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Expendables Delivers Retro Thrills For Boys of the ‘80s

Sylvester Stallone with his Expendables co-star Jason Statham Sylvester Stallone with his Expendables co-star Jason Statham

This summer, Sylvester Stallone attempts a return to glory with his latest action spectacular, The Expendables. Stallone directed and co-wrote the film, which assembles some of the biggest names in action cinema from the ‘80s and ‘90s, including Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Jet Li, and Dolph Lundgren.

The film also features Mickey Rourke, who has recently enjoyed a return to the spotlight, as well as a couple of names notable for their work outside the movie business. NFL star Terry Crews, former UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture, and WWE professional wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin round out the cast.

Early reaction to the film is mixed, but the producers are not banking on gritty character arcs or innovative plot twists to sell their wares. Anyone who plunks down cash for a ticket to The Expendables knows exactly what they’re in for – a testosterone festival complete with every form of violence known to man. There will be guns, swords, fistfights, and explosions galore. Academy Award worthy moments? Not so much.

Just how self-aware the film is has yet to be seen, but it’s hard to imagine Stallone plans to play this one straight; the cast alone says as much. However, given the resumes of pretty much everyone involved, nothing should be surprising.

Stallone, Li, Statham, Willis, and, most egregiously, Lundgren, all have pasts littered with paltry attempts to cash-in on lame sequels to brain-numbing shoot ‘em up/beat ‘em up films. On the other hand, each actor has appeared in genuinely thrilling action flicks as well. Indeed, what boy of the ‘80s didn’t love First Blood or Die Hard?

In casting The Expendables, Stallone left no stone unturned. It might have been the ultimate guy movie reunion if Jean Claude Van Damme hadn’t deemed the script too shallow for his refined palate. Fellow ‘80s martial arts film star, Steven Seagal, also took a pass on the film.

However, the biggest action star of both the ‘80s and ‘90s does make a cameo. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger managed to clear some time in his political schedule to appear in the film.

As for the non-thespians appearing in the film, the jury is out on the acting chops of Crews, Couture, and Austin, but presumably if they can grunt, groan, grimace, and fire guns believably, they’ll fit in just fine.

Okay, so The Expendablesisn’t going to make any Oscar lists. But anyone who would turn their nose up at the film is already not among the target audience. Sylvester Stallone is banking that there will be plenty of viewers among males aged 18-35 willing to put their critical faculties on pause and enjoy a throwback to a time when muscle-bound men delivering barely intelligible dialogue in husky baritones ruled the box office. Who knows? It could be that even those among us whose tastes have matured since puberty may not be immune to the pull of a little nostalgia.

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Last modified on Thursday, 02 June 2011 16:35

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