The Expendablesby Roger Young / 16.09.2010
Bad filmmaking can only become “good” if the filmmakers are oblivious to the inherent “badness”; in short the good part of bad films is the laughing at the naiveté of the filmmakers. The Expendables is a calculated attempt to exploit our need to laugh at badly made films. However, it is such a bad attempt at this exploitation that it ends up being neither so bad it’s good, or so consciously bad/good that it’s bad but rather falls into that embarrassing middle ground of Film Starring Sly Stallone With Too Much Make Up On.
The Expendables is a text book example of how text book scripts can fail. Take a rag-tag bunch of mercenaries, apply a lashing of stock emotional “quirks”; the regretful tattoo artist, the sensitive idiot, the principled leader, the junkie giant, the family man ninja, add one last mission before they can retire and a beautiful female rebel revolutionary fighting her father’s corrupt military dictatorship on a small tropical island, mix in a shadowy ex CIA third force and a cameo by Schwarzenegger and you have the all the elements to make a pretty decent high budget action flick. But it all falls apart in the execution, Stallone, the director, seems more concerned with how Stallone, the actor, is made up and lit than making any of the flimsy conceits seem remotely feasible. Bruce Willis’ CIA guy hires Stallone’s team to take out the dictator, only two of them go, Sly and Statham, they meet the girl, she shows them the fortress in the distance, suddenly soldiers attack, they kill them all and then decide that it’s too dangerous and try convince the girl to leave, she refuses, so they bomb the docks and go home and tell the rest of the team that it was too dangerous at which point the team decides to go. Why didn’t you all go in the first place? Isn’t that what you were hired to do? Sly ignores me and looks pointedly into the distance, the late period Charlie Chaplin make up congealing in his furrows. This is not Stallone in Rocky Balboa mode, this is Sly in outtakes from Rambo 3 mode.
The only vaguely interesting things about The Expendables are, a) It provides a window into Sly and Mickey fantasy weekends, these include tattoo shops with muscle cars, big bikes and nameless women who want to have sex with them briefly and then leave. B) all of the reviewers in the preview laughed at the reference to Arnie wanting to be president. I can’t tell you how unmentionably sad that made me.
SIDE NOTE: The last time Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts were in a film together (although they’re not in this together, they share no scenes) was The Pope Of Greenwich Village. For a quick lesson in falling from grace, rent that and then watch only the trailer to this.