The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Expendables (2010)

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Had this film come out before we started the DTVC in May of 2007, it would have been saved for a milestone post, like 100 or 500 or something. Because it's a new release on DVD, I wanted to get the review in on the day it was out-- especially since we're far off from the next milestone number-- so even though this is post number 558, we're going to treat it like a milestone post, suspending our usual 8 paragraph 3 image format for a 10 paragraph 4 image special edition. Luckily, I don't sell issues of this like comic books, because you'd be paying ten bucks for the reverse hologram cover-- or not, and I'd be stuck with a stack of them collecting dust and not going up in value.

The Expendables stars Sly Stallone as the leader of the eponymous mercenary group, experts at taking care of business and selling their talents to the highest bidder. When Bruce Willis comes knocking, wanting a crew to go into a Latin American island to take out the general in control there, Arnold Schwarzenegger thinks the idea is madness, so his merc group won't take the job. Sly likes the idea of the $5 mill Willis is willing to pay them, so he agrees. On a reconnaissance mission, he and Jason Statham realize things are pretty rough, that there's not just a general, but an evil Eric Roberts and a lot of soldiers, so they initially decide they want no part. Then Stallone thinks about the girl they left behind, who wanted to stay and fight for her people, and he decides he wants to stand for something too, and go back in there. His crew agrees, leading to one of the greatest finales in action movie history.

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I considered using a metaphor to describe this, like how I said Righteous Kill was like the old timers game with Pacino and De Niro, I was thinking maybe The Expendables was the fantasy camp. But then I realized that that would be selling this film short. Selling short a film that punches you in the face with awesomeness. Selling short Sly Stallone, who said "hey, the shit we did back in the 80s and 90s, a lot of people really liked that shit. Fuck Matt Damon and Toby McGuire, let's get some motherfuckers that people really want to see kicking ass, and let's show them kicking ass!" He took the great films we love from the 80s and 90s, and he made one that was faster, louder, and more powerful, yet without losing what made those movies so awesome. This was Commando on steroids-- or HGH-- and a middle finger to everyone who thumbed their nose at the shit we grew up with.

We spend so much time on here ruing newer films for not getting it. Not getting what we want as an audience. Look at Jean-Claude Van Damme, who brags in JCVD about how he turned down a role in The Expendables because he didn't like what Stallone was offering him. Are you kidding? Your fans wanted your ass in this, kicking ass with all the rest of these bad asses. We don't care about what kind of role you get, or about how much Stallone didn't stroke your ego, we want to see you in this enormous pile of awesomeness. Stallone has come through, and he got everyone on board to understand his vision. He made this movie as much for us as he did for them, and I'm stoked about that. Thank you, we all appreciate it.

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As always, we need to look at the Hall of Famers, and out of all the names, we only have two: Dolph Lundgren and Gary Daniels. Lundgren, as he does in almost every big screen film, plays something of a baddie. He actually hits Gary Daniels in one scene, reminding us of what we didn't get in Retrograde. The best part was his fight with Jet Li, because he was able to let rip with his Olympic-class martial arts talent, probably one of the best scenes we've ever seen him in. Do you see him telling us, his fans "I didn't do the film because I didn't like the role Sly had for me"? Hell no! He delivers. Gary Daniels is interesting, because we'd been doing some of his early roles here recently, and this was reminiscent of those. Very small part as Eric Roberts' hachetman-- second in command to Stone Cold Steve Austin-- but yet, he also has a great fight, with Jet Li and Jason Statham at the same time.

I commonly have a gripe with a movie, especially an action movie, that suspends the action in order to get melodramatic on us, so you're probably wondering what I thought of Mickey Rourke's tear-filled tale of an incident in Bosnia he witnessed. That's one of the benefits to having such a large and diverse cast, you get guys like Mickey Rourke, who was an amazing Sean Penn performance in Milk away from a best actor Oscar. Mickey Rourke can make a scene like that compelling, and more importantly, make it work. Not every movie has the advantage of such a deep cast, which is why I'm often annoyed when they try to do what Mickey Rourke did here, because it seldom comes off.

