Choose your weapon.
THE EXPENDABLES is a hard-hitting action/thriller about a group of mercenaries hired to infiltrate a South American country and overthrow its ruthless dictator. Once the mission begins, the men realize things aren't quite as they appear, finding themselves caught in a dangerous web of deceit and betrayal. With their mission thwarted and an innocent life in danger the men struggle with an even tougher challenge, one that threatens to destroy this band of brothers.
To say I have been looking forward to this is a massive understatement. I've been telling anyone who will listen about this movie. "The cast!" I would say. "Stallone! Statham! Jet Li! Arnie! Willis! DOLPH!... DOLPH!!!" I insisted upon people, until they looked at me funny. So today being the first Saturday since the films release, my wife and I went on an Explosive Action date night. Spoilers ahoy.
The movie starts just as the original teasers showed us. Stallone, Statham, Jet Li and the rest infiltrate the filming of a hostage video. A gang of pirates have kidnapped some American citizens and demand three million dollars ransom money for their return. We all know the United States standard issue reply of "we don't negotiate with terrorists", and that seems to be case here. Thirty days have gone by and no-one has stepped forward to pay the ransom. The lead guerrilla declares the blood about to be spilt is on their hands when suddenly half a dozen red laser sights are trained on him. Stallone et. al. are waiting on the rooftop and throws down a bag of money for the release of the hostages. The greedy pirate now says he wants five million. Dolph appears and says he'll fire a warning shot at one of the men. I spit popcorn on the chair in front of me when the guy explodes in a melee of gore and Dolph responds with "Woops, too low." Gunplay ensues, and we're off to a great start.
I grinned when I saw the Millennium Pictures logo and "a Nu Image Picture", but I cheered when I saw Dolph Lundgren's name mentioned fourth in the opening credits. I've become a real geek for his movies this year. The cast list is an action movie fan's wet dream, especially the scene where Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Stallone all meet. This was purely for the 80's fans, nothing more - probably why Willis and Arnie go uncredited in the movie. After completing their previous mission, Stallone and eventually the others retire to Mickey Rourke's tattoo parlour to shoot the breeze and get inked. Rourke appears to be the guys manager of sorts and receives a call saying that there is a new job going if they want it. Stallone as the leader heads off to a church to meet Willis, the guy who wants the job done, though Willis has also invited another party to the table to see who wants the job more. Enter Schwarzenegger in a grand display through the church doors. The three have some funny banter together that is really just Bruce, Sly and Arnie talking and not their characters e.g. Stallone takes digs at Arnie, suggesting that he wants to be president and Arnie suggests that Stallone feels more at home in the jungle. It's a needless scene but fantastic all the same and one for the fanboys (me).
The job is to go to a mythical South American country and remove the evil dictator, General Garza (David Zayas, Sergeant Angel Batista from Dexter). Stallone and Statham go ahead in their private plane to scout it and meet their contact, but not all is as it seems. Their contact for starters is a woman, Sandra (Giselle Itié, a virtual unknown). She also reveals in a car ride that Americans have come and screwed the country up by running drugs and killing the locals. Eric Roberts is fantastic as the evil guy of the piece, and the one pulling the General's strings. His line delivery is humorous and he's really a guy you like to hate. Less can be said for Steve Austin who plays Roberts henchman, along with Gary Daniels hamming it up good and proper as The Brit. Austin doesn't say a great deal, he merely carries out orders but he does get a good final fight. Daniels says even less but he gets to show off a little bit of kickboxing in his own fight scenes, and he gets a pretty hilarious death (he is a henchman after all, so you can't call that a spoiler, you knew it was coming!).
Stallone, Statham and Sandra get into a car chase that's pretty good and then flee to their waiting jet. Statham tries to get Sandra to come along but she says her place is in her country. The two guys may leave the country the way they arrived, but they sure as hell leave as much mess as possible. Chased to the air strip by the military they finally take off and start heading home. Stallone changes his mind though, turns around and with Statham on weapons lay waste to the army down below with gun fire, dumping fuel on them and shooting it on fire. Ka-BOOM.
