Film Review: The Expendables (Dir. by Sylvester Stallone)


I know that I really should have hated The Expendables.  For one thing, it’s a very, traditional, let’s-blow-up-Eric-Roberts-and-save-the-damsel-in-distress action film.  Storywise — well, there really isn’t a story beyond a bunch of inarticulate, muscle-bound men blowing shit up.  The Expendables is perhaps the most hyper-masculine film since Avatar, the type of movie that was obviously not made with anyone possessing a brain or a vagina in mind. 

In short, the Expendables is the type of mainstream, action movie that — based on everything I’ve ever written on this site — I should have hated.  But you know what?  I didn’t hate it.  I’m not saying that I loved the movie (because I certainly did not) but on the whole, The Expendables is a fun movie and sometimes, that’s more than enough.

The Expendables are a group of mercenaries, led by Sylvester Stallone and Jason Stathan.  They are, of course, the best at what they do.  They must be as their existence is apparently a well-kept secret despite the fact that they all have prominent Expendables tattoos and all they drive motorcycles covered with colorful Expendable decals.  So, the question is — can you accept the fact that the movie tells us the Expendables are a secret even though they clearly would never be able to pull that off in real life?  If the answer is yes, read on.  And if the answer is no, please don’t ever talk to me because you probably lack a proper appreciation for the absurd.

Anyway, The Expendables are hired by Mr. Church.  Mr. Church is played by Bruce Willis who, in his very short scene, manages to chew up more scenery than a termite in heat.  (That’s a lot of scenery.)  Mr. Church wants the Expendables to go to a poor, island nation and overthrow the military dictator.  Or something like that.  To be honest, I never really figured out what the exact mission was other than it involved blowing a lot of shit up. 

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention that Eric Roberts is on the island too.  He’s a bad guy.  You know he’s a bad guy because he’s always stopping the action to tauntingly explain his evil plans.  (It also helps that he’s played by Eric Roberts.)  Roberts is a bit of let down as a villain and its hard not to feel that his performance was basically made up of deleted scenes from The Dark Knight.  Then again, in Roberts’ defense, he’s having to compete with memories of Jason Patric playing a similar character in The Losers.

If Roberts’ villain is disappointing, the Expendables themselves are played well enough.  While Sylvester Stallone is hardly a great actor, he knows how to play an action hero and he brings just the right mix of self-aware parody and self-righteous fury to his role.  His second-in-command is played by Jason Stathan who displays something resembling charisma for the 1st time in his odd film career.  The other Expendables don’t get much to do beyond deliver a few quirky lines of dialogue and blow stuff up.  One of them is played by Jet Li who dominates his few scenes even though he doesn’t really get to do much.  Another Expendable is played by the Old Spice Guy who, according to Wikipedia, is actually a pro-athlete named Terry Crews.  However, all of the Expendables appear to enjoy hanging out together.  You get the feeling that they had a good time making this movie and, as a result, you feel almost guilty for worrying about stuff like logic or ambiguity.

The main selling point of The Expendables is that it apparently features every single action star in existence.  Even Arnold Schwarzenegger gets to make a largely pointless cameo and deliver the film’s worst one liners while, in real life, the state he’s supposed to be running descends further and further into financial doom.  While I recognized Stallone, Stathan, Willis, Roberts, Mickey Rourke, and Jet Li, apparently everyone else in the cast used to be someone at some point as well.  Luckily, I saw this movie with my friend Jeff who got very excited as he explained to me who everyone was and why their presence on-screen was making all the men in the audience so positively giddy.  To be honest, I think I probably actually understood a little less than a fourth of the information that Jeff provided me with but he was so incredibly cute trying to explain it all.

(I imagine I probably gave him the same look that he gave me when I attempted to explain Sex and the City 2 to him.)

As I explained at the start of this review, the Expendables is not, technically, a good film but it is a lot of fun.  As opposed to the Avatars of the world, the Expendables is a movie that is at peace with what it is.  There’s no attempt to try to fool the audience into thinking that they’re seeing a work of art.  There’s something to be said for that type of honesty, especially when you consider that we’re approaching that time in the film season when every movie is going to be marketed as a sure-fire Oscar contender.

