AWFJ Women On Film – “The Expendables” – Review by Susan Granger

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Whatever you think of this mucho macho male reunion movie, you have to admire 64 year-old writer/director/actor Sylvester Stallone for optioning David Callaham’s “Dirty Dozen”-like script, rewriting it to his own specifications, trying to revive his “Rocky,” “Rambo” glory days, and then assembling a tough-guy cast, including uncredited cameos by Bruce Willis and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. (It’s rumored that Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme declined additional roles.)

Maintaining, “If the money’s good, we don’t care what the job is,” this battered, bickering band of hard-bodied mercenaries consists of their leader Barney Ross (Stallone), hotheaded knife expert Lee Christmas (British Jason Statham of “Transporter”), Chinese martial arts master Yin Yang (Jet Li), long-barrel weapon specialist Hale Caesar (former NFL player Terry Crews), cauliflowered-eared demolitions expert Toll Road (Ultimate Fighting champion Randy Couture), and psychotic sharp-shooter Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren, who was Stallone’s “Rocky IV” nemesis). Mickey Rourke plays Tool, Ross’s ex-Expendable buddy, who has retired to become a tattoo artist. When these fellows with improbable names are disguised as ornithologists from the Global Wildlife Conservancy and sent on a covert, CIA-funded mission to infiltrate the (fictional) South American country of Vilena to overthrow a ruthless despot, General Garza (David Zayas of TV’s “Dexter”), they discover that the cocaine-producing country is really run by a renegade CIA-agent (Eric Roberts) with wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and kickboxer Gary Daniels at his side.

Subsequently, while trying to rescue the General’s idealistic daughter, Sandra (Giselle Itie), chaos, confusion and a barrage of violent explosions commences, turning everyone into virtual viscera or, as they put it, “red sauce and jello.” The most memorable verbal banter occurs near the beginning when the shadowy CIA-agent known only as Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) offers the job to ex-Expendable Trench Mauser (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who turns it down, saying “I’m busy now.” “What’s his problem?” asks Church. “He wants to be President,” replies Ross. Cue laughter.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Expendables” is a savage, testosterone-propelled 6. Too bad the blast-from-the-past mayhem is so absurdly incoherent.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.