Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Expendables


I'm not going to spend a lot of time reviewing The Expendables, at least not in a way to suggest whether you should see it. It is the movie you expect it to be. If that sounds like a good thing to you, it will probably will be, at least give or take. If it doesn't, there's not much chance it will win you over.

After the surprising quality of Rocky Balboa and the poorly titled, but otherwise excellent, Rambo, one can be excused for thinking that Sylvester Stallone had a hat trick of surprisingly high quality follow-ups to his once superstar career.

But if this one falls short, it's only in simply meeting and not exceeding expectations, which, all things considered is not that terrible.

Rounding up himself, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Eric Roberts, Mickey Roarke, along with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Randy "The Natural" Couture and Gary Daniels, as well as a cameo scene featuring Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Stallone creates a movie that if it had been more than the sum of its parts would have been among the greatest action extravaganzas ever created, but which is "merely" a seriously kickass action movie and a terrific way to spend an evening at the movies, and too rare a thing in this day and age to go uncelebrated.

Let me say as my first note how excellent Crews is. He has the action movie hero, or perhaps antihero, down pat. Somebody needs to give that guy his own big action movie. And I bet, if there's anyone smart left in Hollywood, someone's looking into it now.

Not to mention Lundgren, freed of playing a standard hero, gives his best performance since at least Johnny Mnemonic.

My biggest concern, and it's not one I've seen aired, is Li's part.

Jet Li could most likely kick the ass of any two other members of that cast, including the people who variously also began their careers in competitive or show fighting. That's certainly the bet I'd place. So there's something a bit undignified and even offensive about relegating him to being the ineffectual comic relief character.

As he apparently felt it was acceptable to play that, I'll forgive the movie for that lapse and hope that perhaps the inevitable sequel will give his character a bit more dignity.


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