Some time ago, I saw the trailer for a then-upcoming film called The Expendables. As a fan of action flicks, watching this trailer was like eating the cinematic equivalent of cheesecake. Featuring every action star from the 80′s and 90′s, and a reel with more explosions than an oil well fire, it was a giant, distended mass that combined all of my favorite flavors into one convenient slice. Huge weapons? Yes, please. Gratuitous fight scenes? Bring it on. Snarky comebacks? Can’t get enough of them.
However, anybody who has seen an action film will probably feel that this is all vaguely familiar. Anybody who has seen two action films will think to themselves, “I feel as though I’ve seen this before.” Anybody who went on to see a third was likely prescient enough to know that there would be at least one scene of a swarthy protagonist walking away from an explosion in slow motion.
I’ve never seen THIS before!
Having seen four action films, I can basically foretell the future of action movies as an industry – I know who will star in them, when they will be released, what their scripts will be, and even their future box office receipts. So I haven’t seen The Expendables. I imagine I can predict what will happen in the film anyways. It will feature Sylvester Stallone talking smack to Bruce Willis while having to avoid the furious martial artistry of Jet Li, whom the media will later describe in promotional materials as “high-kicking.”
This will occur at the same moment a time bomb is set to detonate in thirty seconds, which should give the heroes about an hour of screen time to defuse it. The team’s demolitions expert (as every team must have a demolitions expert) will choke when faced with clipping the green wire or the blue wire. This thrilling defusal scene will take place in an abandoned warehouse, as bombs are never set anywhere else. Reviews will be mixed, with common criticisms directed at the triteness of the plot and the fact that the mise-en-scène consisted solely of bullets. The film will make millions.
So, what have we learned? The Expendables truly has the lifeblood of an action picture flowing through its veins. Or perhaps, more accurately, The Expendables truly has the lifeblood of every other action picture flowing through its veins, though this didn’t stop anyone from seeing it. Indeed, all the critical lambasting in the world hardly would have prevented action junkies like me from hopping over to the multiplexes to see Sly and company fire on full automatic for two hours. It’s not great cinema, but it doesn’t have to be. Nobody walking into this film will hold it to the same standards as 8 1/2 or The Bicycle Thieves. As its title suggests, The Expendables is just that: expendable.
Now, imagine me saying that as I walk away from an explosion in slow motion.
Denzel Washington gets creative.