Les Expendables

It took 33 years, but Sylvester Stallone once again has a sense of humor about himself. And that’s what makes The Expendables, the balls to the wall ’80s style action flick that we’ve been anticipating for over a year now, so awesome. I’ll admit it, when I saw his low rider pickup truck that hearkens back to his ’50 chopped Merc in Cobra, I was a little bit concerned that the kickassitude of Rambo went to his head. But no, he is definitely the star of this one, yet plays well with others. He gives plenty of screen time to all the big names he got together to make this throwback extravaganza, and we can’t ask for anything more. Well, except maybe for Kurt Russell and Jean-Claude Van Damme to show up in the sequel.

Testosterone Level Causes Impregnation Within 50 Yards

I’m not going to bore you with the plot except for this single line: a group of bad-ass mercenaries take a suicide mission to assassinate a South American dictator. We first meet them as they rescue a cargo ship held hostage by Somali pirates, scaling it like Navy SEALs and blasting them to pieces with laser sighted machine guns and shotguns loaded with shells that will blow a man in half. But they’re reasonable people; Sly isn’t playing Rambo here, he’s more of a tired old guy who wants you to surrender, but will blast six holes in you with his revolver the second he realizes you won’t. He has a buddy rivalry with Jason Statham, the knife master of the group, over who can take someone out quicker. As in many of Sly’s previous films, he equips his men with custom knives, from a Gil Hibben Bowie blade with a brass parry strip, ring-pommelled throwing daggers, switchblades and huge, fast draw folding knives.

If I wasn’t getting married, I’d buy this $1850 Gil Hibben Bowie…

Sly and Statham are the biggest roles, but Jet Li gets some good fights in, and gets to show some comic chops as he complains he should have a bigger share, because everything is harder for him because he’s the short one. He has to take more steps when they run someplace. Randy Couture “used to wrestle in high school” and that explains his cauliflower ears, which he is very sensitive about. Terry Crews gets to have some fun with a Sledgehammer shotgun, but this is a long way from his hilarious role as President Camacho in Idiocracy.Pity, he can be really funny. Dolph Lundgren gets the thankless job of being the guy who’s a little too psycho for a band of psychos, and Mickey Rourke has retired from mercenaryin’ to be a tattoo artist. He gets to give the “I’ll cry when I’m done killin'” speech.

The movie showcases the strengths of our favorite bad boys but peppers humor in between, a wise choice that has worked since classics of the genre like Commando. I was a little disappointed that the fictional country they invade isn’t named Val Verde, but that should be saved for an Arnie movie, I suppose. Speaking of which, Arnie and Bruce Willis’s cameos are hilarious. Sure, they only get five minutes, but Arnie lets himself be the butt of the jokes, with Sly poking fun at the weight he put on as Governor, and that he “wants to be President.” He’s a rival merc leader, and doesn’t ham it up. Maybe after he’s done governating, Sly will give him a big role in the sequel. I sure hope so.

If he dies… he dies

The bad guys are played by a psycho Eric Roberts and David Zayas, best known as Angel from “Dexter.” The girl is Giselle Itié, a beauty from Mexican television, who will likely appear in Hollywood again. She has good chops, though Sly isn’t the best at getting realistic performances out of women (see Julie Benz in Rambo, who we know can act like a champ). But that’s not what we’re looking for in an action funfest like The Expendables. It was great seeing so many of them together. I enjoyed the hell out of it, but I don’t think it’s as good as Rambo– which is damn hard to top. The best I can say about it is: IT DELIVERS. And I damn well hope they make a sequel, and keep it rated R. And I will agree with Milky, my movie buddy, that they better bring back that shotgun, too. It should get its name in the credits.

4 out of 5 exploding human heads

© 2010 Tommy Salami

The Expendables – Semper Fight and sausage being made

I try not to get too hyped up about upcoming movies, because sometimes nothing can really live up to it. Rambo was one exception. I sort of gave up on Sly after Cliffhanger. So the fourth Rambo movie knocked me for a loop, even though I’d been impressed with Rocky Balboa. So when I heard that Stallone’s next would include Jason Statham, Jet Li, and Dolph Lundgren as mercenaries sent to depose a brutal dictactor I knew I’d be there opening day.
They are filming it now, and you can follow some of the day-to-day happenings on twitter. I’m not sure if I want to. It’s kind of cool, but I tend to think of movies like a sausage factory, in the Upton Sinclair sense. It’s best not to see how they are made and what goes into them. That’s a photo from shooting, above. And this here’s Dolph and Sly shooting the shit and not trying to break each other.
For example, if you follow the hype machine and read all the movie blogs, so far Danny Trejo, Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Forrest Whitaker, 50-Cent, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sandra Bullock have been signed on and then signed off being in the movie. Right now Arnie is iffy- they want him to play himself as the Governor- which would be awesome. Terry Crews may be on board. I think I’m excited enough at this ’70s style commando raid flick and I’m going to stop reading about it.
Supposedly almost all the crew Sly used for Rambo are returning for The Expendables, so that makes me confident enough. I know this may be blasphemy in the movie blog world, but maybe it’s best not to know every little detail. Sure, hearing that Sly rolled through a rough stunt scene, said “That’s how you teach the kids,” and was directing while medics plucked stones and road rash from his skin makes you admire the 63-year old action star who’s pulling an Eastwood and reaching the top of his game when most folks are retiring. But this is the kind of movie that sells itself. So I’m gonna try to lay off any further hype on this one. Even though I submitted some Q’s for Sly on ethelmae’s blog.