Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Few Words About "The Expendables"

I can see a lot of people out there rolling their eyes right now...

As a child of the 80's, Sylvester Stallone seems to think he made this movie for me. Which, I suppose, is a valid enough thing. I'd also say that the film he set out to make is a film I'd run, screaming to the theatre to see. The one he actually made....I'll see, but I'm not rushing.

I'd have to call myself a Stallone fan. I root for the guy. There's something about, well there's something about his performance as Rocky, which was brilliant no matter how you look at it, that makes him want to do well.

Rocky, and it's first and last sequels, I consider to be wonderfully entertaining films, with the first being a truly great one. Rocky suffers in the same way Jaws does, too many weak sequels have made the pure joy, and genius, of the originals suspect. Rocky is an American classic. Rocky II and Rocky Balboa are absolutely worthy follow-ups.

First Blood is a nice piece of action cinema, re-watching it has revealed a level of cheese I never saw when i was 16, but the film works. It's also got a bit to say about the Vet experience, without forgetting it's a popcorn flick. Rambo: First Blood Part II is a fine sequel, ramping up the cartoony aspects. Rambo III is OK, and Rambo...well, I dislike it. These films were never meant to be gore-fest, splatter, "grindhouse" fare, and that's what Stallone made his 2008 revisit to the character, and it unsettled me.

So, Stallone continues this latest comeback with The Expendables. Like I said, I think the film he wanted to make would've been really exciting for me. The idea seems to have been to round up as many of the old 80's action stars to make a Dirty Dozen-style romp. I know Stallone approached Kurt Russell and Jean Claude Van Damme about being part of it. I would assume offers went out to guys like Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal, as well. Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger actually do appear in the worst kept "secret cameo" scene, ever, but that's only about 5 minutes of screen time.

I guess those guys wanted more cash, or better screen time than what the team, reportedly, ultimately gets in the film. What we've ended up with only really includes one truly 80's-vintage action dude, Dolph Lundgren. There are stars, to be sure, Jason Statham and Jet Li, but they're hardly what I would call contemporaries of Stallone, both rising in the early 00's, I'd say. The rest? Wrestlers and UFC fighters...big whoop.

What seems to have been in mind was a convergence of actors that already had their personae in place, and would convey something just by being there. I mean, seeing Stallone, Van Damme and Norris try to out bad-ass each other would be entertaining on principle. I mean, watch The Magnificent Seven sometime, half the fun is about seeing all those guys try to upstage each other. Seeing the same thing with Randy Couture, who I'd have no earthly knowledge of without the internet? Not the same.

I know it's my caveman self talking, but I'm disappointed.

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