The Expendables (R)
Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Hollywood Interquest, Tinseltown
In the last minutes of The Expendables, someone gets shot in the chest and knifed in the back, and an entire island is nearly blown to bits. But were you expecting moderation from triple-not-really-a-threat Sylvester Stallone, who directed, wrote and stars in the film along with a gaggle of other fading sorta-action heroes? I mean, come on, Steve Austin and Randy Couture? Eric Roberts? Dolph Lundgren?!?
A more proper name for this ensemble would have been The Meatheaded Geriatrics. Jet Li and Jason Statham are the exceptions. (And, on a side note, Mr. Transporter, it's nice to see you smile.) There's even Mickey Rourke, playing someone who's good with blades but is relegated to throwing them at dart boards in his tattoo shop and telling a sad, out-of-nowhere story about the old days and the things that have sucked out "what was left of [his] soul."
Perhaps Rourke's soulless character is metaphor for the big, loud, dumb film itself. As for the plot, co-typed by David Callaham, the mayhem begins with a hostage situation ... somewhere ... that our mercenaries quickly correct. (An eerie opening shot of a full moon suggests that werewolves are en route, but, alas, no.)
Then there's the dictator (David Zayas) of a South American island, his daughter Sandra (Giselle Itié), a nonspecific villain (Roberts), and the Expendables themselves (Stallone, Statham, Li, Couture, Terry Crews and sometimes Lundgren), who are allegedly the good guys. But the details don't matter. "Why are you here?" Sandra asks Stallone's Barney Ross in the midst of some major Looney Tunes violence. (CGI helps blood splatter and body parts fly across the room.) "I just am," he answers. Yep.
Instead, what's important is that shit gets destroyed while these 40ish to 64-year-olds (Statham's the youngest at nearly 38; Stallone's the granddaddy) show off how ripped they are. It is, admittedly, fun at first. You don't expect that first torso to get torpedoed into a wall after a "warning shot," for instance. And an early pummelling of the no-good island by Lee Christmas (Statham), who's orchestrating the destruction while hanging out of an airplane, is gleefully excessive.
One other ridiculous stunt will have you shaking your head in disbelief: Ross runs after that same plane as it's taking off, leaping and grabbing onto its door, vertical as he battles G-forces to pull himself inside. Perhaps the cast member's ages restrict most of the remaining acrobatics to running around and letting the very large weapons do the dirty work.
There's even intentional and relatively well-written humor, especially in a scene featuring two cameos, both of which are ruined by the trailer but won't be ruined here. Christmas gets a text during the hostage shakedown. Lundgren's Gunner, perpetually looking dumb as an ox, whines when Ross keeps him from excessive force: "But it's good to hang pirates!" Rourke's Tool (yes, that's his name) offers to tattoo a spider web, complete with a pregnant Charlotte, on Christmas' bald head, leading to that big moment when Statham actually laughs.
But after repeated taunts to "Bring it!", increasing evidence of a barely-there story, and a war's worth of bullets and fireballs, The Expendables gets pretty tiresome. When it's finally reduced to Boom! Boom! Boom! Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang! "[One liner and/or heartfelt exchange]," you'll still be laughing, but for the wrong reasons.
The striking colors and textures are reminiscent of Southern Colorado and New Mexico. Lovely work.