Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Expendables

Sylvester Stallone. Dolph Lundgren. Mickey Rourke. Jet Li. Jason Statham. Eric Roberts. Bruce Willis. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Kinda' unfathomable.

Since the release of Rocky Balboa and Rambo, Ive been eager to see where Stallone's comeback, or career resurgence would take him. Now Ill be the first one to say it. The Expendables isn't Rocky Balboa or Rambo good. But that's not to say it isn't fucking awesome. And I guess, in a sense, I am being biased. Rocky and Rambo are pre-existing properties. The Expendables is something brand new (which is great). But with Rocky Balboa and Rambo, there was something to compare it to. And the fact that the 6th and 4th installments in a franchise were fucking incredibly good this late in the franchise (and in Stallone's career), you cant help but to praise those films. Where Rocky Balboa was more so an autobiography of Stallone's career, and Rambo was the best action movie in the past 20 years, The Expendables is just a great ensemble cast action film. Plain and simple.

And now to the actual film. Lets start with the story. I knew going in, that the story was basically a basic bare-bones story. Do I think the story was awful? Not at all. For me, it was enough to move the action along. Now, Ive read in the reviews about people cunting about how much of the story (or lack there of) was just fodder for this ensemble cast. And that may be the case, but it's not a terrible story. There are enough plot points to keep it interesting enough. A team of mercenaries are hired to overthrow a South American dictator and an ex-CIA agent. It turns out to be a giant front... And shit blows up. Would I have liked more story? Sure, but I got what I wanted from a fucking STALLONE action film. I would throw in a sarcastic "Stallone's not an Oscar-winning writer" line in there... But he is. But what people dont realize is that Rocky is not an action film... At all. It's a character drama. Hell, even First Blood is more-so a character drama then an action film. But what Im trying to say is, this is a Stallone action film. Youre going to get explosions, blood, more 'splosions, more blood, even more bullets, some more 'splosions, and maybe even a little... Explosions.

Now that the pesky "story" is out of the way, lets get to the juicy stuff. Like EXPLOSIONS. Id like to see Stallone direct his long-delayed Edgar Allen Poe film. You know, to really test out his directing chops. But for now, Im PERFECTLY content with his direction of action, and his sense for structure and pacing. The two things that Rambo and The Expendables have in common, is the structure. He opens the film with a bang, settles it down for a good 15 minutes, kicks some major ass, settles it down for a couple minutes, kicks some more ass, kicks some MAJOR ass, settles it down for a bit, then ends it with a GIANT FUCKING BANG. The last 20 minutes of Rambo and the last 30 minutes of The Expendables are FUCKING INSANE. Rambo's finale being the better, obviously. But The Expendables finale is only a couple notches below Rambo's.

First of all, these really aren't spoilers. Im not telling you who died or who killed who, but you need some setting up. Stallone is obviously the leader, Statham is a the knife expert, Terry Crews is the bomb-rifle guy, Jet Li is pretty much the stealth guy, from what I gathered, and Randy Couture is pretty much there to fight, I guess. But who I really want to get to is Terry Crews. Here is another example of how similar The Expendables is to Rambo. In Rambo, they use a .50 cal machine gun on people. .50 cal machine guns are supposed to be used on tanks, helicopters, etc. But no, Stallone said, "Let's tear 8-inch holes in people, then blow them apart.". The Expendables? Stallone said, "Let's use bombs like theyre bullets. And instead of using bombs to blow up buildings and vehicles, lets use them like bullets on people.". FUCKING AWESOME. There's a scene where Crews uses his bomb-rifle, with about 20 rounds on the enemy. It was absolutely incredible. And to make it even more incredible, it was all continuous. There are definitely a lot of radical action sequences in The Expendables. The opening pirate boat ship shootout, the scene where they blow up a boating dock, a dirt-road shoot out, the whole end battle, and the Jet Li/Dolph Lundgren scene. I really wish I could get into that scene, like bad, but Im not going to give any major spoilers. Fuck.

Moving onto the music. Stallone used Brian Tyler to score The Expendables. And Im pretty certain I know why. And that's because he did a fucking incredible job handling the Rambo score. And when I say incredible, I mean INCREDIBLE. With The Expendables he did an awesome job as well. I had to download the score due to it not being pressed and shipped to certain stores for some reason. But I listened to it before seeing the movie, and I wasn't overly impressed. With me, if you dont have a strong anchor (which is usually the main theme), I get bored. And I wasnt quite sure why he chose the main theme that he did. But then I saw the movie, and I totally got it. It doesnt cut through music like the Indiana Jones theme would, or the Rocky theme would. It has a very subtle horn section, with the string instruments really driving the theme. It works really well. It's got enough of an emotional anchor to actually feel something when you hear the theme. And once the theme came on towards the end battle, I totally got it. The rest of the score is pretty good too. And like I said, if you have a good main theme, or anchor, you can pick from that periodically throughout the rest of the score (which I personally love) and work from there.

Of course the casting of this movie was it's main driving force. But I gotta say, my favorite (aside from Stallone, obviously) casting in The Expendables was Dolph Lundgren. Ive always said that if I could choose one guy to be a giant action star or whatever, it would be Dolph Lundren. I fucking love Dolph Lundgren. And its so weird because he has done very few films Ive actually liked, but theres something about him that is just so fucking badass. Eventhough he's not a very good actor, the way he plays his roles is just fucking awesome. His role in The Expendables was great too. He pretty much played "the crazy guy with a drug problem". When he'd blow someone up, he'd have the biggest smile on his face, while the other guys are just there for business. Fucking love Dolph Lundgren. And speaking of great casting, Mickey Rourke was a perfect cast as well. He was pretty much the emotional anchor for the film. Which makes complete sense. There's a speech he gives that had me tear up a bit.

And now to "The Scene". When it was first announced, everyone went nuts. And I knew the marketing department was going to go crazy with it. And that is the Stallone/Schwarzenegger/Willis scene. Was the scene awesome? Yes. Yes it was. And I knew it was going to be short. But I didnt expect it to be that short. Regardless, it was a fun scene that gave Schwarzenegger's character some backstory. And Im assuming that's going to be used for The Expendables II (which Im pretty certain is already greenlit due to The Expendables already doing really well at the box office). And Bruce Willis was fucking great in the scene. He was quite hilarious. The scene kind of takes you out of the movie a little bit, but it was still a great scene to have in the movie.

And a little recommendation for the movie: Do not see the movie COMPLETELY BOMBED. I made the big mistake of getting smashed before and during the movie. I literally remember only the first half of the movie. Also, you should have a clear theatre presentation (picture and sound). I am a manager at a family-owned theatre, and I still recommend going out to your local AMC, Regal, etc. It's much more clear and it's louder. I mean, it really all depends on where you go obviously. Some theatres are all digital, some still use film, some have DTS, and some have Dolby Digital. But having seen it a second time, slightly buzzed at the Regal, I can honestly say I love the movie. It really is all about presentation. It affects your initial response to the film (or anything, really).

Is The Expendables a let-down? Not for me it isnt. The reviewers arent being too kind to it (in fact, theyre half and half). But when have they been kind to Stallone with something that wasn't Rocky or Rocky Balboa? All in all, The Expendables is a great first entry to a (possible) franchise that can go on to being another classic Stallone franchise. I can only imagine who theyre trying to get for Expendables II. Either way, Kurt Russell better be at the top of that list. At the VERY top. In fact, he should be hovering over that list. Stallone... Make it happen.
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