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dir Sylvester Stallone
scr David Callaham, Sylvester Stallone
prd Kevin King, Avi Lerner, Kevin King Templeton, John Thompson
with Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, Eric Roberts, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, David Zayas, Giselle Itie, Charisma Carpenter
release US 13.Aug.10, UK 19.Aug.10
Leather boys: Stallone and Rourke
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Relentlessly loud and bombastic, this old-school thriller is clearly trying to exceed the 1980s action movies it so shamelessly emulates. And Stallone and his fellow potato-faced buddies come very close to doing just this.
Barney (Stallone) is the leader of a ruthless team of mercenaries: knife-wielding Lee (Statham), chop-socky Yin (Li), tattooist Tool (Rourke), hotheaded Gunnar (Lundgren), muscle-gun toting Hale (Crews) and demolition man Toll Road (Couture). Their new mission is to infiltrate the Latin American island of Vilena and overthrow the dictator (Zavas). But he's merely the puppet of a rogue American agent-turned-trafficker (Roberts). He also has a sexy daughter (Itie) to distract the boys. Then there's the issue of Gunnar, who's disgruntled after being thrown off the team.
Stallone has miraculously managed to leave out even the slightest hint of intelligence from this script. Everyone is either good or evil, without any shading (except perhaps the error-prone Gunnar). And in this universe, anyone who can be even vaguely identified as a bad guy deserves to die a horrible death. And everyone around him too in the biggest explosion our heroes can rig while dodging nonstop machine-gun fire. In this irony-free zone, we know the villains are evil because they waterboard their prisoners. Ahem.
The cast list is impressive enough without mentioning key cameos by Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. And these well-seasoned actors inject plenty of attitude into their characters even without the benefit of decent dialog. Standouts are Statham (for his physicality) and Rourke (for his wit), while Li gets the short shrift. There's more witty banter and macho posturing that you'd have thought possible, but this is not a movie about character subtlety.
It's also, sadly, not about coherent action. It's so roughly edited that we can barely see the stuntwork, although we know the good guys are inflicting more pain than is strictly necessary. Which brings up another problem: the violence is so gratuitous that Stallone seems to be revelling in it. And without any solid moral ground, it feels genuinely disturbing even though it's meant to be hyperbolic. Really this could be one of the stupidest movies ever made. But is that praise or criticism?
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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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