Monday, August 16, 2010

Remembering The 80s By Watching Men In Their 60s

I see The Expendables is creating a great deal of 80s nostalgia in certain circles, some to the point of fetishization. I'll admit it made me a bit nostalgic too. Though it uses some computerized special effects, this movie reminded me that, back in the 80s, no matter how bad the movie was, you had to show real people doing real things. You had to actually take your cast and crew someplace instead of filming the entire movie inside some guy's Macintosh. I was also reminded of the fact that the 1980s was the time that big studios stopped making smaller, quality films in favor of mindless blockbusters. I was also reminded that, with a few exceptions, most of those movies sucked and quite a few of the bad ones starred Sylvester Stallone.

Not only does The Expendables star Sylvester Stallone but he also wrote and directed it, a fact that becomes obvious when you hear the stupid dialogue. I've never understood how Stallone could be so good at writing and acting when it came to Rocky and so lousy when it came to writing and acting every other script and character. Stallone is very effective when playing stoic and solemn characters and very ineffective when called upon to do anything else. Luckily, Stallone had the wisdom to surround himself with decent actors like Jason Statham and Mickey Rourke. Hell, even Jet Li, a man to whom English is a second language, shows more acting range than Stallone.

Stallone plays Barney Ross, the stoic and solemn leader of a mercenary group called (cue "title achievement" music) the Expendables. He's also the only guy who has a real name. The only other one who comes close is Statham's Lee Christmas. Other members of the Expendables are Ying Yang (guess who played him), Gunner, Toll Road, Tool and Hale Caesar. The movie opens with the Expendables raiding a ship that has been taken by Somali pirates. These guys are the first example of a lesson the movie wants to teach us that is also a throwback to the 80s, that all the world's bad guys have various shades of dark skin. Later on we see Hispanic drug dealers and even the Caucasian Eric Roberts, who plays a corrupt former CIA agent, is deeply tanned. Anyway, the rescue is actually a fairly entertaining scene as the savage pirates refuse to acknowledge the fact that they're both surrounded and outgunned thus giving the mercenaries an excuse to shoot indiscriminately. Dolph Lundgren's Gunner, an out of control junkie, does what out of control junkies do and tries to hang one of the pirates even though they've been defeated. This causes his expulsion from the group, an action that surely won't lead to him cooperating with the group's enemies later on.

We move on to that scene that's been in the ads and trailers for months where Stallone meets with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis in a church. Arnie plays a rival mercenary and Willis is the guy who probably works for the CIA trying to decide which of these two he's going to hire to go down to some fictional Central American country and accomplish some sort of vague, nebulous goal. Thing about this is that, when this 5 minute scene ends, Bruce and Arnold are never seen again. Were I a cynical person, I'd suspect the movie's promoters of trying to fool people into thinking that they'd have much bigger roles than they did.

Anyway, they go down to this country, do some stuff, there are bullets and explosions galore and they're done. The end.

This isn't the worst movie you'll ever see. Like I said, with a few exceptions like a dumb scene where a nonexistent building blows up, much of what you see is old fashioned special effects and stunt work and that's a good thing. It's also a collection of dumb people doing dumb things in a way that, at best, is only mildly entertaining and that's not. Oh well, Stallone can get these guy back together in 20 years, make a movie using today's technology and methods and we can all talk about how 2010 was the Golden Age of Movies and that they just don't make movies like Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore anymore.

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