgren who played an excellent foil to Stallone’s character.
The much anticipated cameo with Arnold Schwarzenegger fell flat. It was really awkward probably because it was contrived. Bruce Willis’ presence did not help. I did like, however, the rapport between Trench (Schwarzenegger) and Barney (Stallone) that mirrored the real life friendship between both actors. Although they share the same political beliefs, they have opposing beliefs on how they should function within that political system (Stallone was always against Schwarzenegger’s running for office — actors have no business in government is what he believes.)
Finally, I am a fan of Charisma Carpenter. Why? Given a meaty role and lots of direction, Carpenter can work wonders. She got a lot of direction on The Expendables because her performance as Laci was subtle, but the role wasn’t there. It was disappointing to have Stallone write in a female character that was nothing more than the victim of an abusive boyfriend, waiting to get her feet swept up by a guy who kills for a living.
I will credit The Expendables with incredibly executed explosions, a tight narrative and solid performances from all parties involved. In the end, isn’t that all we look for in a good movie?