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If I have any complaint with The Expendables-- and can I really have any complaint?-- it's that we don't have more Charisma Carpenter. Isn't any movie better for having more Charisma Carpenter? Exactly, she's awesome. She turned forty a few months ago, which is just crazy to me, because she doesn't look nearly that old. She plays Statham's ex-girlfriend, and when he finds out her new boyfriend hit her, he goes down to where the guy is playing basketball, and destroys him and all his buddies. Amazing scene, and one I think all these TapOut/punchfighting movie makers should look at that for how to make their fight scenes in their films. Anyway, I'm getting off track, this paragraph was meant to be about how much I like Charisma Carpenter. Hopefully, if Stallone makes a sequel to this, he'll put more of her in it.

Speaking of the abusive boyfriend, this movie adds an element that not every action films includes, and that's a strong statement about violence against women. In every case that a male character does something to physically attack a female character, that character is dealt with harshly, which is as it should be. People always focus on the violence in a film like this as a bad example for kids, but it's so extreme and so (almost) cartoonish to be taken seriously. On the other hand, how many action films or old gangster and Film Noir pictures show women being dominated or treated violently, without immediately denouncing such behavior. This movie does that, and does it in a very powerful way. Kudos for that.

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On top of the great action, all of the characters were in other great scenes where there was no action at all. All of this could have easily been about them, they could have used those scenes to revel in each other's stardom, but they didn't. They made those scenes about us, their fans, and as such, they were tons of fun to watch. It just gets back to what made this movie so great, that Stallone understood what he was doing and what we wanted, and he made it all happen.

Plain and simple, The Expendables delivered on what it promised. If you saw it in the theater, see it again. Put it on your Christmas list, or run out to the store to buy it because you can't wait. I'm curious to check it out on my buddy's Blu-ray player myself. This was the movie we were hoping for, and seldom do any films ever give us what we're hoping for.

(As an aside, for the first time ever I got an error message for having too many tags. I didn't even know there was a limit!)

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1320253/

26 comments:

  1. I hear Jean-Claude Van Damme will most likely be in the sequel as a bad guy, as well as Stallone trying to get Carl Weathers, Charlie Sheen and (Hopefully not) Hulk Hogan. I actually would rather have Roddy Piper, I've heard rumors about Dudikoff, such would be great.

    As for this film, it was made well enough that you could respect it as a film but bad enough that you could love it. This was a lot of fun. Dolph Lundgren was awesome, not really a bad guy so much as a wildcard villain.

    Stallone though deserves the most credit, for giving us action fans a film that we truly wanted. This met my expectations and they were high.

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  2. Exactly, this was everything we loved about our actioners from the 80s and 90s, but taken to the next level in a way that works with today's technology. Just an all-around excellent movie.

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  3. All those action hotties in one movie. I just might die! Can't wait to watch this tonight!

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  4. Oh yeah, these are all the positives of Botox and HGH, and very little as far as female interference. Be ready, because you'll be awash in tons of too sweet pecs and abs.

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  5. Also the fights were realistic on a certain level as a lot of movie play to the stars out of fame, Professor Tanaka losing to Jeff Speakman, Van Damme sort of losing to Sho Kosugi (although this fight was lame), Mark Dacascos losing to Jet Li etc. The thing is, this contains a big surprise and a realisitic one. It was a genuine surprise then. I also applaud Stallone on a twist ending making things upbeat and fun.

    Lastly was that they put up guys were tailor made for each other. For instance Li taking on Steve Austin wouldn't be nearly as good as Li against Daniels, where as Randy Couture took on Steve Austin. It was all thinking outside the box.

    If Van Damme and Hulk Hogan are in the sequel as bad guys, Li take on Van Damme, and Lundgren will take on Hulk Hogan. This would make sense.

    Stallone is on a role, Rocky Balboa, Rambo and Expendables have kicked serious ass.

    Also I hope Chuck Norris stops being a self rightageous jackass and makes a special appearance, as Stallone wants. Being that Stallone is a republican too, there is no excuse for politics getting in the way.

    You know who also would've been awesome had he lived, would've been Brandon Lee, he would've done great in the Charlie Sheen role that Stallone wants to write about a CIA agent out to stop Willis who teams up with The Expendables. Let's just hope this isn't like Sin City, because being honest we only have at most 2 possible sequels at most.

