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Entries in Bruce Willis (7)

Friday
Aug132010

The Expendables

Those that know me will tell you I like to joke around. Maybe they’re pity laughs and I’m just too full of myself to notice, but I think I amuse people. As my screening for The Expendables approached, I joked that I would fall into a deep depression if it were bad. I stated how its failure would only be evidence as to the nonexistence of a god. Others said the film was so manly that if you went in clean shaven, you’d walk out with a full beard. With a cast that includes Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Terry Crews, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and more, these statements are more than jokes. They transcend into fact. So it’s with a happy heart that I say I’m not depressed, there is a god and my beard is awesome.

Barney (Stallone), Lee (Statham), Ying Yang (Li), Hale (Crews), Toll Road (Couture) and Gunner (Lundgren) are the Expendables. They’re mercenaries for hire and when we meet them they are in the process of overtaking a Somalian pirate boat and rescuing their captives. However, Gunner goes a little berserk, prompting his removal from the team prior to their next mission where they are tasked with overthrowing the island of Vilena's evil dictator, General Garza (David Zayas). But things get complicated when they learn that Garza isn’t actually the prime target.

The Expendables, more than anything, is a love letter to action fans. It has runaway helicopters, car chases, fisticuffs, gun battles and all manner of explosions. Its whole reason for being is summed up in one late shot, directly after destroying a helicopter, where fire and carnage encompasses the entire screen. It knows what we’ve come for and it gives it to us.

Plain and simple, The Expendables is tons of fun. If 2008’s Rambo is any indication, Sylvester Stallone knows action. He’s the type of guy who should be handling these types of movies. He has lived and breathed them throughout his career and, although he’s no master behind the camera, he knows what gets the adrenaline pumping and pushes it to its limit.

But let’s be honest. It’s not a particularly great film. The idea behind The Expendables is a novelty at best—combine the best action stars of today with those from years past and make things go boom—but really, that’s all we need. I grew up with Dolph Lundgren (I must have watched Universal Soldier 50 times as a kid). I’ve missed Arnold Schwarzenegger and, although he’s only in the movie for a brief time, I loved seeing him back onscreen. The dialogue is basic and the story is routine, but I didn’t come for that. I came for the action and the nostalgia. That’s why, despite all its problems, it works.

As a fanboy, I can overlook those problems, but my requirements as a film critic say I cannot, so allow me to deviate from my textual nerdgasm. There are many side plots in The Expendables, all which feature exhaustive dialogue inconsequential to the overall narrative, like Lee’s girlfriend’s infidelity and pretty much any scene with Mickey Rourke, but my biggest reservation comes from how poorly the characters are juggled. It’s called The Expendables, but it seemed like it should have been called Sylvester Stallone and Friends because it sometimes felt like a vanity project for the aging star, focusing too much on him and not nearly enough on everybody else. Stallone brings together this legendary group of guys and then splits them all apart, taking the potential of the opening scene where they all work together and squandering it in favor of aloof admiration.

Could The Expendables have been better? Absolutely, but it delivered exactly what I expected: blood, bullets and lots of stuff blowing up. Based on those descriptors, you know whether or not this movie is for you. All I can tell you is that it was for me and I ate it up.

The Expendables receives 3.5/5

Friday
Feb262010

Cop Out

Never before have I walked out of a movie and felt so bad for the people involved in its production. Cop Out is one of those films where you look at the talent and find it hard to believe that they actually think it's good. Kevin Smith, director of such films as Clerks, Mallrats, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Zack and Miri Make a Porno, helms this travesty, marking his debut directing a movie not written by him. If Cop Out is any indication, he needs to stick to his own stuff. It's only February, but I'm confident this train wreck will be on my worst of the year list.

The film is a humorous (a word I use very loosely here) take on the buddy cop action picture, akin to movies like 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon. But where those oozed with style and provided laughs despite not necessarily being comedies, Cop Out fails miserably. In what is the worst onscreen pairing since Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez in Gigli, Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan play Jimmy and Paul, partners who have been together for nine years. Jimmy's daughter, played by Michelle Trachtenberg, is about to get married and wants a huge wedding, $50,000 huge. Jimmy is expected to pay for it, but he and Paul get suspended for a month without pay after a stakeout goes awry and a clerk at a local store gets murdered. Now, the only way to cough up that cash is to sell a rare baseball card he's had since his childhood. Unfortunately, he is assaulted and robbed of the card, which he quickly finds out is now in the hands of the gang suspected of murdering the store clerk, so he and Paul break the rules, as they always do in these types of movies, and set off to crack the case.

I struggled writing that synopsis. The actual movie isn't quite as clear cut. What I just detailed to you above makes more sense and has a better flow to it than the actual film itself. I left out the unnecessary side story about Paul's wife, played by Rashida Jones, and his suspicion that she's cheating on him. I also left out how inconsequential that opening murder is to the story. I even skipped over Jason Lee's part as Jimmy's daughter's new stepfather who is loaded with money and insists on paying for her wedding, which Jimmy's pride won't allow. Besides, he needs some type of motivation to track down the gang. The ruthless murder of an innocent man plays second fiddle to the recovery of that precious baseball card.

But the story's problems lie with more than just the lunacy of it all. It's told haphazardly, like a first time film student editing random scenes together, interrupting action scenes to interject a scene of exposition in the mix. I edited my college video project tighter than this mess.

Kevin Smith, who is solely responsible for the edit hack job, deserves berating for his poor direction as well. Somebody once said that Smith was the Quentin Tarantino of comedies because he can write amazing dialogue and create endearing characters that we want to spend time with. That is true and is the main reason his movies succeed. His directing skills, on the contrary, have never been anything to note, but you were able to ignore that based on his talent as a writer. This is the first film he has ever directed that he didn't write, which makes the lack of competent direction that much more noticeable. Watching him try to stage an action scene is like watching a cat play with a ball of yarn. Just as the cat swats at the ball, never grabbing hold, Smith reaches out and tries to latch onto something exciting, but never gets there. It doesn't take long for that cat's ball to unravel. Smith's action scenes fall apart even faster.

What really kills Cop Out, however, is its utter lack of laughs. The dialogue is missing that Kevin Smith touch and each and every joke crashes down faster than a fat kid's face into pie. The leads have zero chemistry together and Morgan in particular is insufferable. I'll admit I've never liked the guy, but never has a dislike turned into hatred faster than it did here.

Cop Out is one of the most pointless movies I've seen in a long time and is easily the worst film of the year thus far. It pains me to say this because I adore Smith's previous work, but I've only scratched the surface of its problems. It's shocking how inept this production is and I can only hope that Smith looks back on this with a good heart and realizes what a mistake it turned out to be. If he has gotten to the point where he actually thinks this tripe is funny, then God help the future of comedy. We've lost a real talent.

Cop Out receives 0/5

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