Sunday, 26 September 2010
The cast of The Expendables, clockwise from top left:
Johnny Depp, Yul Brynner , Taye Diggs, Madeline Stowe, Jack Palance, Kevin Spacey.
There's no getting away from it. Sylvester Stallone's head looks like a water balloon gripped in a fist.
In fact, a lot of the purportedly hard-bitten team of mercenaries sent to blow up an island of South Americans look like they're wearing each other's faces and suffering adverse reactions to the grafts. It's hard to grasp why the normal-looking ones hang around and even follow into battle a zombie Elvis gone mad with plastic surgery (Sly), a blue bruise with a pipe and a wig (Mickey Rourke) and a chipped block of wood in a burnt plastic bag (Dolph Lundgren, the one good performance). Sly doesn't look hard, he looks taut. I waited for a baddy to scratch his high-pressure forehead, triggering a yawning tear and a humiliating retreat, his face billowing out behind him like a trendy scarf. Didn't happen.
Being a macho team of gay-bashers you can only dream of joining, you pussy, they exchange merciless put-downs as a form of bonding. But it doesn't ring true, because no-one goes for the jugular. No-one mentions how ridiculous anyone else looks. If a hunchback's giving me lip I don't call him four-eyes. At least make a dig about Stallone's dyed hair, it looks like a drowned otter the colour of black holes. Ask Bruce Willis why he's been drawn on an egg. It must be a pact. Don't call me hairplug and I won't call you veinhead.
None of them can speak clearly because of cheek botox or strong accents, and, most disastrously, the dialogue just doesn't make sense a lot of the time. One person says something, and the other person responds as if he's in a completely different conversation. So you sit there frowning, trying to follow a bunch of steroidal pensioners with coin-slot mouths missing each other's points. A lot of the problem is that the script aims so hard for macho that it goes too far and lands in closeted. At one point, following a break-up with his girlfriend and seeking counsel, Jason Statham asks best buddy Sly, "Have you ever been rejected by a woman?" Sly replies, "I don't think I want our relationship to go there!" and Jason accepts he's crossed the line with a grimace and a smile. Haha! Zing! Hang on, what? That's not a funny answer. It might be if Jason had asked him to pop a rose in his meatus, but this is pretty standard territory for chums. Sly's disconcerted reaction makes him look one hug away from a wailing, Statham-fondling breakdown.
Everyone enjoys a crack gang of old men slaying foreigners in cold blood, but the (interminable) scenes of their awkward downtime reveal they're just as distant and disconnected sharing a beer as they are attacking a militia. They start to seem vague in the head, which is a shame, because it's not so enjoyable watching a man stab a part-time cocoa farmer through the spine and the eye simultaneously when you suspect that he thinks he's doing the laundry. 40 minutes in I realised I felt sorry for them, when I should want to be alongside them, laughing and brutally killing.
Sly gives himself some big stunts to prove he's still got it, but unfortunately it comes across as a man being taken advantage of by people who should know better, goading the poor man on.
"Oh no Sly (or Meat Bender or Steve Skull or whatever your character's name is), we have to take off now, you're going to have to sprint to catch up to the sea plane. Yes, run! Jump! Haha, great! Now hang on to the door while I fly away. Yes, that's it! Yes, I know, you are still the man!"
He looks like an old dog running after a ball, blissfully unaware that Jason Statham is laughing at his body dysmorphia.
If there's a sequel it should begin with them all falling on each other, the sweat and tears of relief washing off their henna tattoos while the audience sits gob-smacked, and end with Jason taking a happy Sly to the vet, who puts him down, pounds his plasticated carcass into play-do, and pushes him in a tub, labelled Extendable. Or Ex-expendable. Or Extrabendable. And then Jason presses a detonator in it and lobs it at a mall, convinced he's blowing up a fort in North Africa.