Coulda been a contender
I may not be the target market for this film (as kindly pointed out to me by the young lad I sat next to in the cinema tonight) but I have to say I was initially excited about The Expendables’ concept. A movie packed with all your favourite 80s action stars! Imagine the in-jokes, the self-referential piss-taking, the opportunity for a really well constructed trip down memory lane for audience and cast alike. And with a title that set them up to ridicule their old-aged, plastic-surgeried, reconstructed careers – a take on The Incredibles perhaps, but as a pack of losers? – this was going to be too good to miss.
Well, I shoulda known already. Sylvester Stallone co-wrote and directed it, and brought in some old timers (tiny cameos from Willis and Schwarzenegger – if only Willis had been core cast!), many of whom we’ve (certainly I’ve) not seen for decades – Dolph Lundgren seems to be drifting into videogame voiceover land, though Jet Li has a reliable history of martial arts flicks under his black belt. Wisely, Sly teams up with action man of the moment, Jason Statham, one for the youngsters (and discerning females). Unfortunately, Sly’s face almost manages to distract us from the ludicrous love-plot he has written for himself – in some lighting (mostly shadow) he could be taken for a young, pretty Robert Downey Jr. but even as I write that it feels very wrong (RDJr can do no wrong in my eyes, and doesn’t deserve the comparison). Mickey Rourke, another with reconstructed face and career, doesn’t have enough to do with his cliché of a role, but gives it a good stab.
The disappointment for me is that it doesn’t give us anything else. Nothing new, nothing clever. Even The A-Team (which was itself pretty lame, and propped up mostly by explosions and overkill) was redeemed by the brilliant Sharlto Copley from District 9 (there playing a mad Murdock). But there are no witty lines or luminous performances here, and the inclusion of so many action stars means noone really gets the screen time or fight scene they deserve.
The party line on this film is “It does what it says on the tin” and as the titles rolled I asked my movie neighbour whether he was satisfied. Judging from the whoops in the audience with each (massive) explosion and bullet-ridden body catapulting through the air, I’d say everyone was.