So, after attacking How I Met Your Mother's writers yesterday for failing to understand their fanbase, what could I possibly hold up as an example of writers and filmmakers knowing their audience? Actually? Expendables 3. I might be a David Lynch fan. I might really enjoy every film Danny Boyle releases. I might occasionally be in the mood for the mind-trippery of Cronenburg and Gilliams.
But more often than not? I want a classic 80s action movie with guys with big muscles, big guns, big explosions, and if I could chose a way to die, drowning in these overly cheesey one-liners would probably be my way to go.
"Are there legions of middle-aged weightlifting nuts out there who yearn for the good old days of Chuck Norris mowing down foreign Johnnies with an uzi 9mm?" — TOM HUDDLESTON (Rotten Tomatoes)
The obvious answer to this review is ... yes. I'm sure. There's a fanbase for anything and everything. Just because I had to be either dragged kicking and screaming or seriously drugged to go see Transformers 2 & 3 in theaters doesn't mean most of my friends weren't ready to kick doors down to see them, and just because I might look down on Dark Knight as ponderously bad storytelling structure and characterization (I'm convinced Joker was saved by Heath Ledger more than the writing), but, to quote the Nostalgia Critic, "... just because I can't understand why, doesn't mean I can't see how," someone likes something.
So here I am, a twenty-two year old Vegas rat who's studying theatre at a school that is 78% LDS, and this movie delivered exactly what I wanted and what it promised in the trailers. I wanted aged actors who're still more intimidating than Tom Cruise has ever been in any of his forrays in the Mission Impossible Jizzbuckets, I wanted a preference to practical effects over CGI, I wanted lots of explosions, and I wanted, as previously mentioned, to drown in cheesy one-liners.
Just because I worship at the altar of Shakespeare doesn't mean I don't enjoy a f***ing Big Mac on occasion.
(Also, in Tom Huddleston's full review he uses the word 'loquacious', which means talkative to describe Antonio Banderas' character. All I have to say to that is, 'Cram it up your ass, sir, and fuck yourself with it like a Pogo-Stick you pretentious sack of shit.')
"While there is perhaps too much repetition and exposition it is a film that resolutely delivers exactly what its hard-core fan-base is after." — Mark Adams (Rotten Tomatoes)
As I said, Shakespeare this is not, but as much as the pacing suffers, I still can't bring myself to admit, I wasn't having a great time. Again and again, the movie was what I wanted. I think the reason I don't hold The Expendables to the lofty heights of other movies is ... it's not trying to be something great. Here me out.
When Sly went to work on this story, do you think he was considering socio-politcal ramifications? Or heartpounding character drama? What about moral, ethical, and philosophical ponderings? Fuck no, he wanted to tell a story where one set of old dudes shoots up another set of young dudes and things go Boom. And for that? It's exactly as promised. The writing wasn't full of holes as far as I noticed. It was silly and over the top, but I felt like it naturally progressed from one set piece to another, and damned if these actors aren't having a lot of fun with their roles (especially Snipes, Gibson, and Banderas).
What I Say
I liked it. I cheered at all the cheesy parts and over the top action, and I enjoyed the cast's chemistry and oddball characters. I wish more action movies followed this model. They take the job seriously, they take the action seriously, but they obviously don't take themselves seriously. Suck on that Tom Cruise.
Plot — So we have the introduction of Mel Gibson's character Conrad Stonebanks, who was one of the original Expendables along with Barney Ross (Sylvester Stalone) who went rogue and became an arms dealer. After a mismatched firefight, Stalone brings on a new set of youngen's to offset his Team's age. From there we get some Mission Impossible tech-gadgets, and a classic 80s 'kick the door down and spray them with bullets' approach.
Characters — One of the things I always really liked about these movies was that all the characters were not quite your action stereotypes, except maybe Stallone. He's just playing Stallone playing leader. Admittedly Statham's romance with Charisma Carpenter in the first film was the highlight of his arc, he's still fun. The rest of the cast, especially the older characters, seem to wear their own neurosis as characters. Mel Gibson is delightfully insane ... as is Wesley Snipes. Actually, I can totally see both these guys walking down the street as those characters. I hardly thought they were acting half the time. I think they just came on set and pulled a Brando. Never looked at the scripts. I'd believe it too.
The cast is a bit bogged down with the newbies, who frankly aren't anywhere near as interesting as the classics, but we do have to sit through them. I also recognized none of them. I would have enjoyed seeing some younger action names and not just MMA fighters (that's what they all looked like) trying to break into the acting world. Part of the strength of the older cast is they're preestablished. The newbies just look dull in comparison.
But fortunately they're mostly reserved for the action set-pieces and the banter is left to the crowd we know and love.
Spectacle — Here's the big on I've been hyping, I guess. Does the movie deliver on the spectacle? I'd say so, but maybe this is just that particular story that bypasses all higher brain function and turns me into the equivalent of an X-Box Live player. So the story is simple and the characters are a bit too populous. Here's what I have to say about the action ... breath. Okay, actually, not the action, the editor. The editor needs to take a step back and trust that the action will do the job for them. Alas, that is one side-effect of the modern age these films haven't escaped. They love their fast-cuts and their shakycam. It's not enough to ruin the experience for me, but there were few times where I had to 'fill in the gaps' of what was happening in the action, and at least once in the final fight where it cut from one set of characters to another and I was left confused. On the other hand, the majority of the stunts are practical as opposed to digital, and that's still a win in my book