Animadversion: The Expendables – Reviewed by Kamran Jawaid and Farheen Jawaid

The following review was published in iMAGES, Sunday August 29, 2010. This is the unedited version. Links to the printed review can be found at the end of this post.

The-Expendables

That’s “Bad Shakespeare” says the Villain

By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid

In “The Expendables”, the big-on-action flick partly written and completely directed by Sylvester Stallone, the only sound parallel to the explosions and gun hits are of the full-body tackles.

With a whole lot of thuds, crunch’s, punch, cracks, screech’s, rat-a-tat’s and kabooms, “The Expendables” tries its desperate best to sound like an out-of-80’s low-budget action flick that have zero audience turnout (even on late night cable). It isn’t (the budget is about $80 million, for starters).

But still, Mr. Stallone knows exactly what to throw in the mix to make it sound like one. And so the film has a gun-happy, mix-ethnic troop of mercenaries led by a tattoo bodied, hard-muscled Ross (Mr. Stallone –one can spot the strain in all of his popped-up veins); a flimsy story about over-throwing a dictator (David Zayas); coming back for his revolutionary daughter (Gisele Itie) with whom Ross finds a soulful connection; and lots and lots of thud’s, punches, screech’s…you get the idea.

Mr. Stallone’s other unique selling point for “The Expendables” is its action/B-movie cast. Jason Statham (co-leading the film with a separate side-story featuring Charisma Carpenter and her new, abusive, boy-friend), the infrequent popping-up Jet-Li who pines away for a raise on his next job (“I need it for my family”, he says often) and Mickey Rourke, a full-time tattoo-specialist-cum-old-war dog who works as the group’s part-time agent.

Mr. Rourke also walks away with the film’s only emotional scene. Mr. Stallone (still often good behind the screen) keeps the camera locked in a close-up, letting Mr. Rourke reel the scene in as he stands in a separate angle on the back. That’s not the only time Mr. Stallone is in the back. As a writer he tries to juice-in as much screen-time as he can from his cast. Most of the time, on demands of the situation, Mr. Stallone idly stands in the back, putting in a jab or two for comic effect (what’s an action movie without one-liners I ask you?).

In another small scene, possibly a highlight that coaxed ticket sales on its own, Mr. Stallone brings over his “Planet Hollywood” buddies: Bruce Willis (a CIA heavy named Church) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (the leader of a rival mercenary unit). The scene, though low-key and small, with just a few subtle witticisms (“He wants to be President”, says Ross, as Mr. Schwarzenegger walks out of the meeting) works sporadically, like the movie.

Released by Lionsgate. “The Expendables” other star power comes from: Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin, Gary Daniels and Eric Roberts, the rouge CIA agent who is the brains behind the Latin American dictator. I think all who’s left was Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Segal.

The film is Rated R for unemotional, hardly discernable action-editing, bloody noses, water-torture, star-vs-star fights and a feeble attempt for emotional tragedy; Or as Eric Roberts aptly puts it in a scene: that’s “Bad Shakespeare”.

Shakespeare, bad or not, it won’t stop the box-office or me buying the ticket for its sequel. But only if they bring in Mr. Van Damme and Mr. Segal.

Second Opinion

By Farheen Jawaid

“The Expendables” feels like an 80’s low budget action film. Sometimes it is directed and written like and 80’s action film. It certainly has a lot of action stars from B-grade biggies like Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts and Gary Daniels (who just grunts); and almost B-grade action stars like Jet Li, Jason Statham, Steve Austin (who gets to say just a few words from the screenplay) and Mickey Rourke (is he an A-lister now, after Iron Man 2 and The Wrestler, I wonder).

Sylvester Stallone, the director, co-writer (the other writer is David Callaham) and main lead named Ross, has a fair idea on what to exploit from the film’s premise: a mercenary group gets a job to blow up a Latin American dictator. Naturally the film needs big explosions, bigger one-on-one brawl scenes and a little family drama – the dictator’s daughter is a revolutionary. How very original.

“The Expendables” is a little better than the average action fare, because Stallone, who was almost on the brink of being a B-grader, still knows how to make his film work. It might sound like a parody of an action film out of the 80’s, but it’s not. The equipments are better. So are the effects. And with so many actors, and a limited running time of 100 minutes, Stallone in many scenes stands out of the limelight. Regardless of this, there is ineffective drama and haphazard editing during the action scenes.

The film is all about action and one-liners and action scenes. Anyone expecting otherwise (or even Shakespeare, as Eric Roberts says) must have watched the wrong trailer.

The published version can be found at:

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/in-paper-magazine/images/bad-shakespeare-980

and

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/in-paper-magazine/images/second-opinion-980

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