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  6. Yeah, I agree about those fights. Not only were they styles that fit, but they were done really excellently. That Daniels, Li, Statham one, even though it didn't last long, was amazing. Couture and Austin looked great too. Anyone who makes another film with Austin should watch this and see how to use him properly.

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  7. What a fun movie! The Staham-Li Daniels fight was epic! It was so great to see Dolph, Daniels and Roberts on the big screen and in the same scene!

    Had the same problems with the tags in our review too.

    http://www.comeuppancereviews.com/2010/08/expendables-2010.html

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  8. This movie was amazing on every level. I saw this @ a midnight showing @ my local theater with no one there, and it was so surreal. It almost felt like I was dreaming up the movie from some weird dejavu from my childhood or something.

    The two guys who stole the show for me in this were definitely Dolph and Terry Crews. I laughed my ass off everytime Crews was on screen, and I thought Dolph really brought some depth to a character that could've been so paint-by-numbers. It was almost like a more humanized version of Andrew Scott from the Uni Sol movies. But everyone was great here, even the guy from 'Dexter.'

    The only thing that drove me kinda crazy through the whole thing was that Stallone almost looked like he was wearing heavy eye-liner or had botox (maybe both?).

    If they get Dudikoff in the sequel, that will be beyond awesome. The American Ninja v. Jet Li- has to happen.

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  9. I agree with you guys, this film is tied with Machete for most fun this year, on that note it'd be really nice if Stallone was somehow able to convince Seagal to appear in the sequel.

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  10. How could I forget about the majesty that was 'Machete'? Steven Seagal playing a Mexican drug lord? That movie had everything- along with 'Predators,' it should be considered honorary DTV.

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  11. Yup an utterly awesome movie, my review echoes your thoughts precisely. I giggled in girlish glee when both Nu Image and Dolph Lundgren's names appeared on screen.

    It's been a pretty explosive year for the big names if you count DTV appearances. Van Damme in UniSol 3, Dolph in UniSol, Icarus and this, Seagal in A Dangerous Man, Born to Raise Hell and Machete, Daniels in this, Hunt to Kill and Tekken, Austin in this, Hunt to Kill and The Stranger... A really tops year.

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  12. Stallone loves him some Botox. You may notice the top half of his head doesn't move at all.

    We did do all right this year in the DTV and major theatrical department, but by the same token, we're comparing that to recent years, as opposed to years in the 80s and 90s, when we'd usually get double this in kickass output. What we can hope for, though, is that this indicates a potential sea change back to the way things used to be.

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  13. I liked all the inside jokes in the dialog, they were all making references to their previous careers in action films or to their current personal lives, which was hilarious to me.

    The action was awesome, and the kills violent, making me remember what I loved about the 80's. I liked the idea about them being mercenaries, it kind of like felt like I was watching another version of THE A-TEAM.

    Agree about Charisma, shes so beautiful, she shouldve been a more important role, but like you said, lets hope we see her again in the sequel.

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  14. In total agreement about everything you said, Francisco. The inside joke thing is an interesting point, because it's very easy in an ensemble film like this for the inside jokes to be more about the stars, and less about the audience (Ocean's 12 is one example that comes to mind), and they didn't let that happen here. They made it about the fans, and it came through in the awesomeness of the film.

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  15. About Charisma Carpenter, she is actually 13 years younger than Dolph, only 6 years younger than Jet, and older than Statham, so technically she would make a good love interest for either of them. However this film shows the passage of time. I think it's offical that Jason Statham has been named the offical heir to action.

    Cause he's the one who gets the hot love interest. Remember how Dolph got Tia Carere, the bisexual chick from Hidden Assassin and of course Valarie Chow from Bridge Of Dragons (Still hands down my favorite love interest in a Dolph Lundgren movie, she was hot and she was a fighter) Jet Li on the other hand had a bunch of love interests in his Hong Kong films, as well as Aaliyah and Bridget Fonda when he came to the states. Surprisingly though, Stallone himself never really had that many love interests in his films Cobra and Demolition Man aside. My point of this observation then, is the fact that (Let's face it Steve Austin, Gary Daniels and Terry Crews weren't big action stars ever) Lundgren and Li are more or less content in passing the torch to Statham. It's not even the love interest, both Lundgren and Li are fine and dandy playing junkies and guys insecure about their height. Indeed the other thing I mentioned (And Jet Li deserves the most credit) isthe big fight between him and Lundgren. They really didn't go at this with any ego whatsoever.

