Things I Learned From Movie X: The Expendables

By Edwin Davies

January 13, 2011

There's no easy way out. There's no shortcut home.

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In The Expendables, a film whose script was supposedly written by Sylvester Stallone and David Callaham but which was more likely composed from shreds of paper left after someone accidentally dropped the scripts for every bad action flick from the 1980s into a blender, Stallone leads a crack team of mercenaries, comprising the A-List of B-movie stars, against a military dictator. It was a film with a premise and a cast that promised to be awesome.

Sadly, despite its noble intentions, The Expendables was not a very good movie. What is really disappointing about it is not just that it's bad, but that it doesn't even have the courtesy to be badass. There's plenty of action movies that aren't especially good but, through their sheer ridiculousness, become hugely entertaining. Commando is one such film. The Running Man is another. In fact, a lot of Arnold Schwarzenegger's films are like that, and I did find myself wishing that the film had followed what his group of mercenaries were up to instead of Stallone's. Apart from a scene in which Terry Crews saves everyone by literally shooting a bunch of enemy combatants into tiny pieces, then screams the beautifully stupid line "Remember this shit at Christmas!" there are no ludicrously awesome or awesomely ludicrous moments in The Expendables. However, that doesn't mean that it wholly without value, or that we cannot take something profound away from it (Editor's Note: Yes it does and no we can't) so let's open our books to page 12 and try to find deeper meaning in The Expendables.


Sylvester Stallone: The New Ed Zwick?

As anyone who has seen Rambo, Stallone's hard-hitting (and throat-ripping) treatise on the excesses of the Burmese junta, he strives for social relevance in his films above all else because he wants to change the world one testosterone-fueled bloodbath at a time. The Expendables is no exception. Beginning with a scene in which the team take down a group of Somali pirates (who Dolph Lundgren, as any good social studies teacher would, tells us it is "good to hang") the film shifts its focus to the actions of a military dictatorship on the fictional island of Vilena, ruled with an iron fist by General Garza (played by David Zayas, best known for his work in Dexter and whose name can only be said to the tune of Amadeus by Falco) and the ex-CIA guy who has been propping up his regime (played by Eric Roberts who, with his suit, perpetual cup of coffee and slicked-back hair, flecked with silver, looks like David Lynch. A piece of advice: this film is much better if you imagine that David Lynch is the villain. In fact, this is true of pretty much all films). Not only that, but in the character of Ying Yang (Jet Li), he examines the plight of the short, who apparently have to work twice as hard as tall people and deserve to be paid more. As someone of slightly above average height, I personally think that my fellow Tallies should do everything possible to keep the shrimps under control, but I applaud Stallone for raising awareness of their struggle.

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