My friend and comrade Katey Rich received some absolutely ri-dick-ulous comments on her thoughtful review of The Expendables over at Rotten Tomatoes. Her review probably took more time to write than the entire script of The Expendables, and was certainly a more insightful look at the action genre than the movie itself deserved. She's not the only person who gave The Expendables a bad review; she just happens to be a woman who did so. This got the manpanties of the commenters in a ferocious wad, and they showered her with hateful, misogynist bulls*t. Some are just childish and stupid, although this one used some big boy words and even name-dropped a David Lynch movie:
"I don't mean this to be as misogynistic as it's going to sound -- but women aren't qualified to review testosterone-fueled action movies.
It's like having a two-year-old child review Mulholland Drive."
In response, Scott Weinberg threw down the gauntlet to any of the female Cinematical staffers to take a crack at The Expendables. I took him up on that offer because I am a masochist. And I like it when things blow up.
Just so you know, I am writing this review with my vagina. Literally. I can't tell you how because I'm getting the technique patented, but since The Expendables is being called man-tastic, covered in man-sauce, man-a-licious, and so manly you'll grow extra chest hair, I thought that turnabout was fair play.
The plot of The Expendables doesn't matter. And even though all the characters have names in the script, it doesn't matter because The Expendables is all about the Pavlovian response engendered by the very sight of these muscle-bound action stars. Sylvester Stallone plays a guy named Barney Ross, but that doesn't matter either. What does matter is when Arnold Schwarzenegger pops up for a cameo that's a nod and a wink to the Governator's action past and everyone giggles and cheers. "What's his f*cking problem?" asks Bruce Willis after Arnold leaves. "He wants to be president," deadpans Stallone.
In all honesty, it is these short scenes where the characters interact that are most enjoyable. They're just dudes, man, and they're hanging out being dudely. Their clubhouse is Tool's Tattoos, which is owned by former Expendable Tool (Mickey Rourke). They practice throwing knives. They talk about broads and broken hearts. They talk about how screwed up they are from all the action they've seen. Tool tattoos Barney for a few minutes without gloves on, and then Barney puts his shirt back on without bandaging up the tattoo first. Because they're men, dammit! Tool even has a touching monologue about why he quit the Expendables that involves Bosnia and a bottle of Slivovitz. The actors seem like they're having fun, so even if a joke lands with a thud, as they often do, it's somehow forgivable. It's all a big gag, and we're in on it. It's a fun gag at first, seeing everyone from the cheesiest, most fun action movies all together in one film -- hell, in one scene! -- but after a while, the novelty wears off.
The novelty of the action sequences also wears off. As creative and time-consuming and expensive as it was to choreograph fights between so many characters in so many different configurations -- by hand and foot, small weapons, large weapons, knives, rocket launchers, bazookas, truncheons, rabid weasels, and explosives that go off like dominoes falling -- they all began to look the same. Who cares if they save the small island of Vilena from the grip of a greedy, sleazy American and his thick-necked henchmen? Who cares what happens to the sexy Latina who is, for some reason, helping them try to overthrow the government? This isn't an action movie with any subtext like, say, First Blood, so let's not pretend otherwise by wedging in dreary subplots about politics or women. Let's just blow stuff up, save the day, and go back to Tool's to have another beer and kick it, okay?
As a footnote, these guys (except for Jason Statham) have had so much plastic surgery done that any insults critics lobbed at the Sex and the City 2 stars go double for The Expendables. They are plucked and tucked, oiled up and 'roided out, with carefully painted on tattoos and scars as fake as anything you would see walking down Rodeo Drive.