Expectations. That’s what "The Expendables" is all about. It has an air of hype around it that just builds tremendous expectations in certain audience members. It has to, what with some of the “greatest action heroes of all time” all in the same movie. As such, I believe that this is the film’s greatest accomplishment, as well as its greatest failure.
I’ve read several reviews of the film and most of them are negative. Almost all of them point to the fact that this is a brainless action film that’s more a waste of time than almost anything else. Others were simply tremendously disappointed because they set their expectations too high and this film didn’t deliver.
Me? I loved the living hell out of this thing.
I didn’t come into this movie expecting a good storyline. Not at all. Sly Stallone has gone on record several times before the premiere that this would be just a balls-out action movie with a very simple storyline. He made this out to be the greatest thing ever, but he always alluded to the action, and never the story.
It is, like many reviewers have mentioned an “80’s style” action movie; that sort of non-stop violence that’s more ridiculous than plausible. This is exactly the stuff that put people like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger on the map. So, how much you like this sort of movie hinges very much on how you’ll perceive this film. If you find this sort of thing so ridiculous that it’s more laughable than anything, then take the majority of the reviewers’ advice and stay away from this thing. It’s clearly not for you. If, however, you’re like me and these sorts of action movies were, at least at one point, a big part of your life, and you still honestly enjoy, then by all means, go to the cinemas, and have the time of your life, because this movie will certainly not disappoint in this regard.
And this is exactly why I’m reviewing this on a fitness and martial arts blog: for the action. The action sequences here are extremely well done. They are all (or at least a vast majority of them) also done practically, with very little (if any) CG techniques utilized. This sort of old-school approach to the action is part of the movie’s very unique charm. I’ll go into detail with this by highlighting each actor in the film, but be warned! If you haven’t seen the movie yet, this review will contain MASSIVE SPOILERS from this point on! You have, at least, gotten my general feelings about the film and those will most probably be more than enough for you to decide whether it is for you or not. If, however, you have seen the film or do not mind excessive spoilers, then please read on!
Most of Sly’s action sequences involve guns of some sort. His character is apparently an expert at using two guns at the same time, and almost all of his action sequences revolve around this. However, there is a particular action sequence where he fights against Steve Austin that I absolutely, positively loved. If you’ve been keeping up with the previews and such of the movie (particularly Steve Austin’s appearance at The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on August 13, 2010), you’ve probably caught a glimpse of it. The fight sequence is actually pretty long, and is intercut with several others, which makes it particularly fun to watch.
Though you probably wouldn’t have expected it from a fight scene featuring Sly and Steve Austin, the action sequence actually involves some pretty interesting martial arts moves. Sly, for example, counters Steve at one point with a flying arm bar of some sort, which kind of surprised me and put a huge smile on my face. The rest of the fight pretty much revolves around a brutish wrestling style that very much characterizes Austin’s character, with plenty of head-on collisions and body slams (which, again, put a huge smile on my face every time they were done).
“I got my ass kicked.”
Christopher Reeve, and he was still supposedly capable enough to finish filming that day, but had to have a metal plate put in his spine. Quoted from his July 20, 2010 appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman:
“They had to take a bunch of cadaver bones … and screw them in”.
In any case, I’m not sure how Sly currently physically feels about it, but I for one would have to say that it was worth it since I very much loved that action sequence. Lots of great choreography with some surprisingly great martial arts techniques spliced in!
The Transporter, he shows that he can perform them very well. He gets several chances to once again show off his martial arts prowess during the film, particularly in an earlier scene which takes place in a basketball court, and in the climactic 30-something action sequence at the end. I don’t particularly remember if he performed any submissions or just his usual kickboxing, but I have to say that he looked very impressive.
I hadn’t seen a lot of promotional videos for the film involving Jet, so I was particularly excited to see him perform. If you’ve seen some of his past films like The One(which he also co-starred with Jason Statham), then you know what to expect. Jet’s character isn’t front and center here, so he doesn’t have nearly as much screentime as I wanted, but he does very well, especially in the climactic action sequence in the end, with his usual brand of airborne kicks, flips, and so on. I’m not sure how much wire work went into that, but most of it seemed to have been done without any Hollywood effects of any sort, so that was very impressive.
