Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Expendables - This Movie Isn't

When I had first heard of The Expendables in 2010, I couldn't help but be a little curious when I saw the sheer number of action stars involved in the project. With a cast ranging from Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis to Jet Li and Mickey Rourke, how could you not be? However, it would be a couple of years before I finally saw this picture after purchasing the DVD. Thus far, I do not regret doing so.

The gist of the plot is as follows: A group of mercenaries known as the Expendables are hired by the CIA to eliminate a dictator on a small Caribbean island. Besides a couple of subplots, one of which has bearing on the events of the movie, this is basically all that happens. For the most part the smaller plot points of the movie are difficult to follow, not helped by the fact that a few of the actors, such as the aforementioned Stallone and Rourke, mumble a great amount of their dialogue.

On the other hand, the action scenes are simply amazing to watch. There are explosions abound, usually after some spectacular feat on the part of the mercenaries. I especially praise one scene with an Albatross vehicle, which provides a feast for the eyes as a cloud is spectacularly ignited by a single bullet to annihilate a group of mooks over a long pier. Equally praiseworthy are the scenes involving either guns, such as one where Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) blasts through grunts like a knife through butter thanks to some special bullets, or combat involving martial arts, including a scene where Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) knocks out a group of people on a Basketball court for personal reasons, ending with a knife through the ball as a warning. Segments such as this display the amazing fight choreography, as also shown when Yin Yang (Jet Li) displays his fighting prowess about halfway through the movie against Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren).

As I watched the film, I noticed a surprising amount of humor thrown in, which helped make some of the scenes less serious and offer some balance. These instances are well-timed, but the cameo from Arnold Schwarzenegger becomes even funnier thanks to some real world context in the jokes. On the other side of the scale, the action can get very bloody since those on the receiving end of bullets tend to pop like meat balloons or otherwise have their insides splatter all over the place.

To sum up the experience of this movie would be very simple: The Expendables is a true action movie through and through. While the story does seem to be pushed off to the side, it allows the action elements, the meat of the movie, time to shine. With an all-star cast and music that helps drive them along, it creates an experience worthy of at least one viewing. If you're a fan of 80's action flicks or have a familiarity with at least one of the actors attached, you surely won't be disappointed.

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