    Eric Roberts is by far a must for the hall of fame.

    Although Dolph Lundgren is playing Statham's son in In The Name Of The King 2, which actually I kinda dug the first movie.

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  16. You could nitpick the flaws of this movie all day but the fact remains that just having all these guys under one roof is awesomeness personified. It's like a what a Browncoat buddy of mine said about the Serenity movie, "Why should I get annoyed with minor quibbles when the fact is: It EXISTS. Somebody actually spent millions of dollars and made a Firefly(Superimpose Action Movie) fan's wet dream movie."

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  17. I don't know that one could nitpick the flaws in this all day, because there really aren't any. A few of us (myself included) rued that there wasn't more Charisma Carpenter, but I don't even know you'd call that a flaw, as much as it's a compliment to her. Stallone gave us what he said he would, and that's what counts.

    I agree with Kenner that there was some torch passing with Statham. I think we've discussed that here, and out of all the guys to potentially take the torch, he's the best candidate. That Li/Lundgren fight was great because, not only did they put their egos aside, but I think Lundgren, with his own athleticism and martials arts skills, really would give Li a problem because of his size. How often do you see those aspects taken into consideration when choreographing or scripting a fight? Just extra details that made the film even better to watch.

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  18. Well, for starters there isn't nearly enough of Arnie, Sly, and Bruce together. That's a biggie. And some of the action is a little claustophobically shot. I am in no way taking anything from the flick at all. It was one of my favorites of the year. The only thing I can really say bad about it is that it met my expectations; not exceeded them. That is to say it's still a great movie.

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  19. Another thing is that I probably like some of the classic flicks more. Maybe out of nostalgia, But I like say Rambo 1-2, Cobra, The Punisher, Fist Of Legend,Universal Soldier, Showdown In Little Tokyo, Crank, Tai Chi Master more than The Expendables. Actually the movie's fight sequences play well on the small screen more than the theaters.

    I loved this movie as well. Also I gotta vouch for The Video Vacuum, this guy has a great website that I read religiously I actually re-evaluated Showdown In Little Tokyo after he gave it 4 stars.

    Also his new feature "It came from the Thrift Store" as well as "Greatest Films In The History Of Film" Which he tells me will include Drunken Master II and A Better Tomorrow.

    Also, I so need to get reviews for Kick-Ass, Crank 1-2 and many more up there.

    Did anyone see Scott Pilgrim Vs The World because I remember a lot of people upset that the movie bombed and how they shouldn't have released it the same week as The Expendables (I agree) I'm just wondering if anyone saw it, I thought it was a douche chill. But I was more accustomed to just shrug it off as something I just didn't get.

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  20. Hey Mitch, good to see oyu on here, I love your site even though I disagree with you on alot of films(Friday The 13th Part 8 being one such exmaple, it's one of my perosnal favorites in the series) Anways I didn't see Scott Pilgrim yet, i'll probably see it sometime next week though i'm not expecting much from it as i'm really not big on Michael Cera, mainly because he pretty much plays the same nerd character in every film he's been in so far. Also Kenner just wondering, did you get around to seeing Machete?

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  21. "It's good to hang pirates..." -Perhaps the most profound statement made in a movie, DTV or otherwise, this year.

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  22. How 'Showdown in Little Tokyo' could get anything less than five stars is beyond my comprehension. Also, Scott Pilgrim was aces- I'm not a Michael Cera hater or anything (I'm a religious 'Arrested Development' fan and actually have enjoyed his last few movies quite a bit), but I was totally expecting it to suck. Probably the best time I've had @ the movies this year- amazing, surreal, and an instant classic. I'd even put it above 'Bad Lieutenant: POCNO' as my favorite for 2010.

