The Expendables (2010)

You have likely seen various previews for The Expendables, the main selling point of which is that it contains 75% of the action stars from the past three decades. I mean, of the previews, not the movie. My point is that the previews did not actually try to sell the movie on any axis other than star power. And there is some extent to which I have to agree with this decision, because the script was only barely distinguishable from some of the early ’70s Marvel comics I’ve been reading lately; about the only significant differences are a) the lack of radiation-spawned superheroes and b) the concept of the tinpot island dictator having American backing; after all, we weren’t very cynical quite yet, as of 1971. Still, it was on the whole a pretty decent movie in which a lot of familiar people are involved in a wide variety of car chases, gun battles, and explosions, just as advertised. Don’t expect to have any significant memories about it the next day, though.

Despite this barely positive review, I feel compelled to make two more complaints beyond the genericism. Firstly, I found the title a little misleading as to the tone of the film. I’m not saying it’s shiny and happy and nothing bad happens as in some action flicks, but it really isn’t nearly as dark as it should be. And, I’m disappointed in Jason Statham’s romance subplot. After enough consideration to convince me into writing this paragraph in the first place, I think the problem is not merely that it was disconnected from the rest of the movie and therefore irrelevant. Rather, it’s that he was presented as a secondary main character after Stallone (who had plenty of character development moments with other strong side characters), yet this half-hearted attempt to develop Statham’s character hurts things more than if they had just let him be a sidekick. If neither he nor his plot had existed in the movie, it would have been the same movie. If both had existed without the rest of the film, they could have been the seeds of a completely different (and maybe stronger) alternate film. But crammed together, it made an otherwise generic movie with several interesting characters worse. And that is sad.

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