Posted by: greercn | August 23, 2010

The Expendables

Longing for a mindless action summer movie? Look no further. This unexpected treat zooms from big set piece to big set piece, breaking for some really funny lines and a little corny 1980s homage.

Critics will hate it. The closest you get to depth is Mickey Rourke, reprising his “Iron Man 2” role with a more natural accent and a little world-weary tattooing. Oh, and there’s the teeniest bit of mercenary versus heroism philosophy but it whooshes into more action before it becomes tedious.

It’s very violent and has some CGI and too many heroic performances from excellent stunt doubles. Things explode, catch fire and blow up, in a big way. But it’s the cast that compels you and pulls you in. And what a cast!

Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzennegger in one scene? Sly, Jason Statham and Jet Li, together in action scenes? The glorious and generally unappreciated but magnificent Terry Crews, woefully underused but present for moments of glory? Eric Roberts at his most villainous? Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin and Randy Couture? This is the 1980s-style movie for action geek heaven, with so much going for it you’ll want to purr with joy.

That’s enough great movie actors to make most real movie fans drool and I am in that camp. It’s a boy film that will appeal to girls. Having said that, as one of the very few women in the cinema, this might have been a good place to meet men, but I was too busy being more completely involved in a movie than I have been for quite a long time and wishing it would start again, right after it ended.

Let me spend a minute on the plot. That’s about what Sly and Dave Callaham did. A group of mercenaries got to South America, temporarily leaving their really great motorcycles and picking up a lot of guns to try and bring freedom to a troubled island. Are they being used by the American secret service?

Who cares? I was not a big “Rocky” fan until about a year ago when I watched all the first five movies during one long rainy Saturday. Suddenly, during “Rocky 3”, I got and appreciated Sly’s ability to root for the little guy and make you feel anything is possible. I liked the optimism and the lack of glossiness.

He brings that same sensitivity to this movie, but understands his own limitations and seems to be handing the baton of action hero to Jason Statham. I like Statham and he makes the most of his star turn here.

Jet Li is great too, but is more of a counterpoint to Statham than a leading man in his own right. David Zayas, Giselle Itie, Charisma Carpenter and Gary Daniels all give great performances.

Brian Tyler’s soundtrack deserves a mention in its ability to emphasise the key scenes and the 1980s classic rock tunes are also right in their contexts.

If you can’t handle screen violence, don’t watch this. There’s an awful lot of it. But the fights are great and you forget how unlikely it is that one guy – especially an older guy – could take out quite so many younger soldiers.

I love it and can hardly wait for the DVD. I will happily watch it again and again. I wish the faces of the older guys were not so clearly touched by Mr Botox, but I guess that’s what you think you need when you live in Hollywood. Those thoughts only lasted for a minute during the movie, before the next big guns blew up the next big cars. I’ve been waiting for something to entertain me this much for a very long time and I am delighted that I saw it.

The Stratford Picture House audience loved every minute and laughed and oohed and aahed. Me too. You will come out of seeing this feeling good.

Some of you have noticed that I sneak at least five song titles into each blog post. Well done. I’m afraid there is no prize, but yours is no disgrace. Remember – I do this blog to amuse myself and if you like it too, thank you for noticing. It’s both a discipline and a touch I like.

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