The fact is, I've anticipated this movie since I first heard rumors about it well over a year ago. Sly's magnum opus. The homage to every movie that I saw as a 1980's kid. And most of all, the cast. In no particular order:
Stone Cold Steve Austen
Arnold F-ing Schwarzenegger (!)
I challenge anyone to read that list and not get fired up by at least three names.
I can think of no other action movie to feature a sitting governor. That's how big it was. And the post-Cold War reunion of Sly and Dolph ("Dra-gohhhh!") for bonus. And a match up of two of pro wrestling's heavyweights (sorry, but if you see this movie, you'd better be ready to deal with crappy cliches). And the guy from Crank, for all you kids out there. And hey, Eric Roberts! Working! For money and everything!
To summarize, Stallone's Barney Ross leads a team of mercenaries who take whatever job comes there way, come what may. Bruce Willis then offers the team a job in an obscure Latin American island nation, run by a despotic general. Once there, Ross and his second-in-command Lee Christmas (played with relentless Britishness by Jason Statham) quickly realize that mysterious and bloodthirsty American Eric Roberts is actually running the show. The mission becomes additionally complicated by their contact Sandra (Giselle Itie), who Stallone begins to recognize as the lone point of goodness in what his life has become.
But, really, who cares? This is not Inception. This is the best B-movie you've ever seen, with the most expensive cast. The fight scenes are choreographed in that jump-cut, immersive style used by what seems like everyone since The Bourne Supremacy. Each team member has his signature weapon, from throwing knives (awesome!) to automatic shotgun (loud awesome!). The stereotypical enemies allow no room for deeper interpretation about motive and the trials of life that drove them to such deeds. They're just bad guys, helpfully dressed alike, and not prone to taking precautions like "taking cover" and "looking around". And it was everything you'd expect a movie like that to be. The exception: Mickey Rourke gives his limited screen time a surprising level of depth, with an emotional performance that could truly convey the weight of a life spent in service to no particular moral code.
In short, see it.
B+ (which is really the best rating a B-movie should achieve, by definition)
- Jet Li has lost a step. It's a little disappointing, but this was not the Jet Li from Lethal Weapon 4 (when most of us saw him in action for the first time).
- Dolph Lundgren has a master's degree in chemical engineering, received a scholarship to MIT, and still he gets to play "Big Dumb Brute" in every movie they release in the U.S. Shame.
- I know virtually nothing about pro wrestling, but Randy Couture is pretty cool, a decent actor even. Steve Austin sucks, though.
- The theatre we saw this in, a week after the release date, was packed for the 8:20 showing. Not bad in a town with dozens of screens showing the film within a few square miles.
- Someone brought their kids to this movie and sat in the back. I mean 3-5 year olds. This experience is what they'll look back on as the moment that turned them into felons later in life.
- I'm not sure what the guy sitting next to me was expecting, but he wasn't in on the joke. He kept throwing his hands up and scoffing. At one point he asked out loud "Are you serious?" Every bit of willpower kept me from saying, just as loud "No! It hasn't been from minute one!" Also, he and his girlfriend are unaware of "whispering," so screw that guy.