Harry says - THE EXPENDABLES is a testicular masterpiece of manish awesomery!!!
After watching DEMOLITION MAN, I COME IN PEACE & DIE HARD... I actually feel THE EXPENDABLES is actually the cheery on top of this amazing evening of all things MAN.
Let's face it, that's what this is all about. These are the action icons of our lives - spanning OLD SPICE ads to some of the greatest action films ever made. The three key names missing from the mixture for me, are Kurt Russell & Harrison Ford & Mel Gibson. But honestly - had they been in it... my sack would suddenly have a third ball floating along with my cherished pair.
THE EXPENDABLES is a capper. A party film. A movie to get giddy for. When the first key act of violence takes place moments after it starts and involves a man being blown in half and his top part flying backwards... well, that's INSANE and it's the Sam Fuller of the movie. Sam always was reported to say, "Start with an explosion and build!" - well here, beginning with this kind of crazy awesome... You expect the film to just go nuts immediately - but it doesn't.
In fact the over all structure of the film was a bit more insane than I was expecting. After the opening Pirates showdown, the team returns back to their base of operations in New Orleans... Now I can't even pretend to know what mercenaries are like. I've never met a Merc. I have known a few Navy SEALs in my life, and most of them come across a bit like Jason Statham in this film. But older badass soldiers turned killer for hires? Well, we haven't had a terrible lot of films exploring this group of professionals. In fact, that's probably the very best merc film, THE PROFESSIONALS... it takes place in the Old West and is all about the the trip to the mission, everything going crazy and a brilliant chase at the end. I love THE PROFESSIONALS - and I think in my little monkey brain I was expecting that.
But after the opening fight... we have these scenes that establish a little bit for all the characters. We get to know a bit about everyone - and I loved this. These aren't people like us Film Geeks. They don't speak Tarantino. They're Men that have trouble with expressing emotion. However, they're boiling over with it. It comes in the tales they tell - their histories together. In a way, it reminds me of my group of friends when we talk about my Bachelor Party... only... if there had been blood & guts & horrible scarring moments that haunt a soul. And the man most haunted? Mickey Rourke - which is perfect, because as an actor - that man has so much soul, so much emotional self-castigation that - gosh. I just love the guy.
However, the key to Mickey's scenes is the resonance that the stories have upon Stallone. Stallone gave Mickey the exposition that would explain what he was feeling. Because Mickey is playing the best old friend in Stallone's life. There's no doubt that there aren't very many that have been with him as long as Mickey - and you get the idea that perhaps Mickey might've once led THE EXPENDABLES. Whatever the history may be, the scene specifically reminded me of conversations with my father, when I go to him for advice and I really know what it is I'm going to do, I just want to hear his story about something similar in his life. That's the soul of this scene. The power of a long time best friend. The exchange that Men that have known each other for a very long time can share. Technically it is a human thing, but here Sly nails it and he gives himself the best actor of the film to bounce with. Their scenes are character highlights in a film of character highlights.
Dolph Lundgren has probably been with Sly's Barney the next longest. Lundgren is a force in this movie. He's grown BORED with the routine of killing, so he's taken to making it interesting for himself. Like, shooting a weapon that blows people in half. Like hanging a pirate. Like... well, you'll see. Dolph pulls of some of the best work of his career and that's really a love letter from Stallone. Sly shoots Dolph beautifully. He does this with everyone evenly. It isn't like ROCKY II's addiction to close-ups... it is just Sly has an intuitive sense of how to shoot action and men to just deliver that John Ford sense of WAYNE. Sly also shoots men in action, the way Ford shot horses charging - you see full muscle extension, full speed even if it is slow motion, because you can see the intensity of the movement.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the Steve Austin vs Sly and the Jet Li vs Dolph fights... and I have to say - I'm dying to see if there was more to the Randy Couture vs Steve Austin fight. I wanted to hold on that one longer.
I really have no idea how long that end action sequence was - but there are SO MANY UNBELIEVABLY AWESOME highlights - that I can't even begin to recall them all. At COMIC CON, we showed a sequence of Terry Crews with a fully automatic shotgun with explosive rounds that just sounds like the DOOM OF MEN and the only disappointment that I think some folks might have is with some of the CG gore. Now I loved it because it enabled full on HOLY SHIT speed in terms of real time human disentigration and ginsu mayhem death Iron Chef fashion - and I love that. LOVE IT. It is about the movement. If Stallone has room to improve, it is in getting stronger CG work with what he's doing.
