Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Box Office Review – The Expendables

Yesterday I had the chance to drive around Hope, British Columbia the town that was the filming location for one of Sylvester Stallone's most memorable films First Blood. The main drag of the town is old and rundown, but you can still get a Rambo vibe from the place. On the edge of the town there are newer gas stations and restaurants that are nothing like the town was in 1982. I find this reflection on the town of Hope to be a good metaphor for the film The Expendables. There is a lot in the film that is classic and these things give off a great 80s action vibe. There are also things in the film that are new and feel nothing like classic 80s action films.

Basically Sylvester Stallone decided with this film that he would make the ultimate action film. He achieves this feat by bringing together almost every major action star from the 80s till now. The Expendables is an over the top men on a mission film that is awesome on all levels except for one.

More on that bit later.

The story in this film is very simple. A group of mercenaries known as The Expendables are the best in their trade. They get hired to do an impossible mission in an exotic locale. A foreign dictator, a woman, and a corrupt C.I.A agent all complicate things. After things go south The Expendables do what they do best. They kill everything that moves. I am very happy that the story is so simple. The last thing I need to do is think during an action movie. In this movie the good guys kill the bad guys, end of story.

The performances in the film by the many muscled men are on par with the quality of the material. Sylvester Stallone is the main character of the film. Jet Li and Jason Statham play the other two leads, as they both are given grand action scenes with Stallone. Statham's scene involves a plane and 40 some guys dead. Li's scene involves machines guns and the back of a speeding truck. Both are pulse pounding and memorable scenes. The three other members of The Expendables are played by Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture and Terry Crews. Couture and Crews are the comic relief and they both are funny. Dolph gets the job of being the crazy drug addicted Expendable and he does a good job. His performance is my favourite in the film, but not because it is the best. I love to see Dolph Lundgren in a good action film once in a while, and it has been a very long while.

Honestly is has been quite a long time since there has been a good action movie like this. Sly Stone seems to be single handily keeping the genre alive. This passion for all things involving muscles, guns, and explosions gives me a fair bit of respect for Stallone as a filmmaker. I do however have a problem with his use of computer generated effects. The effects in this film are an abomination. Almost all of the blood, kills and explosions are done using computers and this was a major mistake. I despise such a reliance on cg as it looks terrible. There is a scene where Stallone cuts off the head and hands of an enemy soldier and it looks cartoonish. This is nothing though compared to a body burn that happens near the end of the film. It looks so bad that it actually made me angry. I know it is dangerous to do a real body burn, but it is definitely worth it. That goes for all effects. If it can be done physically there is no reason it shouldn't be. Had physical effects been used on The Expendables it would be in the running for best action film of the past twenty years.

Thankfully there are many scenes in the film that don't need special effects. That's because there are many scenes of guys just taking. Take for example the scene with the action trinity. Stallone, and Bruce Willis are waiting in a church when Arnold Schwarzenegger appears like an angel from action heaven. He steps through the door with a blinding bright light behind him. This scene literally brought a wave of happiness into the theatre I was in. You could feel the entire audience become collectively happier and the feeling lasted for the entire scene. Sylvester Stallone definitely knows how to right awesome banter between guys. He also knows how to come up with great character names, Lee Christmas, Ying Yang, Gunner Jensen, Toll Road, and my personal favourite Hale Caesar.

The Expendables achieves what few recent action movies have been able to. It promises a fun, and very violent film and delivers on every level.

A Gold Banana

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