Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hey Sly, zoom out!

Today, we went to see The Expendables, the new action flick starring a bunch of the old action heroes from the '80s. I was interested in seeing the film, but probably we wouldn't have seen it at the theater if I hadn't won a free code for Fandango.

It was a good movie, and for the most part we enjoyed it. Our biggest problem came during the intense action sequences. One of the first fight scenes came when Barney (Sylvester Stallone) and Lee (Jason Statham) are scoping out the situation on Vilena, an island run by a corrupt dictator and an American mercenary. The fight seemed like it was well choreographed and performed, but it was shot too tight, mostly handheld, and with that stroboscopic "heightened reality" effect made popular by Saving Private Ryan and Gladiator. It not only makes it frustratingly hard to follow what's going on, but it kind of makes me a little motion sick trying to watch it.

Later fight scenes and a major vehicle chase and battle back in the U.S. all have the same problem because the camera is zoomed in, it's shaky from being handheld without a Steadicam, and the stroboscopic effect is used. I would have preferred more standard shooting, so I could tell what was happening.

The story is fairly simple, but that's fine for an action pic. Barney and his gang are hired by the U.S. government to go to Vilena and take care of the dictator. Barney and Lee go check it out and meet the
general's daughter Sandra (Giselle Itié), who's determined to fight him and free her people from tyranney. Barney and Lee fight some bad guys and blow up some things and leave. If I understood correctly from one throwaway line, they decided not to take the job, but I was never clear if they called the government guy and told him that or returned any of the money.

Barney, however, is haunted by thoughts of Sandra, who could have left with them but chose to stay. He decides to go back on his own to help her. Of course, his guys want to go with him. Meanwhile, Dolph Lundgren's character has a bone to pick with Barney and cuts a deal with Vilena's leaders to take him out.

After that chase and fight, Barney and gang leave for Vilena, fight some guys, blow things up, and rescue Sandra. Barney and Sandra have a poignent exchange in which he tells her to keep something, maybe some money she was trying to offer him, but I'm not sure what exactly, and then the plane takes off. I'm not left with the impression that he'll ever go back to see her, unless she calls on him for help.

It's definitely set up to be a "franchise" if it does well at the box office, and so far it is making a lot of money. The Expendables features the same kind of story and characters as a lot of the '80s action blockbusters, though it is a little more graphic in showing heads hacked off and such.

People, if you want to talk go to your house or a restaurant!
To anyone in the industry who wonders why people aren't going to the movies much and are watching films at home, I simply suggest that you walk into any movie theatre and try to watch something without someone carrying on a conversation. We moved once because the people behind us were talking in a normal tone of voice. Then a couple of people sat down in the same row as us, and they started talking and looked surprised when we shushed them.

Anyway, if you like action movies, I recommend The Expendables, but if you're prone to motion sickness, get some dramamine on the way to the theater.