Jet does have a fight scene against Dolph Lundgren which was supposed to be his big moment, but I don’t think it was shot very well. I don’t exactly know what Sly (who also directed the film) had in mind for the scene, but I don’t like how it was edited as I didn’t get to see a lot of detail in Jet’s movements.
Almost everything Randy does here is very well done MMA fan service. He gets a short speech near the beginning of the film where he explains his cauliflower ears, for example. He does a lot of his classic MMA moves in the film, such as kicks, slams, and Superman punches. Lots of Superman punches. Almost every time Randy appears onscreen, he’s Superman punching somebody into oblivion. Those, and the tons of slams he did were very, very fun to watch.
There was actually a scene in the movie where the team is supposed to be infiltrating the enemy base, so they have to be all quiet and take out each of the guards without being noticed, like appearing out of the shadows and breaking necks and such. Well, Randy don’t need no stealth! He just comes in, Superman punching and slamming everybody! Very ludicrous, but you don’t see me complaining.
During the aforementioned Steve Austin / Sylvester Stallone fight scene, I was actually a bit worried because the film seemed to be forming a sort of connection between their characters. This is because I terribly wanted the two wrestlers in the movie, Austin and Couture, to square off against each other! Well, being completely faithful to the fan service his character brings, Randy Couture delivers all out! He fights Austin during the finale, and you gotta really love the Superman punches and body slams that ensue! I was extraordinarily happy when this happened, but I wondered how Randy would finish Steve off. Break his neck? Shoot him in the head? What? Continuing off of the ludicrous nature of Randy’s character, he, uh, body slams Steve into a pit of fire and Superman punches him. Steve Austin burns to death via Randy Couture’s signature moves. Awesome; just plain awesome!
Rocky IV, Universal Soldier,and Universal Soldier: Regeneration(which is a brilliant action movie in its own right co-starring Andrei “The Pitbull" Arlovski and, of course, features plenty of awesome MMA action). I’ve most probably seen more, but that’s all I can remember right now.
Nevertheless, despite the fact that Dolph’s known as a huge action star, he’s not really known to be a martial artist of any sort, despiting acting alongside such people as Jean-Claude Van Damme and, in this film, Jet Li. In the Jet Li fight, which I mentioned had editing that I didn’t much agree with, Dolph pretty much shined because his way of fighting in this film is very brutish, with very little style, and just an all-out intention to kill somebody, like a very angry and violent street fighter. His wild and big movements seemed to match the kind of editing Sly was going for at the time.
Dolph is also notable for “starting” the movie, as he finishes off the slow opening credits with a bang by blasting a person into gory pieces with a very large gun. Awesome.
I really like Terry Crews, despite the fact that he’s known mostly for his muscular build and his Old Spice commercials. He’s not really an action star, so I was very curious to see what he would do in the film. Well, he carries a very large and very noisy gun and, like Dolph’s character in the beginning of the film, spends much of the end of the film blowing people up in gory fashion. Again, a different sort of fan service for a different sort of action fan.
I’ve pretty much written down my general feelings towards Steve in this movie in the Sly Stallone and Randy Couture sections. He did his job in this movie, and he did it very well. Too bad we won’t see him in the possible sequel.
These three don’t have action sequences in the film, but are action legends in their own right, so I just had to mention them. Willis and Schwarzenegger just have cameo roles, but Rourke has a fully developed character that adds some drama to the film. All three performed their parts very well, and while I’ve seen that a lot of people were disappointed by the much-hyped scene with Sly, Bruce, and Arnold in the same room, I just think it was a genuine miracle that scene even took place. Now, if there is a sequel, hopefully these three will appear again and have more screen time.
Again, I loved this movie very much. Did I think that this could have been much more as many others have suggested? Yes, as a fan boy of action movies myself, I, of course did. But I loved what I saw here and that was more than enough for now. Hopefully, Sly can better meet expectations in a possible sequel, but with the sort of hype this movie generates, I would say that it would be incredibly difficult if not outright impossible.
When the blu-raycomes out in a couple of months, I’ll watch it a few times and break down each fight scene in minute detail. Until then, I’d very much like to know your thoughts regarding this film. Did you like it or not and why?
Check out more great pics from IMDB's Expendables page!