Have we become so accustomed to violence that our movies have to hyper-inflate it? I'm no prude, but implied violence is always scarier than watching a body explode in front of you after being hit by a bazooka. Looking for a summer escape on Sunday afternoon, I slipped into a midday screening of Stallone's latest strutting machofest, The Expendables.
Boasting a cast of former and current action heroes must have been a dream come true for Lions Gate (distributors). Moviegoers certainly get their money's worth seeing a ridiculously fit Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Terry Crews (Everybody Hates Chris), Stone Cold Steve Austin, even former UFC mixed-martial-artist Randy Couture on the screen (plus limp cameos from Bruce Willis and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger). Throw in a corrupted CIA op played by Eric Roberts and what could be bad?
Everything, except one heartfelt monologue by Mickey Rourke explaining how war can suck a soldier's soul into a black hole. So what you get instead is 90 minutes of nada character development, an abundance of eviscerations, pat repartee, huge explosions, utter mayhem, more huge explosions, dozens and dozens of knife deaths, a waterboarding scene with our ingenue (Giselle Itié), and the final 30 minutes of mind-numbing death and destruction.
When we leave the theater, we know nothing of these rogue mercenaries except that, for a hefty price, they will "fix" a problem, preferably one that our own government won't do with our own special op troops.
I couldn't help but wonder what John Woo or Quentin Tarantino might have done with this cast and a real script. But I guess it doesn't matter to our blood-thirsty American moviegoers, as it grossed 35 million this past weekend. And I suspect with those opening numbers a sequel is in the works featuring these additional aging action dudes -- Chuck Norris, Steven Segal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Jackie Chan.
My recommendation is to save your money and watch the trailer instead. Then go rent the brilliant Micmacs by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Now that's a movie about how a group of rogues expose government corruption and how war is bad business for everyone.