And if the film is a hyperactive overload of testosterone — well, it is what it is.  After sitting through hundreds of films based on books by Nicholas Sparks, all featuring Miley Cyrus, Emma Roberts, or Amanda Seyfried haunting the beach all to win the love of some sensitive lifeguard eunuch, there’s something undeniably appealing about watching a bunch of guys acting like guys.  Zac Efron might have the heart and soul of poet but can he blow shit up?

Song of the Day: Control the Divine (by Blind Guardian)


Latest song of the day once again comes courtesy from the German power metal lads of Blind Guardian. This time around the song chosen comes from their latest album which has already seen a European release and set to drop in North America in August 24, 2010. The song I’ve picked from their latest album, “At the Edge of Time”, is the seventh track: “Control the Divine”.

This latest album’s sound harkens back to Blind Guardian’s seventh full-length album, “A Night at the Opera”, which brought the band into the realm of epic power metal and some progressive rock elements which showed the band willing to experiment with their sound to come up with some new hybrid style. “Control the Divine” definitely combines the epic power and proggy sounds evident in ANATO. While it doesn’t have the old-school speed metal riffs of “Tanelorn (Into the Void)” (second track in the new album), the mid-tempo of “Control the Divine” remains consistent throughout the song from André’s lead guitar to Ehmke’s drumming. But it’s the singing of lead vocalist Hansi Kürsch which makes this song my overall favorite in the album.

Kürsch has a distinct singing voice and with his penchant for overdubbing his vocals to create Blind Guardian’s epic sound of having a “huge chorus” singing along (there’s not just Hansi) definitely fits in well with the song’s lyrics. Lyrics which tells within a span of 5mins and 25secs John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost. The song tells of Lucifer’s downfall, to the rebellion in Heaven against God, and right up to the Lord of the Morningstar’s bitter brooding and vow to destroy God’s chosen (humans). That sounds  quite a lot to put into a song which is just under five-and-a-half minutes long, but Blind Guardian accomplished it.

Oh yeah, this song also has a very kick-ass melody.

Control the Divine

For what I was
I’m doomed to be
The tempter and the secret foe
Cause I am hell and hell is me
Pure hate will grow

Still I claim to be the chosen one and
Still I claim
This is rebellion rising

[Bridge 1]
First amongst equals
We’re bound to no law
There’s no one before us
Ethereal sons
Now disobey
Awake and arise
You’ll be free

[Chorus]
How can we take it away
From someone who has no right?
No right to control the divine
Night shall invade
Suspicion awakes
Wherefore He’s greater than I

[Lead: Andre]

Stay silent
Until the end of the world
So just like slaves we may deem him
Dead silence
Until the end of the world
Hence from this moment we’re doomed
I feel
It hurts though
Disburdened spirits we will be
I’ve learned my lesson
Pure and sore
An offer divine

We’re far beneath them
They consider us slaves
They steal our pride
Don’t trust them blindly
Cause truth they conceal
As it seems
I’ll reign
Cause here in my tower
Impassioned, I’ll show you a way

[Bridge 2]
I can feel your hallowed rage
Now enter my realm
Awake and arise, you’ll be free

[Chorus]
How can we take it away
From someone who has no right?
No right to control the divine
Night shall invade
Suspicion awakes
Wherefore He’s greater than I

[Solo: Andre]

[Bridge 3]
Descend – just keep moving
All things shall proceed
It’s freedom you’re choosing
Preserve our hate
Eternalize
Awake and arise
You’ll be free

[Chorus]
How can we take it away
From someone who has no right?
No right to control the divine
Night shall invade
Suspicion awakes
Wherefore He’s greater than I
How can we take it away
From someone who has no right?
No right to control the divine
Night shall invade
Suspicion awakes
Wherefore He’s greater than I