Sunday, August 15, 2010

THE EXPENDABLES (OR how I fell back in love with Slyvester Stallone)

WOW! That was really something.  In a week of superlatives, THE EXPENDABLES delivers on every promise and every expectation.  This movie left me feeling like I was 13 seeing Tango & Cash, Red Heat, Cobra, Commando, Die Hard, etc. for the first time.

The crux of this review is this: GO SEE THIS MOVIE.

The premise, as if it even matters, is this: The Expendables opens with a team of six mercenary soldiers, out on a mission.  The opening roster of expendables includes Sly Stallone as Barney Ross, Jason Statham as Lee Christmas, Jet Li as Ying Yang, Dolph Lundgren as Gunner Jensen, Randy Couture as Toll Road, and Terry Crews as Hale Ceasar.

Toll Road...Ying Yang...I even love the nicknames!! 

This band of brothers is introduced to us in the midst of a mission and they are a mean bunch of mo-fos.  When they are back in the states, we get a few bits and pieces of character development, only to be back within a few minutes, on task and setting up the next job.

This is the MAJOR SPOILED SCENE from the trailer.  I don't even want to repeat it here, but two MAJOR STARS are in the meet scene when the next job for our heroes is being laid out.  What a stupendous BONEHEAD move by the marketing department.  If you have seen the trailer, you probably know what I mean.  At least they didn't spoil the big gag of the scene....the joke in that scene almost made me forgive the original reveal.

Sly is our guy for this big gig down in South America where a former CIA agent is running the drug market through a dictator General, played by David Zayas (my guy Batista from DEXTER as well).  His heavy is a guy named, Paine, rocked out by STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN.  The former CIA slime-ball is James Munroe, played by ERIC ROBERTS. 

For those of you who don't know, Eric is the elder brother to JULIA ROBERTS and father to the young and lovely EMMA ROBERTS.  To that end, this is looking like a sibling rivalry death match this week, with The Expendables opening opposite of EAT, PRAY, LOVE.

I will not be seeing Eat, Pray, Love.  It is not because I am adverse to chick flicks, but instead because I am just not a huge Julia Roberts fan.  With wife and child and my ability to attend a limited number of flicks a year, I will hold out on Eat, Pray, Love for the home video option.

(Also...sidenote...check out Eric Roberts in The Best of the Best's a classic movie!)

The inside-man helping out our Expendables is actually an inside-woman.  It is Sandra, played by Giselle Itie, and she is the General's daughter.  He has loyalty to family and he lets her continue to live and be the monkey wrench in his operation, even though it costs him so much.  Munroe and Paine are not too happy about this and we end up with a three way conflict between the CIA heavies, the General and his army, and our heroes...THE EXPENDABLES.

There were a few moments at the beginning I thought there was going to be too much talkie and not enough rockie...I was wrong.  Yes, there were a few talkity moments, but really these did in fact help with character development.  What would a movie be without a little backstory?  Not much of a movie at all!

There are two main highlights that set this movie apart from other similar flicks, and neither have to do with the exceptional cast.

1. THE FIGHT SCENES: the fight scenes are well choreographed and play on the strength of whoever might be fighting at that moment.  Stone Cold and Randy Couture both rock the body.  Up close and personal and wrestling/MMA style moves abound and the battle between these two in particular was very anticipated.  My favorite, though, was Jet Li.  It is a true thing of beauty to see him fight.  Tight choreography makes these fights smooth like a ballet and these guys are Swan Laking their asses off!  Perhaps the best thing about these fights is that they are easy to follow and enjoy.  In The A-Team, the fights would have been great, except the close-confine combat was filmed in tight, close-up perspective.  The A-Team gave us unintelligible battles, which had potential and were just okay to watch, but were ultimately a let down.  The Expendables was shot masterfully.  From the hand-to-hand to the gun play, each scene was shot in a very watchable manner, with appropriate use of the extreme close-up as opposed to reliance on it.  The difference shows on the screen.

2. THE WEAPONS: some of the weapons used felt a bit unreal, but they were "realistically unrealistic".  Big guns lead to big kills and they are glorious.  My favorites in the flick are Gunner's at the opening battle and  then Hale's in the epic end fight.  They are the kind of weapons that make a action-movie aficionado  drool...they are characters in their own right and each appearance drew both laugh at the ridiculousness and magnanimity of it all.

This movie is a 50/50 flick.  The first 50% is set-up.  A few action sets with a bunch of character and plot development.   Their stories are funny and touching.  Mickey Rourke plays TOOL, their tattoo guy and former member of the team that Barney and he were a part of.  Rourke's monologue is both moving in content and delivered to perfection. 

Tool is our link to the realistic world.  When they are stateside, minus a few fights that follow these action-magnets around, the U.S. based part of this story is all about facts we need to be more invested in the story.  But, once we hit that foreign soil, let the imaginative fight scenes begin!

Like the weapons, the sea-plane used by the team is a character of its own.  Redecorated to keep the auspices of a legitimate reason for being there.  This plane is bad ass and is equipped with a nose tip high speed machine gun, of what looks like high-powered .50 caliber.

I can't emphasize enough how visceral and graphic these action scenes are.  I actually would say that I would like to have seen this in AMC's new ETX system.  They are hyping it as the next best thing for audiophiles.  I reviewed it a few posts ago, and while I didn't enjoy the movie, I have held my jury out on ETX and maybe this would have been a great test of that supposed stellar sound system?

Ah, this is strictly academic as AMC Barrywoods is only showing The Other Guys at the ETX, so maybe I can get an idea for its functionality at something I like, sometime in the near future.

My rating, 5 of 5 HORNS from the REEL RHINO.  This is was a perfectly executed entry into the action fare.  Sly still has it in a big way.  He impressed us recently directing the better-than-expected Rambo and looking back through history, remember, he is an Oscar nominated writer (ROCKY).  He has given us some bombs through the years, but I think he has learned from the past and we have a Eastwood-esque "getting a little up in the years" run that is happening.  Keep it up Sly.

I think that is all for now.  My dreams of Scott Pilgrim have been fulfilled.  The Expendables have upped this to one of my favorite movie weekends of all time .  Even if I did like Julia Roberts, I think I would avoid Eat, Pray, Love anyways, just to keep the weekend perfect.

Up next for me may be The Girl Who Played With Fire, depending on how the week goes.  Whatever it is, you know I'll be Johnny-on-the-Spot with the review so you can make well-informed movie choices. 

The critics are geniuses of all things, I'm just a guy who loves movies.  Who are you going to trust?  I'm an everyman movie-goer and I am self-admittedly easily entertained.  If you like what I have to say, great.  If not, let me know.  Perhaps the only thing nearly as enjoyable as going to the movies, is writing and talking about them.

Till later, take care...

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