I absolutely love the 80s. While I WAS born in the 90s (91 to be exact), I've always loved the music, the fashion, the television and most importantly the movies of the 80s. One genre of 80s film has always stuck out to me though: action. Whether it was Stallone with Rambo, Arnold Schwarzenegger with Predator, Commando or Terminator, or Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal with their mass amounts of films I've always loved 80s action films. They are loud, violent, and don't really NEED a plot or great, memorable characters to make you want to watch. They had shit blowing up, people getting shot and stabbed and they looked cool doing it.
That genre has evolved since the 80s but the old standards have still kept at it, despite their aging. But everybody hits their prime eventually and even the greats slow down. Stallone only did movies he directed and wrote, JCVD disappeared for the most part, Seagal did direct-to-video films while balancing police work, and Arnold turned to politics. Despite the best slowing down, the genre did not die though. New actors like Gerard Butler, Jason Statham, and Jet Li appeared and took over the genre. But the problem with these new guys is that they lacked that charisma, that wit, that caveman-esque brutality that the old guys had. On top of that all of these new films had a thing called a "plot" and "characters" which only brought down the movies and made you laugh for the wrong reason.
So with plot and dialogue holding down these potentially great action films, the genre became nothing more than a walking joke or CGI heavy summer blockbusters that sucked. When robots have become more popular than humans than we have a problem. That and male actors became prettier, more sensitive, and caring. We got more Pattinson's, Lautner's, Cooper's, and Reynolds. Granted the last two are good actors but do they really strike you as action superstars? Where are their scars, their grit, their mumbles and their bruises? Romantic comedies also became more popular and better selling than action films so the classic action that I grew up with had died or at least shriveled up.
But then Stallone released Rambo 4. That had grit, ultra-violence, one liners and explosions. Critics complained it lacked depth and character development but to me it was great to see not only Stallone kicking ass again, but this classic 80s genre of action film come back. It made me think that maybe the genre wasn't dead but could live again...IF we got these classic guys all back together again and put them in a movie that had little substance but plenty of action...a typical 80s action flick basically.
And now here is the Expendables, the answer to my prayers. It collects great action heroes from the past and present like Stallone, Statham, Li, Crews, Couture, Austin, Lundgren, Rourke, Schwarzenegger and Willis all in the same movie. The last two are only in it for about 5-6 minutes but seeing Schwarzenegger act period is always a joy. He could walk on, say "(Yawl) I am Arnold Schwarzenegger, where's my check?" and leave and I would be happy. My only gripe is they didn't get Van Damme, Seagal and Snipes but two of them are busy and one's in jail. Otherwise the casting is perfect for this film and they all do their roles amazing. It's what you'd expect. One liners and plenty of grunting mixed with some banter. If you've seen ANY 80s action film than it's THAT kind of acting to a tee.
The plot is just there to make things move along. The Expendables, a group of mercenaries for hire, is hired by Church (Willis), a CIA operative, to take out a former CIA operative (Eric Roberts), who is controlling a Spanish dictator (David Zayas) and wreaking havoc on a small island. They meet their contact Sandra, daughter of said dictator, who wants to stop the operative and his father from wreaking more havoc and they agree to do it. They don't agree at first because it's basically five guys against an army, a dictator, a former Expendable (Dolph Lundgren) the operative and his lackeys, but Sandra's resilience and dedication to the cause inspires the leader (Stallone) to change his mind and accept the job.
That's really the extent of it. And all of that is put into the first hour or so. The last 40 or so minutes is pretty much just shooting, stabbing and explosions.
Despite all my praise about the casting, the action and the acting, the film DOES have a lot of problems. Most of that stems from it BEING an 80's ACTION FILM. The plot is thin and full of cheesy one liners that could be groan worthy for some. All the characters besides Stallone and Statham are basically just there and in fact I don't even know Crews or Couture's names in the film.
On top of that there is a throwaway romance subplot with Statham that pretty much culminates with "I like you." "You are too mysterious and I met someone." (A WEEK LATER) "He hit me." "Crikey! (GUY GETS SHIT BEAT OUT OF HIM)" "I love you." That's the entire subplot. After that beat-em-up scene you never see her again. The villains are also just there. They aren't special, they aren't developed and there's no final boss fight. It's pretty much just "Boom. Let's go."
But honestly all of these problems are things we saw in all 80s action films. The plots were thin, the characters besides the main ones were undeveloped, there were throwaway subplots and the villains in some of them were just there to serve no purpose other than to be there. I mean there WERE exceptions, as there is to every rule, but what I expected going into this film is what I got.
- Do you like action/explosions/gunplay/knife fights?
- Do you like cheesy one liners?
- Do you like Commando/Predator/Strike Commando or other 80s action movies?
- Do you like these actors?
If you answered yes to all of these questions than this will be one of the best movies of the year for you. For me it's a great throwback to a mostly forgotten genre with some of my favorites gathering together on the big screen and blowing shit up. A fun popcorn film and a definition summer blockbuster.
MY VERDICT: OWN IT