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The Expendables Is Great At Being Terrible

by Dan Ryckert on Aug 13, 2010 at 10:00 AM

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***There are Expendables spoilers in this article. If you're the type of person that's worried about getting a few parts from a gleefully dumb action movie spoiled for you, don't read it. If you (understandably) don't care about getting "plot" points of this testosterone-fest spoiled, read on***

There's a reason I review video games and not movies. I've played virtually everything I could get my hands on ever since I was 4, and fantastic games like Bioshock, Metal Gear Solid, Oblivion, God of War, and Zelda are all amongst my favorites. On the movie side of the fence, my history is a bit different. Basically, I just watched any movie with Schwarzenegger, explosions, or fart/d*ck jokes, and my favorites list includes Commando, Big Trouble In Little China, The Rock, Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky, and Rocky IV. There are a few genuinely great movies that I love (One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, The Departed, There Will Be Blood), but it's mostly just **** blowing up.

Because of my particular taste in movies, it should come as no surprise that I've been ridiculously excited for The Expendables ever since it was in pre-production. After all, it assembled the greatest action cast of all-time, with the only obvious absences being Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme (both of which declined roles, assuredly just to be d***s). I saw it at a midnight screening last night, six-pack fittingly in tow. As I watched it, I had the idea of writing a blog post that went over the good and bad points of Stallone's newest project. However, I realized that the line between good and bad is really blurred here, because most people will go see it wanting it to be bad. Therefore, I'll avoid any subjective formatting and just point out a bunch of crap about this movie.

The cast is as amazing as advertised

Just look at the stars in that picture (and ignore whatever the hell is going on with Bruce's face). From left-to-right, you have the greatest sports entertainer of all-time, an MMA legend, a chemical engineer/marine ranger/third-degree black belt who also happens to be Ivan Drago, a martial arts icon, Rocky/Rambo, that dude from Snatch, the crazy guy that kicks over buildings in Old Spice ads, Hollywood's resident weirdo, and JOHN McCLANE. It also features a cameo by the single greatest action star in history, but we'll get to that part later. It really is genuinely cool to see so many legends sharing screen time, and you know these dudes had to have a fantastic time making such a gloriously dumb action movie together.

Ivan Drago shoots a dude's torso off in the first five minutes

Stallone proved with the (awesome) 2008 Rambo movie that he's not against getting gory as all hell in his old age. This time around, he makes that perfectly clear within the first five minutes. As a bunch of pirates hold hostages, Dolph Lundgren fires the opening shot, blowing the hostage-taker's entire torso off. It happens quick, but it almost makes it look like the shot kept both torso pieces intact. What was he using, the Line Gun from Dead Space?

The Old Spice dude has a crazy automatic shotgun

The role of Hale Caesar was originally written for Wesley Snipes, but was changed to fit Forest Whitaker and later, 50 Cent. For some reason, none of those men could appear in the movie so Sly went with Terry Crews, the former NFL star who's best known for playing the "big scary guy" in every movie by the Wayans brothers. Recently, he starred in numerous Old Spice ads, but not as the smooth "Hello, ladies" guy. No, he was the dude who was always shrieking, punching things, kicking buildings in half, growing biceps out of his biceps, and somehow summoning a second sun. In The Expendables, he easily has the best weapon of the whole crew. His automatic shotgun makes its debut in a scene that sees him casually walking through a dungeon-like hallway as he murders untold amounts of bad guys. During the climax, we learn that this sweet piece of weaponry also has the ability to make watchtowers explode for some *** reason.

Arnold's scene is brief, but it's pretty d*mn good

Any self-respecting action fan recognizes Schwarzenegger as the king of the genre, and for good reason. Between genuine classics like Predator and Terminator 2 and knowingly-dumb (but awesome) films like The Running Man and Commando, no one touches Arnie's resume. His appearance in The Expendables is limited to one scene because he's busy doing some other crap apparently, and a good chunk of it is in the trailer. Despite this, it really is cool seeing the legend on the big screen for the first time since 2004. He isn't doing anything particularly notable, but just seeing him share screen time with Bruce Willis and Sly Stallone is a great treat for fans of the genre.

Mickey Rourke is useless

Early in the movie, we're introduced to Mickey Rourke's Harley-riding, skank-banging, tattoo artist character. You'd think he's supposed to be a pretty big character in the movie, but he's far from it. His character (named Tool, just like the equally useless band) is onscreen for all of five minutes throughout the entire movie. His second scene is laughable, as his throwaway character gives a teary monologue that we're supposed to care about for some reason. Bruce Willis has an equally minor role in terms of screen time, but he at least serves some function in the movie's plot.

The soundtrack is 50% Creedence Clearwater Revival, 25% Thin Lizzy, and 25% Mountain

I feel that every movie's soundtrack should be 100% Creedence. I don't care if it's the Lord of the Rings trilogy, give me some "Ramble Tamble" or "Tombstone Shadow" over that orchestrated crap any day of the week. While The Expendables gets my perfect soundtrack half right with two CCR tracks, they do a pretty d*mn good job with the other two as well. Thin Lizzy is always a good choice, and Mountain's "Mississippi Queen" functions just fine as well.

Apollo's death is (almost) fully avenged

Rocky IV featured what is undoubtedly the most tragic scene in the history of motion pictures. Of course, I'm referring to Apollo Creed's death at the hands of Ivan Drago. There's a scene halfway through the movie in which Stallone shoots Lundgren down, and in my mind I imagined that they were in the roles of Rocky and Drago, many years later. It made the scene a lot better for me, almost therapeutic even. However, it turns out that not only did Sly not kill Dolph, but they wind up hanging out at a bar at the end drinking beers. What the hell? While I'm on the Apollo thing, why wasn't Carl Weathers called up to be in The Expendables? My guess is he had a stew goin' on elsewhere.

There are ZERO Stone Cold Stunners in this movie

Unforgivable. You've got the Bionic Redneck, a.k.a. the Texas Rattlesnake, a.k.a. the World's Toughest SOB, Stone Cold Steve Austin in the cast, and you don't let him give anyone a Stunner?!? I feel like I need to write my congressman over this travesty. Then again, we know that Austin broke Stallone's neck during filming, so I'll go ahead and assume it was with his awesome finishing move. DVD bonus scene, please?

The name of Jet Li's character is Yin Yang

That's all I have to say about this one.

In the end, The Expendables is a movie that knows exactly what it is, and it definitely knows its audience. Is it any good? That depends on what "good" is for you. In terms of being an actually good movie, it fails miserably. Most of the plot is incomprehensible, and the little that makes sense is generic as all hell. However, if you go in the right way by expecting a big, dumb, loud action movie, it certainly succeeds. It's violent, unrealistic, and altogether absurd, but it's a fun ride and a great throwback for fans of the genre.