Thursday, September 2, 2010

Man on Film: The Expendables

Holy hell, do I have some catching up to do here...

I have been balls deep in a move and am now approaching four consecutive weeks of chaos in my life. As a man who lives a simple, constant life, this is overwhelming and leaves me little time or energy for much of anything else.

That does not mean that I've not been to the movies, however. I still need to do a proper write-up for Inception. I also have a partially written response to Predators waiting to be finished. Then there's The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Piranha 3D, and The Other Guys--and that's just what I still need to on the Man on Film front.

As one might expect if one were even remotely familiar with this blog, The Expendables takes precedence over the rest of those films.

I have seen this film twice.

I wouldn't be surprised if I saw it again in the theater.

When evaluating what The Expendables is, it is imperative to look at how it measures up to what it is setting out to do. If there is one thing that is apparent when looking at Sly the auteur, it is that his goal is to please his crowd. Sylvester Stallone the writer/director is essentially like the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention at the end of primary season. He is there to deliver exactly what his base wants.

In what were presumably the codas for the Rocky and Rambo series, he hit every note perfectly, and any fan of the previous installments were left mouth agape as the films came to an end. Rocky Balboa was a stirring elegy to Adrian and a testament to the heart of a champion that pumps the lifeblood through Rocky's veins. It also happened to be the best film in the series since the first one. Rambo gave us one more look at our cast aside Vietnam vet, and that look just happened to be the most violent film I've ever seen--and I mean that in the best possible way. It also ends with John Rambo perhaps finally putting his inner demons to rest and returning home.

When one looks at the cast of The Expendables and sees the names of Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Eric Roberts, and Steve Austin alongside that of Sylvester Stallone, one's imagination cannot help but run amok. When you see that cast with this man at the helm, I think the obvious conclusion is that this movie is going to be a crazy fucking action flick that hearkens back to the great action films of the '80s which we as a society are so desperately lacking.

So if this is what we are expecting, then the ultimate question is: Does the film meet these expectations?

Fuck yes.

You want shit blowing up? You got it. People getting killed in crazy-awesome ways? It's here. Knives being thrown? Jet Li comic relief? Check. Check.

Did I mention the shit blowing up?

Sure, it may not be high art, but as I once told Jon Cryer when admitting that I enjoyed Hiding Out after a then-fresh viewing, "It's not like I was expecting Citizen Kane."

Upon leaving the theater both times, I was fucking pumped. Sly knows what his audience wants. He knows how to deliver it. Sure, there are little issues that one could reasonably have with the film*, but it all boils down to whether or not this film addresses the jonesing for a real '80s-style action flick, and it feeds that hunger.

*The action in the final fight scene is sort of hard to piece together as the scene takes place at night, and the CGI fire in the Steve Austin/Randy Couture fight is pretty comical.

I'll certainly grant you that the dialogue isn't the greatest and there are non-actors who depending on your affinity for them going into the film could weigh the film down, but what we've got here is a movie in which the bad guys are bad, the good guys are good, and you want to shout out at more than a handful of the deaths. I'd say that's a recipe for cinematic success that has been sorely lacking from the cineplexi for quite some time.

So, Sly, you did me a solid, and that's all I care about. If you decide you wanna help keep Jason Statham looking badass in The Expendables 2, I'm fucking game.

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