Friday, August 13, 2010

The Expendables (2010)

That. Was. Awesome.

Filing out of the theater at 2am in a crowd full of adrenaline-fueled action movie junkies, that was all I could think about what I’d just seen, and pretty much all I was hearing from the movie-goers around me. The Expendables is the perfect midnight movie, the kind of flick that’s so loaded with action, so ridiculously over-the-top, so smoothly paced and fun that it literally won’t let you be tired. This isn’t an epic blockbuster or a groundbreaking mind-bender. This is action, straight no chaser. And it is just… awesome.

With The Expendables, writer/director/star Sylvester Stallone set out to make the ultimate action movie, a throwback to the good ole days of live explosions, singed stunt doubles and heroes with muscles. To do so he recruited the best of the best and the best of the worst; hits from the 80s, 90s and today brought to you on one action channel. Mickey Rourke. Jason Statham. Jet Li. Dolph Lundgren. Terry Crews. Stone Cold Steve Austin. Eric Roberts. Randy Couture. He even revived Charisma Carpenter for a couple scenes, and ushered in a brief but fantastic Planet Hollywood reunion with Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. They’re all here, and they’re all… awesome.

But of course it’s Stallone at the front of the pack as the aging team leader of his butt-kicking mercenary crew. They’re mission is to stop a dictator and his money-hungry support system, but really it’s just to be heroic. This ain’t Shakespeare, and the story ain’t pretty. But it doesn’t have to be.

These guys are lifers, big, bad and desensitized. What we get onscreen aren’t so much actors or characters as legendary personalities, men fashioned to be the last action heroes, doing the only thing they know how to do best. In the most recent Rambo (2008) flick and, to some extent, the last Rocky (2006), Stallone came across as a man who doesn’t know how to quit. And that’s true. But in The Expendables he comes across as a man who shouldn’t quit, who maybe never should have left, and who should be welcome back with open arms.

Statham is his second in command, the man hand-picked as his successor, on film and in legend. And man does he earn it. The duo is the heart of the film, a blood-pumping/spilling organ with great macho chemistry. But everybody gets their moment to shine, to flashback to their heyday, to say “remember when I did this?” and then show you they can still do it. And really, that’s the most important part.

The Expendables should have been a cheesy junk flick, the ultimate in, if anything, bad action movies. And it is that. But it's also a quality flick, messy and ridiculous but still well done.  Somehow, someway this movie transcends the 80s/90s action era it emulates, not necessarily bettering but certainly reviving it. The Expendables should have felt like an encore, or at worst, a death knell. But if there’s any justice in this world, it will actually be a beginning.

Because this is the reminder of what action movies were always supposed to be. This is a genre that really came into it’s own in the 80s, and perhaps pinnacled as an art form with Die Hard (1988), one of the few infallible films… ever (biased? Maybe. But I dare you to show me otherwise. In the words of so many action heroes – “Bring it!”).

The Expendables is a movie where entire set pieces exist only to be destroyed, where you see a military compound and you know it’s only a matter of time until it’s blown to pieces in one great, Universal Studios-like action extravaganza. Where the bad guys are bad because they covet drugs and money and being cruel to the poor citizens around them. Where the bad guys are bad because they’re just plain bad, and the good guys are good because they have to be. This is a movie about simplicity… and big, awesomely explosive fight sequences.

This is fun. And it’s the best action movie I’ve seen in years.

1.) Inception
2.) Toy Story 3

3.) The Expendables
4.) Despicable Me
5.) Salt
6.) Dinner for Schmucks
7.) The Other Guys
8.) The A-Team
9.) Iron Man 2
10.) Get Him to the Greek

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