Without fail, I get excited for every Sylvester Stallone movie—no matter how much it looks like it could suck. Whether it’s Sly paired up with one of the Golden Girls, Sly arm wrestling truckers, or even Sly wearing a dress and hooking in downtown Detroit, I’m giving the movie a chance. The man is one of my cinematic heroes.
As I sat waiting for the lights to go down for his latest, The Expendables, I reminisced about my first Sly experience. It was 34 years ago, I was 8, and my dad took me to see Rocky. I was transfixed by this weird looking, strange talking guy. I made my dad sit through two showings of the movie.
Stallone was already 30 the first time I saw him. For The Expendables, which he co-wrote and directed, he is a rollicking 64 years old (63 when it was filming), and he’s quite the physical specimen. He looks a little thinner than he did for the last Rambo, where he was all swollen and kind of looked like the Cloverfield monster. He takes his shirt off for some tattoo work to show off his Human Growth Hormone-enhanced muscularity. I have to say, he’s looking good for an artificial old guy.
As for this movie, let’s just say dear old Dad and I wouldn’t want to sit through a second showing.
It’s being billed as a meeting of action mega-stars, Clash of the Titans without the Kraken, although with those artificial muscles and super veins, Stallone is a credible Kraken substitute. I, for one, do not consider the likes of Jet Li, Steve Austin, Dolph Lundgren and Randy Couture action superstars. These are the guys for which the direct-to-video bargain bin was made. They are actually a notch below meatballs like Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme, who allegedly passed on this project.
Sure, Jason Statham is on hand, but other than Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, his first two movies, I find him underwhelming. Mickey Rourke shows up as a former mercenary turned tattoo artist, getting a chance to cry (in a far too close-up shot) and drool during a melodramatic speech. The only weapon he ever wields is a tattoo needle, if you don’t count the slime coming out of his mouth. Seriously, I’d prefer machine gun fire to him spitting that stuff in my direction.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis drop by for a scene and, admittedly, their three minutes is almost worth the price of admission. Bruno still looks good, while Arnie is showing some wear and tear, but the three do look cool together.
Perhaps you noticed I haven’t really talked about plot yet? That’s because the plot is as disposable as the Handi Wipes that, I’m sure, were in vast abundance on the set in order for Mickey Rourke to wipe the drool from his face between takes.
Stallone plays the leader of some mercenary group called The Expendables.
Early on, Gunner (the remarkably inarticulate Lundgren), one of his more unstable guys, goes schizoid during a mission and tries to hang a murdered body for decorative purposes. For this offense, they let Gunner go. Killing without mercy is fine, but The Expendables say no when it comes to treating their victims like ceiling fans. It’s just not classy.
The action scenes are sparse, with too much screen time spent watching Sly and Statham chat while flying planes, or on a weak subplot involving Statham’s girlfriend. Stallone opts for CGI gore, a total no-no for cinema purists like me. Blood spurts and limbs disengage with all the finesse of an ’80s Saturday morning Smurfs cartoon. I found myself removed from the action every time pixels and gigabytes substituted for stage blood. Blasphemy!
There is one scene involving an airplane and a dock that gets super high marks for originality and one neck-breaking kick moment that got an audible reaction out of me. (I yelled “Ow!”) But Stallone uses quick-cut editing that ruins his action scenes.
I am looking forward to the inevitable sequel, no matter how bad this movie is, and no matter how much Stallone’s juiced forearms swell. I’m an addict, and even after a bad fix, I want more.