Stallone and Statham work well together which is good as for much of the movie it's just those two guys. Statham has the edge with his knives but Stallone really brings it with his quick-fire handguns. The second half brings Jet Li back into the action more and the banter with him is really funny; he alters his life story whenever asked and jokes about how being four foot tall makes it hard for him to fight the bigger guys. Dolph is my standout Expendable. His role as the whack-job Gunner is exceptional and a little reminiscent of Universal Soldier's Andrew Scott. He totally steals the scene when he's in it. Time will tell if this role helps him get more of his movies released theatrically. Only Couture let's the acting quality down. Speaking is not his strong point, though his rant about his cauliflower ear is quite amusing. Rourke has a bit of an emotional moment sobbing to Stallone how he has no soul because he let a stranger commit suicide in front of him and did not prevent it. Stallone is determined to keep his soul so goes back to rescue the girl.
When The Exependables really get going, they get bloody. The kills are consistently great and I think they can be best described by the IMDB Guide for Parents on The Expendables:
- A man is shot in half with a shotgun. His innards fly out and blood splats on the camera. More people are shot in the same scene and blood and organic matter are shown flying out of the wounds.
- A man stabs plenty of people in a room, then proceeds to stab another and slowly drive the knife into his chest (blood is shown spraying out uncontrollably and splattering the stabbers' face).
- A man has his head kicked backwards so his neck breaks in a gruesome fashion.
There's grenades flying, machine guns firing, hand-to-hand combat and martial arts, you name a weapon it it's here. The winner for me goes to Terry Crews absolutely fantastic shotgun. In a scene reminiscent of Aliens, Crews explains why his shotgun is so awesome and from that point on I was eager to see it in action. The bullets he explains are tipped with a small missile and anyone they hit just turns to liquid. When he finally pulls the thing out it's a beautiful moment - it absolutely rips to shreds everyone in its path, not so much leaving gaping holes in them but just removing them from the gene pool altogether. My wife was cackling in glee so hard I was a little scared of her. Awesome.
The third act is total Explosive Action and recalls all the best 80's movies like Commando and Cobra. I lost count at the amount of people turned to corpses at the hands of The Expendables but it was huge, almost as huge as the insane amount of fireball explosions. It's a real treat to see something like this on the big screen again.
I have a feeling though that we may have lost 20 minutes or so of this movie due to the Hollywood industry thinking that cinema-goers can't tolerate more than 100 minutes in a chair unless it's the Lord of the Rings. The character buildup was pretty minimal; we don't even find out half the guys names. At one point Terry Crews calls Jet Li "Ying Yang". I thought he was making a racist joke but no, that's his credited name in the movie. Crews himself is awesomely called Hale Caeser, which explains why Caeser is engraved on his razor blade. I have a feeling that the eventual DVD and Blu-ray releases will be a directors cut extended edition and I look forward to seeing that.
This is a sensational movie and exactly the movie I wanted to see - a movie for the 80's action fans, both those that thought Dolph stopped making movies after Universal Soldier and those that stuck with him on direct-to-DVD releases. Some of the second reel's story gets melodramatic but that's how the 80's action movies went a lot of the time. Explosions, emotions, more explosions, in that order. You need a girl in distress so that she can be rescued, and that always comes with a sobbing backstory. You need some backstory to the characters so you know why they are doing the things they are doing. You accept it and move on, knowing that the third act will simply blow your socks off. And boy did it ever.
If you needed more convincing, see this mock trailer below:
I had to see this in the cinema, I couldn't call myself an Explosive Action fan if I didn't. I'm glad to report that this movie looks and sounds just like it should - an 80's action movie filmed with 2010 equipment. No stupid Bourne effects, no Avid farts (as Vern likes to refer to them), just pure action (though there is a little bit of shaky cam). The sound of Terry Crews massive shotgun almost deafened me. You definitely have to see this at the cinema.
On a side note, I was hugely disappointed at the lack of promotion for the movie at my local 8 screen cinema. One solitary poster, nestled in-between massive cardboard standing displays for Angelina Jolie's upcoming SALT and some kids movie rubbish. Are Australian cinemas embarrassed to be releasing this movie, or is it simply the result of it being published by a predominantly DTV production company? I've seen some great promotion going on overseas and I think Millennium/Nu Image opened their wallets wide for this one so I'm not sure what's going on. Perhaps the city cinemas are promoting it more. US box office predictions look good with over thirty million in the opening weekend.
Event Cinemas, $16.50 per ticket ($35 total). Expensive but worth every cent.
I obviously have no DVD to take screenshots from so here are some of the international movie posters for the movie. All credit goes to Jox at the Dolph forum for sourcing these.