No, that’s not a typo in the title of Sylvester Stallone‘s tribute to ’80s machismo. While a commendable effort to get in such a star cast, there is still that grey area where you feel that the director hasn’t done complete justice to some of the stars in this relaunch vehicle and could have expanded upon quite a few scenes and roles. I am not complaining. The dearth of good action movies helps create a refreshing space for ‘The Expendables‘ to complete its act.
Every excuse for CGI and other computer generated images, explosions and stunts, more adaptable to the video game universe, have now entered the action movie genre and this passes of as an out and out action thriller. In the midst of this action drought ‘The Expendables‘ does come, as the cliche goes, as a breath of fresh air. The wisecracks are there, the fights are raw and hard, the weaponry is heavy (and when I say heavy, I really mean it, what with torsos getting torn apart in a hail of artillery fire from a hand held big gun).
The opening sequence sets the tone for the movie and the characterization of the cast. You immediately know what Dolf Lundgren‘s role is gonna be in the movie as he rashly goes about what would be as natural to him as his morning ablutions. The story arc is standard action genre. Bunch of mercenaries hired to overthrow dictator in banana republic, but a shadowy evil power calls the real shots and tries to outwit and outmuscle everyone including our heroic mercenaries who are helped by a hot Latino damsel in distress. There, I summarized the script for you in a sentence. That’s how compact an action script can get, more compact that describing the features on your Tata Nano.
Now for the star cast, no doubt this is a cast that eats, sleeps, breathes and dreams action. Stallone, Statham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Lundgren, Terry Crews – all form the main action cast of the mercenaries. Mickey Rourke makes an almost cameo appearance, and Bruce Willis and former Governor Schwarzennegger make and extremely cameo cameo appearance. There was a lot expected from the Stallone, Willis, Schwarzennegger scene and it did not disappoint. The tongue-in-cheek lines delivered with the classic expressions that these actors have templatized for themselves, from dead-pan(Stallone) to smirk (Willis) to grin and chomp (Arnie boy), I would have definitely liked to see an extended scene for these trio in a single frame.
The Expendables ranks high on the babe meter. Charisma Carpenter has enough of charisma to light up an already explosive situation and so too does Gisele Itie who takes a particular liking to Stallone’s Barney Ross. The laughs are brought in more by the action, and their defence budget would sure have given our very own Finance Minister Pranab da, serious statistical nightmares. Watch out for Jason Statham’s run-in with his ex-girlfriends current boyfriend on the basketball courts. The ball jokes hold here, so too does Terry Crews big gun in the concluding action sequence. Crews, who had nothing much to do till then, still doesn’t have much to do here, but his loaded gun act (and I mean this literally) is a hard bargain for any gun wielding hero to follow.
David Zayas as the banana republic President does a Noriega in a simplistic cliche ridden role that’s not too bad. Zayas is a much better actor, having seen him in ‘Dexter‘, but he does hat is required of him without any fuss. Eric Roberts, who is undergoing a renaissance in his career that at one stage seemed relegated to the B-film brigade, performs an almost stereotyped role that he has successfully executed in his last few films – that of a cheesy, greasy, slimeball, with very little emotional quotient – all this delivered with his middle-age pretty boy image intact.
So, overall I give ‘The Expendables’ a thumbs up. But, there could have been more for Stone Cold Steve Austin and after hyping his role in the movie, I almost missed him totally. Austin does deserve better than this. The movie did end up being a bit of a tight fit as it seemed that the producers wanted to squeeze too much in 100 minutes. That may have let down the movie a bit, but with its worldwide success I am sure the sequel that’s supposedly already in the works could be bigger and hence longer (nothing sexually suggestive here) and of course definitely better than this. I am praying that this is the renaissance and resurrection of the action genre, what with Predators and a whole lot of other spin-off’s from the ’80s and ’90s making a comeback. Keep praying.