That said, man... just watching some of the insanity - like that Jet Li & Jason Statham two-teaming finishing move on that one poor fuck... if your face isn't an O-Face with the best violence produced Orgasm scream of ecstacy... I'm not real sure that your cock can rock. Check into Viagra, because if you can't hold an erection for 45 minutes straight via non-stop action woah... take the blue pill and you can pretend to be the man for which this film was built.
Me. I'm afraid I was eating fresh Hummus and pita bread during this. Not sure why I went Vegan on this film - I just think that had I actually had RED MEAT or anything crazy manly... like a rack of ribs to eat - or a Turkey Leg... my god. You might as well masturbate too. I was trying to hold back, but I love this movie. I love the concept of it, the build for it, my experiences with the film and finally this crazy fucking night of action upon action upon action upon THE EXPENDABLES.
The most dialed down of all the actors in this was probably Eric Roberts, and if I have a key disappointment it was him and the General. But specifically Eric. He can just go so much further than he did here. I suppose Sly didn't want him to cartoon it, which Eric has done a few times, but I really wanted Eric to just be a character I could hate more. Same with all the bad guys. After JOHN RAMBO, I kinda expected the bad guys to be alot more aggressively evil than what I got from them, but... and this is a big BUT... Everybody in this film, when it comes to ACTION is in Top Form.
Jet Li & Jason Statham do some of their best work. In particular, Jet did really really good with being the short guy that uses his shortness in a self-deprecating manner. I've a friend that would make Jet look like Dolph if he stood next to Jet - and he acts EXACTLY like Jet in this film - except he really is pathetically height challenged, but he has a great attitude about it, though he usually has to use a step-ladder to feel great. Jason's romantic woes are probably going to be something that some folks may pick at, but given the amount of friends I've seen break up with their girls this year... it just seems like a continuation of a life theme.
Now - I know... you want to know what I thought about Bruce, Arnie, Sly.
This is where I have a shameful admittance. I was in the bathroom. I know. You don't have to say it, though many of you will, I was a complete filly - I had to pee. I was bursting and I tried to hold on as long as I could - but I had to go, and when you have to go, sometimes ya gotta go.
But I'm fine with it. I'll be seeing the film again this Tuesday - and I will see the Holy Trinity in their Church of Testosterone.
How much did I love the film?
Well, I came home... sat down and pounded out this review as fast as I could. Not because I'm worried about others writing first, but because I have to write about it. My brain won't settle until I get out of me what this film does.
We've seen a lot of action in theaters recently. The best action of the summer has probably been hung upon the shoulders of INCEPTION - but frankly, while beautifully shot - the action never felt vital to me. Here, I always felt like someone was about to die. I just did. I prefer this action.
Cuz I believe everything that everybody does can be done by the people doing it. I don't see wire work, I don't see lazy gravity or an overage of Slow-motion. In fact, almost all of it is at full speed. These men are hitting solid surfaces and you'll see them bleed blood in this film as they scrape themselves up.
Also, everyone has their own style of fighting, without it seeming cartoonishly absurd. Watching Dolph and Jet is just a joy, but so is Austin & Sly, Jet & the guy in the tunnel, Statham playing basketball, Terry & his cannon, Couture vs Steve, Sly & the Rapists and then... just... giggle... ya know how in BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID and THE WILD BUNCH they have that terrible situation of being holed up in an impossible situation and they have to come out and fight an army? JUST WAIT till you see how THE EXPENDABLES handle that particular scenario. It is the most gratuitously intense action sequences since the trio battle at the end of RETURN OF THE JEDI (Endor, Space Battle and Luke/Vader/Emperor) - but imagine pieces of man meat and marinara flying like Bats from maw of Carlsbad Caverns.
Is it a perfect film? No, this isn't DIE HARD. This is just a great fucking time. This is whooping and hollaring and being excited. This is cheering for action exclamations - and Sly treats those Exclamations like AICN does in our headlines. There's always a bit much, and that's what takes you from just gripping your seat to possibly grabbing the sides of your head, breathing into your hands, smiling ear to ear and then just giggling from how much is actually being done here.
Sly handles action the way George Lucas did the Cantina in the original STAR WARS. Any given bit would be a highlight in the other action films of the summer. In THE EXPENDABLES - it is all about excitedly recalling each others' favorite moments and you can do that for a long time.
This is just what I was in the mood for. Something lighter than JOHN RAMBO and ROCKY BALBOA. Something that harnesses the outrageousness of a COBRA, the mayhem of JOHN RAMBO, the manitude of the first 30 minutes of PREDATOR all with a bit of soul, friendship and fist-pumping that I adore from this type of film.
Go into this as many of you are wanting to... with a desire to just see this cast have fun having fun. That's exactly what you get.
Now it is time to go to sleep. Good morning everyone...