Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Expendables

The Expendables is a 2010 action film directed, written by and starring Sylvester Stallone. It's about an elite roup of mercenaries who are based in New Orleans and take on the kinds of jobs that other groups would turn down. It starts out with a nice action scene between The Expendables and some pirates. It's entertaining. After some character interaction between the leader of The Expendables, Barney Ross (Stallone) and his team, we move to a scene where, of all people Bruce Willis (Known in character as Mister Church) is hiring a mercenary group to fly down to a place in Central America or whereever and take out the local dictator. Then Arnold Schwazzenegger, playing an old friend/enemy/rival/friendly rival/it's not very well explaned of Stallone's characted turns the job down on the grounds that it's a suicide mission. This is all we see of them in the entire movie.
You heard me right. Bruce Willis's name is on the poster, he's listed on the DVD box, and he even makes an appearance on the poster, as you can see by looking to your left. So far there's not much story outside of some interactions between one of the team-members, Christmas, and his ex-girlfriends boyfriend.
We don't know who any of these people are, what they did before all this mess that pretends to be a cohesive plot, or even the background of Stallone's character. So far all I know is that they're essentially a discount version of the A-Team without the characters we all know and love. Speaking of which, where's A-Team 2? We've been waiting for it for four years now! And crap like this gets two sequels?! And makes back its budget almost three times over!
Well I guess that's my opinion of the movie given away in one sentence, but there's more review here, so I'd appreciate if you'd stick around for me to explain what I don't like about the movie.
So Ross and Christmas fly down to Vilena, the island that they're supposed to liberate to check out the situation and get the lay of the land. More action ensues and it's pretty cool. They lay out some pretty cool threads for a story, a story that gets laid to the side in favor of packing in as much action as possible into the ninety minutes that make this movie up. Granted that a ninety minute action movie can be good, Commando proved that. Unfortunately this isn't Commando.
Coming back to their base, the job having been declared completely unsafe even by their standards (But given that they utterly trounced the pirates at the beginning of the movie you start to wonder why) they begin looking into who hired them, and find out that Church and the guy pulling the strings of the dictator are both CIA agents and the guy down in Vilena went rogue.
Granted, there's no reason in the slightest as to why they couldn't just send an off-the-books team down to take him out themselves rather than hiring outside help that they'd need to kill or recruit later. Seriously, this is a major sticking point for me. There's zero reason for the CIA to do this! What's wrong here? Why did Church put out a hit on the guy instead of just using a black-ops wet-work team?
I hope this gets explained in the second movie, but I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't.
So Ross meets with friend/brother/it's not very well explained Tool to talk about the mission, and we get the first little hint of information into the background of The Expendables. Tool talks about how jaded to death he'd become to let a woman commit suicide when he could have stopped it and laments not having done so. This sends Ross out on some kind of redemption quest to go back, save the girl who showed them around the island and bring freedom to Vilena. Now, given about an hour longer with the character, maybe going on a few more missions to show us who he and the other members of The Expendables were before we get around to them risking their lives to save a character we know very little about. Given about an hours more worth of character development and action and we might have had a better movie at this point.
So anyways, a member of Ross's team that got thrown out at the beginning of the movie (After having given us no reason to care about his character) has been hired by the CIA to take The Expendables out. Again, why don't they just send in their own people on an off-the-books mission to take them out rather than a guy whom the have no reason to believe won't just betray them and help out the people they want dead. So anyways, Jet Li's character joins up with Stallone to go down to Vilena, and they get ambushed by Dolph Lundgren's character, Gunner Jensen, the man who got discharged from The Expendables at the beginning of the movie. A dying Jensen tells Ross about the layout of Garza's, the dictator of Vilena compund.
Afterwards, Ross and Li's character, Yin Yang (And I've heard Jet Li speak, the accent he puts on for the role of Yin Yang is horrible) board their plane to head for Vilena and find the rest of the team waiting for them. This would be awesome or touching or whatever they wanted it to be if they'd bothered to develop any of the characters.
So anyways, the movie starts showing how little effort got put into it at about this oint. There's some nice action throughout the raid on Vilena, but the special effects look like they were taken right out of Alien 3. There are some really cool fire effects, and a lot of nice looking ones, but they had some really fake looking ones in a couple of scenes. I've seen better FX out of the average AVGN episode. The blood effects are the worst offenders, because they are in abundance during the last few minutes of the movie. They all pretty much look like the kind of plastic CGI you'd see in a PlayStation era FMV. IE, really fake against a background of real people and sets. Aside from the horrible blood effects and some noticibly out of place poorly rendered fire. Granted, not all of the fire looks bad, but there's some really bad CGI fire in a few of the close-up explosions. You'll know it when you see it.
So while the movie has some really bad CGI, and some terrible storytelling, and a disappointing ending, it's got some nice action scenes. I wouldn't recommend it though. Not when there are better action movies out there. Stuff like The A-Team and Die Hard 5. Yes, I know Die Hard 5 was't as good as the original three, but it was a good return to form from Live Free, Die Hard.
Now, I actually kind of liked how the liberation of Vilena ended, without Ross and Sandra getting together. It breaks some cliches, but unfortunately has followed too many more.
All in all, it's not a good movie. I don't know why it got two sequels, although considering how bad this movie was it did have a lot of room to be improved. About an hour longer and it might have been a better movie. There wasn't enough time in the 90 minutes of the movie for it to pack in enough characterization the way it was paced.
So I suppose I'll give it a 3.9* rating. I didn't enjoy it as much as the hype expected me to, and it wasn't as good as The A-Team. I'll see you guys next week with Jack Reacher!