'The Expendables'

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It's easy to dismiss The Expendables as true to its name. But this is truly a movie that nobody needs — gratuitously savage, implausible and sometimes incoherent.
Clearly, Sylvester Stallone is no Clint Eastwood. Both are rugged action stars turned directors, but that's where the similarities end.
Where the 80-year-old Eastwood has gone on to make some of the best films in decades, the 64-year-old Stallone, who directed and co-wrote this film, seems hellbent on reliving his glory days.

Though he's going for a brawny appeal à la The Wild Bunch or The Dirty Dozen, this boring tale of hired guns is more like Rambo With a Posse.

The cast never really jells. And the story, superficially ripped from the headlines, feels cobbled together. But it does seem tailored to translate overseas, with a cast of such foreign stars as Jet LiJason Statham and Dolph Lundgren.
Intended as a character piece about an unruly corps of mercenaries, it appears that Stallone forgot to develop the characters. Though he looks terminally groggy throughout the movie, he gives himself the meatiest role. The rest of the cast might as well be cardboard cutouts. British actor Statham is the only one who shows any charisma.

Some of Stallone's directorial choices are inexplicable, almost unforgivable. In shooting an elaborate fight between Lundgren and Li, he doesn't show us the actual fight. Why cast Jet Li if you're not going to offer a good look at his fighting skills? Instead, we see a poorly staged, skimmed-over and frenetic affair.

It's all about the violent payoff — the knife through the gullet, the freakishly accurate beheading, the bright red blood spurting stylistically. If these graphic scenes were judiciously interspersed, they might make a greater impact. Instead they're used over and over, and consequently defanged.

One of the worst scenes — which nearly stops the movie cold — is an interminable, blue-lit monologue by Tool, a mercenary turned tattoo artist played by Mickey Rourke in black-and-white-striped hair. He prattles on balefully about redemption while Stallone keeps the camera on his face in an ultra-tight close-up. Occasionally Stallone cuts back to himself reacting dully, shot as if in a gauzy haze.

The best moments come during a pair of jokey Planet Hollywood-inspired cameos — one from Bruce Willis and the other from Arnold Schwarzenegger.
At the Los Angeles premiere, a band of pickets marched to protest California Gov. Schwarzenegger's political policies. Maybe they also should have urged audiences to boycott this sadistic mess of a movie.

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