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  23. I did see Machete, it was also good. This one was more flawed. I think we will discuss it more after Matt sees it and reviews it, but I will say the ending for me was a letdown. Otherwise it was firing on all cylnaders.

    I clearly didn't understand the controversy generated by the ridiculous FOX news Tools.

    As for Showdown, he didn't give it five stars because 4 stars is the most he can award. I gave Showdown 3 stars, honestly because even though it was a guilty pleasure at it's most ridiculously guilty. It really if you look at the format, isn't as well put together as say The Punisher, Rapid Fire or Bridge Of Dragons, as it did have a tone that was all over the place. Also some of the special effects were shoddy (the decapitation scene, although lalely I saw on you tube, actually shows this to be more well done, with another camera angle that doesn't make it so fakey. In that you don't see the head propell up.) Anyway there was also no plot. However this is probably one of it's charms. Plus, I found myself having it in my DVD collection (on a double disc with Bloodsport) and coming to like it. The same thing happened with Cyborg, in that how can something so wrong feel so right?

    As for Scott Pilgrim, I think what bothered me was that I just felt like I was not part of the group, like I had no idea what Vegetarian power, sword of confidence and the idea that you would have to fight the exes to the death to date some hot chick. It was just silly to me. I mean Showdown In Little Tokyo is silly, but it doesn't feel smug. Scott Pilgrim kind've came off as smug. I definitely liked Kick-Ass more. Once again I think that I'm too old to understand the true appeal of Scott Pilgrim.

    My girlfriend even thought it was sort of sexist. In that said character has to dispatch and destroy the exes, because the chick can't move on otherwise. She brought up a good point in that, if it was say Van Damme doing the same premise and then snapping necks and shooting the exes dead, people would find it more disturbing. I personally thought such is reading way too much into it myself, but I don't know. She's not the type to get too sensitive and she just it was merely stupid. I just it didn't care for it. Michael Cera wasn't nowhere near as funny as he was on Arrested Development.

    I will say this, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is very, very hot.

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  24. Very valid points. I'm 30 and my girlfriend is in her 30s as well, though, and we enjoyed it just as much, if not more, as the hipster indie high school/college/Juno crowd I think they were going for- we're both fans of old school video games, so that was a big part of the appeal too. Just everything about it was fun to me, I didn't see it as pompous or smug. This was probably closer to an anime-come-to-life on screen as I've seen in an american film. Michael Cera wasn't the typical "awkward" guy you see him play (although to be fair, he wasn't that guy in 'Youth in Revolt' either, which also kicked ass), either; he was a big douche if you think about it. And of course he's not nearly as funny as he was on Arrested Development- seen Will Arnett or Jason Bateman lately?

    I didn't see Scott having to fight the evil exes for the girl as sexist, so much as a nod to the whole idea of the "video game princess." Mary Elizabeth Windstead's character is aloof, an ice princess, if you will. We might as well call Mario Brs. or Donkey Kong sexist for the same reasons.

    As for Showdown, I can see your point, it's just growing up with that movie, it's been a cultural reference for me since I was more or less 11 years old. Reasons for this are easy enough to understand- the biggest (but not only) among them being Dolph in the samurai outfit and Brandon Lee's one liners ("do we look like truck drivers? Oh well"). Sure, it wasn't as well made as a Rapid Fire or Bridge of Dragons- hey, I love those movies too-, but I don't think anyone making it was trying to win an academy award or please critics (this is, after all, the director of Commando and Dolph Lundgren here). Maybe nostalgia is a big part of it, but I don't think it really matters either way- Showdown still holds up for me as a paradigm of the DTV artform.

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  25. I can't comment on Scott Pilgrim, but if you want to know what Albert Pyun thought, you can check in the comments to the Mean Guns Revisited post.

    Showdown in Little Tokyo has that same nostalgia value for me, but I also think it's extremely kick ass. In school, we used to pretend to break our own necks if class was particularly boring that day.

    And I love the pirates line too. Dude, between that and the great comment on Lost Boys: The Thirst, you are killing it these comment threads. Keep it up, I'm loving it.

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  26. Great movie, I can't remember the last time I had this much fun in the theater. It was like being transported back in time 25 years.

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