Monday, July 30, 2012

Is The Expendables The Ultimate “Guy Movie?” Depends On Who The “Guys” Are . . .

The Good: It’s always nice to see Charisma Carpenter getting work . . ., Well-assembled violence
The Bad: Pointless, Light on character, Lots of mumbled lines, Overbearing rock soundtrack (when it is present).
The Basics: Opening myself up to a testosterone-filled action flick, I still find myself pretty unimpressed with The Expendables.

I try to keep my horizons open. I’m not so keen on only watching and reviewing movies that are well within my comfort zone. So, figuring I might get the opportunity to check out an advanced screening of The Expendables 2, I figured I should check out The Expendables. I had actually seen no previews for The Expendables, but its beefy, mostly male cast was not one that especially appealed to me.

The biggest, most pleasant surprise for me, came in the first few minutes of the film. During the opening credits, the name Charisma Carpenter came up and that made me happy. Carpenter was one of the bright spots of the television series Angel (reviewed here!) and as far as I am concerned it’s always nice to see her getting work. Given she was only in about four minutes of The Expendables, it was not enough to save the film.

Following a mission to rescue hostages from a group of Somali pirates, Lee Christmas returns to his woman to discover she is with another guy. Barney Ross, the leader of the suicide squad known as the Expendables, gets a series of jobs and he opts for the most difficult one, which is mission to the Gulf island of Vilena. Assigned (and threatened) by “Mr. Church,” Ross and Christmas scout the island to see if it is worth committing his team to the mission. There they witness the local gangster with his own private army roughing up the locals.

After a narrow escape, Ross decides to take the mission, which seems to be to stop the American coke grower, James Munroe and his private army. But Ross and his team are going up against one of their own; Gunnar, who wigged out during the Somalia mission gives Munroe intel on the members of Ross’s team. The plot is a thin excuse to blow things up, shoot people apart and whack a lot of people in hand to hand combat.

The Expendables is not exactly full of great dialogue. Much of the most intelligible dialogue are good ole’ boy verbal jabs between members of the team. Most of the dialogue is growled out or mumbled through. Some of the most clear lines have little or nothing to do with the rest of the film, like Yin Yang complaining he needs more money for a family no one in the group knew he had or another member complaining about his ears.

There is very little character in The Expendables, but it’s not That Type Of Film. While Ross spends the first portion of the film counseling Christmas on how to move past Lacy and the leader of the the villains – Munroe – gets schooled by his puppet general in the importance of allowing him to keep his dignity (at least in front of the men), much of the philosophy is rapidly sublimated to long action sequences with gun battles, growling and hand-to-hand combat.

The character front is actually filled out better on the villain front. Munroe is smart and vicious and he’s basically thrilled to be a warlord of his own little island. He seems to understand how to command using brutality and that makes sense given that he is supposed to be former CIA. Roberts, as always, is articulate and efficient, his character seems reasonably in control for most of the film.

On the plus side, for a film so full of testosterone, it is surprisingly not misogynistic. Christmas beats the hell out of Lacy’s boyfriend when he gives her a shiner. And despite gawking at their contact on the island, Ross and Christmas don’t just dive for her for cheap and obvious sex. While the torture of General Garza’s daughter Sandra might seem misogynistic, there is ample evidence that the meatheads abusing her have absolutely no regard for life, male or female, and their willingness to torment her has nothing to do with the fact that she is a woman.

Ultimately, The Expendables is what one might expect, a Mission: Impossible where subtlety and technology is replaced with brute force and big honkin’ weaponry. The movie might appeal to big, manly men who might wish to have the unfettered ability to kick some ass, but for those looking for a sensible, well-assembled film, The Expendables will only leave them wanting.

For other works with Eric Roberts, check out my reviews of:
The Dark Knight


For other film reviews, be sure to visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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