The Expendables cast list reads like an action-film afficionado’s wet dream. You have Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mickey Rourke, Dolph Lundgren, and… umm… Terry Crews. Sorry Terry Crews, but you’re not an action star.
But he does make for a fine president
Unfortunately, that cast doesn’t get nearly as much action as the trailers would have you believe. Willis and Ah-nold have a brief cameo, which is cool, but you can’t put their names in the trailer for a 1 minute scene. The Rundown didn’t advertise itself as a Schwarzenegger flick, despite having him appear for almost as long. Mickey Rourke also gets no action scenes and he gets to cry on camera. At least Mickey Rourke is a damn good actor, so his scenes actually work. Hell, his best role (The Wrestler) is full of crying. Those are tears of action.
Jet Li gets it worst though. In real life, Jet Li is a badass. Before he started making movies, he was one of China’s most decorated martial artists, winning 15 gold medals in China’s wushu championships. He was even asked by Richard Nixon to be his personal bodyguard. And if there’s any man’s opinion you can trust, it’s Richard Nixon. Despite all this, in The Expendables, Jet Li… kinda sucks. He doesn’t win any fight he’s in unless he’s fighting a faceless mook. Sure, two of his losses are to Dolph Lundgren, but damn, the dude needs some more respect. (For the record Dolph Lundgren is also a famed martial artist, winning the European karate championships two years in a row. He also served in Sweden’s Amphibious Ranger Unit and has a Masters Degree in chemical engineering.)
He’s just plain better than you
But besides those few exceptions, the rest of the cast gets great action scenes, right? Well…. kinda. There are action scenes and they are in them, but I don’t know if I’d call them great. You see, every action scene is filmed with a ludicrous amount of shakey cam. Maybe this was done to help hide the fact that all the stars belong in a nursing home, but it is very distracting. Call me crazy, but I like to actually see what’s going on in my action movies. Watching this film is like trying to watch a night-time brawl being lit only by a strobe light, while riding a tilt-a-whirl.
So the actions’s not that great, the plot is disposable… what’s good? Not much. It’s not a bad film, it’s just not very good. It’s cool to see so much bad-assness on the screen at once, but it just feels like wasted potential. A sequel is rumored to be in production for 2012, so here’s my advice to the film-makers:
-Give every cast member one decent fight scene
-Forget the story elements entirely
-Buy a goddamn tripod
Final verdict: The Expendables wasn’t even the best “high-testosterone” movie of 2010. That distinction belongs to Machete. See that instead.