No.173 (10/08/10)

The Expendables

By Robert Finley
Chief Writer

It reads like an action movie fan's dream -- Rambo, The Transporter, Ivan Drago, Stone Cold Steve Austin, along with greats such as Jet Li and Randy Couture, all in one movie. Could it get any better? How about if they sprinkle in cameos from none other than John McClane and The Terminator? If this lineup sounds good to you, then gThe Expendablesh is just the movie for you.

Over the past few years, Sylvester Stallone has enjoyed a bit of resurgence with his career and in the eyes of moviegoers. The success of gRocky Balboah and gRambo,h two movies that resurrected his top franchises for one last hurrah, catapulted him back into the action movie spotlight.

The production of The Expendables, however, didn't come together without its problems. Even with the box offi ce success Stallone has enjoyed recently, no studio was all that willing to take on this special project with a simple concept: gLet me just get togetherc the last of the tough guys and see what happens,h Stallone said during a recent interview. Not every tough guy wanted in, even. Kurt Russell, Jean Claude Van Damme, and Steven Seagal turned down offers for roles in the fi lm. Russell reportedly wasn't interested in working with an ensemble cast, Van Damme claimed he wasn't interested in action fi lms at the time, and Seagal refused because of an earlier confl ict with one of the film's producers.

The script itself saw over 100 rewrites, but not necessarily due to a poor plot or structure. Stallone said his approach was to see ghow do I simplify it, and how do I get more interesting characters in it? It was a long, ongoing process.h The fi lm does have interesting characters -- Stallone heads up the cast as Barney Ross, the leader of a team of mercenaries who take on dangerous and deadly tasks for a price when a government cannot. Jason Statham, star of gThe Transporterh and the gCrankh films, stars as Lee Christmas, Ross' closest friend and an expert with knives and various blades. Jet Li is Ying Yang, the teamfs smallest member, who makes up for his smaller size with insane martial arts skills. Dolph Lungren, who became famous as the evil boxer Ivan Dragoin Stallone's Rocky IV, plays the unstable Gunner Jensen. UFC veteran Randy Couture and TV & movie star Terry Crews round out the group as they embark on a job that they are not expected to return from.

A film dominated by action stars from a bygone era isn't the easiest sell for production studios. g(They) took a gamble, a really big gamble,hStallone said. gIf you've done everything possible to promote the film... it's up to the fans,h Stallone added. The concept was indeed a hit, as the fi lm dominated the box offi ce opening weekend with a $35 million take, which is about half of the film's reported $70 million budget.gIt's just something that connected with the audience.hThe film is stiff in a few ways -- the dialogue felt underwritten, and the fl ow from one scene to another at times felt disjointed. It's not a perfect film, but watching these guys on the screen take down the bad guys is more than enough reason to check it out. While it's already out in the U.S., it is not scheduled to make its debut in Japan until October 16.

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