Film Review: The Expendables

15/08/2010

If you like your storyline thin and your body count high, The Expendables is the most enjoyable straightforward action film of the year.

A group of mercenaries led by Barney Ross are offered an assignment to assassinate the dictator of a small island is South America. When they arrive, things aren’t exactly what they seem, and the group faces a highly perilous mission…

Sylvester Stallone directs, co-writes and stars in this big-budget action spectacle. He has assembled some of the best-known action stars from the last few decades, including cameos from Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. This works well; there is a real sense of camaraderie, as well as the obligatory in-jokes.

The plot is light, but then that’s not really the attraction of The Expendables. The main draw is seeing all these action stars – Mickey Rourke, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren and others – together on the big screen. Coupled with this are the large-scale action scenes and the graphic fights.

The Expendables harks back to the testosterone-fuelled action films of the 1980s, through not only the casting but also the style. This is by no means a bad thing; after numerous action films attempting to combine a bit of everything it makes a change to see a film so unequivocally action-focused. Most importantly, the film is executed well enough to entice a range of cinemagoers; it is not just the action film devotees who will enjoy it.

The pyrotechnics and stunts are commendable, although there is one effect used in the film that looks a little unrealistic. The soundtrack matches the bravura nature of the visuals. The Expendables builds pace, combining action scenes with more dialogue-laden ones, until the frenetic finale. It is Mickey Rourke’s character who provides the only real depth to proceedings; but then again this film isn’t an emotional drama.

Overall, The Expendables is a highly enjoyable film, and a welcome return of the no-nonsense, unrelentingly violent, unabashedly masculine action film.

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Film Review: Cop Out

24/05/2010

Reviews of Cop Out have been mediocre overall. By no means a classic, nonetheless, Cop Out is not as bad as the reviews suggest either.

Jimmy and Paul, two NYPD detectives, happen upon a Brooklyn drug ring after Jimmy’s prized baseball card is stolen. A simple mission to recover the card by the duo becomes much more complicated after they discover more than they were expecting…

 The fundamental problem with Cop Out is that the film is not as funny as you’d hope it would be. While there is humour, it is not as consistent as one would expect from a movie directed by Kevin Smith and starring Tracey Morgan.

The pairing of Morgan with Bruce Willis works well; with Willis playing the straight man to Morgan’s funny guy. Elsewhere Seann William Scott plays an annoying but genial thief. Although Scott does well in these side character roles, it will be interesting to see whether he will eventually break out of the archetype Stifler mould.

Smith continues with his cinematic-referencing preoccupation in Cop Out, in an overt and sometimes humorous manner. In a sense, Cop Out is a film about wanting to be cops, in a brashy, television/film way. This is most evident through the detectives played by Kevin Pollak and Adam Brody; two back office cops who jeer at Jimmy and Paul, but long to do the dangerous, action hero thing themselves.

Cop Out does not do anything to redefine the buddy cop genre, but it is unlikely the film intended to. Instead it serves as a fun addition to the genre. A few more laughs would have been welcome, though.