Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The Expendables Review: What do you need to turn a group of 80s action stars into Expendables?

I've never been a big fan of 80s actions movies. Rambo never interested me, Demolition Man and Cliffhanger weren't even on my radar. I'd seen a few of Schwarzenegger's movies but most of them in his appeal to kids phase until I went back in the 90s and saw a few of his more popular films. Die Hard with a Vengeance was probably the only of the series that reelly spoke to me for a long time. So it's not as if I haven't seen my fair share of movies from that era but they never really did much for me as films. I never had that "Wow that was so cool I want to do that moment." that a lot of filmmakers have with them. Maybe it's because as a child of the 90s I spent a lot of my 80s years watching John Hughes films and the huge swath of comedies from that era.

Yet when I heard about The Expendables, I was somewhat intrigued. Despite my lack of affinity for their heyday they had never really been in the same place all at once before and so I was very interested in seeing what would happen. Not as it turns out enough interest to actually go see the film in theatres. I had enough misgivings about the film to wait until it came out on DVD to see it, and in doing so I realize that I was right. The film, like many of the era these films harken back to, just doesn't have enough juice in it to sustain a whole hour much less the under 2 hours the film actually has. The characters are underdeveloped and some are basically useless plot devices, the villain is basically half assed and under used, and the only decent story worth telling was given to a secondary character and not followed through on.

Charisma Carpenter and Giselle Itie had the best stories to tell and yet the majority of screen time went to Stallone and his rag tag band of mercenaries who basically spent all their time standing around looking old and shooting people. You gotta do more with your characters then complain and destroy things to keep modern audiences interested and the only two ladies of the bunch provided the depth and emotional honesty necessary to make the extended action scenes work. Unfortunately depth and emotional honesty are not the point of a film like this and so they get relegated to C plot devices when the A and B plots haven't been any more secured then the plan to liberate an island by blowing up a single part of it with barely any of the army which is holding it hostage inside.

What made most of the 80s action movies work was the buddy cop scenario or the damsel in distress scenario, both of which are present in The Expendables but neither of which are particularly well used. You would think with this many 80s action stars in one room who have played out the stories numerous times would know a thing or two about what works and what doesn't work about a film like this and insist on making it better. Stallone in particular given that he is one of the only of the group to win a Best Picture Oscar. But no, the film is a hap hazard attempt to give many of its stars who have been relegated to direct to DVD content a chance to shine on the big screen. Unfortunately they don't really shine all that brightly, if at all.

What do you need to turn a group of 80s action stars into Expendables? You put them in a movie together with a barely there plot and tell them to act like it's 20 years ago.

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