Monday, September 13, 2010

"The Expendables" more like The Disposables

The Expendables (2010) 

103 min., rated R.

Going into a movie called "The Expendables" that has co-writer and director Sylvester Stallone assembling a team of inglorious bastards from his stoic, athletically built tough-guy roster, it sounds like manly theory. This meathead blowout coulda been a contenda, but the title is a tipoff: it's truly expendable. Stallone plays Barney Ross, the leader, and his mercenaries are hothead knife expert Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), a martial arts master (Jet Li), a weapon specialist (Terry Crews), demolitions man (Randy Couture), and sharp-shooter (Dolph Lundgren, Stallone's "Rocky IV" Russian nemesis). Brought together, their latest mission sends them to a South American island to save a general's freedom-fighting daughter. Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme must have declined, but wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin plays a henchman, and Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger (though misled for top-billing) turn in amusing cameos. 

Wasting no time with character or coherent plot, "The Expendables" sure does expend all things brawny, brainless, and bloody, with fire-ball explosions and violent, insanely over-the-top brawlings. But the jokey sense of humor gets obliterated by self-seriousness and jackhammer-edited action that rarely lets a shot last more than 2 seconds. Stallone's style has a certain '80s throwback appeal, from the likes "Commando" and "Cobra," but he goes more for grit than slickness and the incoherent editing makes "The A-Team" look still and seamless where you can barely tell who's being shot at. The battered, muscley Stallone is 64, but admirably doesn't look it. Eric Roberts embraces his scenery-chewing bad guy (in a suit!). And Mickey Rourke gives the most restrained performance of them all, mouthing some profound words as tattoo artist Tool. 

"The Expendables" has some junky fun but should've been more fun than it is, with less boredom and laziness. When Thin Lizzy's “The Boys Are Back in Town” rocks on, you feel like the “boys” should've been given a better vehicle. 


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