What happens when you take ex-action stars from the 80’s and 90’s after they are past their prime and stick them into a film? Well, you get THE EXPENDABLES, a story about a group of mercenaries (ex-military, ex-CIA, we don’t really know) who take on jobs that require a lot of explosions and knife throwing. Sounds like a good time, right? Well, not so much. Sadly, this film had the potential to be really great especially with the star-studded cast, but it just flopped. As the matter of fact, it was so bad on so many levels that I promise I won’t even mention how full of holes and pathetic the actual plot was, because there are still a handful of problems to look at.
Let’s start with directing and dialogue-both were tragic and we have Sly Stallone to blame for both of these issues. Too many close-ups are okay when you’re filming Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie, but I don’t think anyone wants that close a shot of either Sly or Bruce Willis. The audience will get the point if you pan out a little, trust me. Add in the graininess (which could be homage to the classic 80’s action flick) and the oversaturation and it was just an eyesore the entire film. Technology has come too far for this to happen in a film with so many stars and with a budget this big, so a little more care could have been taken and done wonders. The same care could have been taken with the dialogue, it was cheesy as expected with the only redeeming scene being the short exchange between Arnold, Bruce and Sly. But what made that great scene frustrating is that almost every line was delivered with a single, close shot, so we barely got to see the three legends on camera at the same time.
Violence in any form is always fun to watch, but there comes a point when it’s just too over the top, which quite frankly happens very rarely. Watching people have their heads blown off and seeing big explosions are two of the things I really treasure in a good action flick, but it was just too ridiculous in THE EXPENDABLES. There was a five minute montage of Jet Li, Terry Crews, Sly, Jason Statham and Randy Couture running around a mansion placing explosives on the walls and ceilings setting the audience up for a fireworks show. I’m not an explosives expert, but I think this was a little overkill, and by the way, it added absolutely nothing to the plot but just gave us a full minute worth of fire and a crumbling building.
The aforementioned problems are bad, but the most disappointing part is that none of these characters came across as cool. There were few kids back in the day who didn’t dress up as Rambo, Rocky or Schwarzenegger for Halloween. These iconic action stars made up our childhood and we wanted to emulate them. To see all of our favorites reduced to this lame excuse for a film is just sad. I don’t want to think of Jet Li as an old washed up martial arts star who gets his butt kicked by a wrinkly Dolph Lundgren (yes, this happened in the film, but would never happen in real life), he’s just too good for that. Shame on you Sly for making our heroes of the past these exhausted and old action stars who should be remembered for their glory days, not your crappy quick-edited big-budget film.