So, the internet has been making a great big deal of fuss over The Expendables, Sylvester Stallone's next big action epic, and in its favor, it does star Stallone, Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Brittany Murphy, Danny Trejo, Eric Roberts, Steve Austin, Randy Couture and Terry Crews, plus a (non-digital) cameo by Arnold Schwarzenegger and, if Moviehole is to be believed, an appearance of some sort from Bruce Willis, who's pretty far up on my list of favorite action stars. But I can't help but wonder: is it really going to be any good?
In the interest of full disclosure, I gotta say I'm no Slycylopedia. In fact, I'm going to be forced to admit that I've only seen two of his movies: the original Rambo movie First Blood (a true classic) and, uh, the arm-wrestling action film Over the Top. Probably not the best cross-section of the Italian Stallion's work.
Yet the list of people who aren't in The Expendables keeps looking longer and more interesting than the list of people who are. I like most of the actors Stallone's picked, but the one-time WWE stars do nothing for me and as much as I like Crews, I'd much rather have seen the initially announced Forest Whitaker appear in it. Sandra Bullock was asked, but declined (I can't imagine why -- regardless of quality, this movie will probably be a hit). And then there are the other action titans: Jean Claude Van Damme, Wesley Snipes, Steven Seagal and Sly's Tango & Cash partner Kurt Russell all opted out. Van Damme told Total Film Magazine why he bailed:
“Stallone gave me a part in his next movie," he told us. "But I ask him about the subject, about the story."
"He said, ‘You’re gonna make lots of money.’ I don’t want to hear that, I want to hear what was my character. He was unable to tell what it’s going to be."
"[Stallone said:] 'You know, uh, well, the fighting will be good.' [So I said:] 'Sly, what is my character?' So I didn’t do the movie."
Say what you will about Van Damme's career, but he was just in the highly entertaining JCVD, and frankly, it's ridiculous to bash an actor for being selective when the film's director won't even tell him what the movie is about. Admittedly, Snipes is trapped in the country due to his tax woes and Russell probably just felt he was getting too old for this kind of thing, but it's hard not to feel like Sly's dream cast is better than his actual cast.
And of course, the movie's shooting for a PG-13. I know PG-13 is the new R (which is confusing, since it's also the new PG, seeing as how many families see PG-13 movies), but it still seems like it's going to hamper what's meant to be the ultimate, testosterone-filled action explosion of 2010.
But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe this movie will blow the doors off theaters in an explosion-and-gunfire fever dream while forcing me to eat my own testicles as penance for ever doubting it. And while I don't want to eat my own testicles, I would like to be wrong, but I just can't help but think that the movie can't live up to its own grunting, beefcake hype machine.
The Expendables opens April 23, 2010.