Last week, we received a press invite to the New Orleans’ red carpet premiere of The Expendables, the Sylvester Stallone-penned/directed action film shot around here. The invite listed retired wrestler Steve Austin as one of the few actors who might be present, though as of the day of the event, no actor had confirmed his presence, least of all Stallone or any of the stars. Guess we’re not quite Hollywood South yet, though the industry’s clearly growing. We’re good enough to double for Memphis; TNT’s series Memphis Beat starring Jason Lee is shot in the Crescent City.
As for The Expendables, Anthony Lane dismissed it in two entertainingly withering paragraphs in The New Yorker:
Where is Jean-Claude Van Damme? If I go to see a movie called “The Expendables,” which already features Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Dolph Lundgren, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, I expect a place to be found, amid this noble array of thinkers, for the cuboid Belgian. Or how about that vast, immovable block of dough, with two tiny currants for eyes embedded near the top, that goes by the name of Steven Seagal?
Maybe they read the script. The Expendables is savage yet inert, and breathtakingly sleazy in its lack of imagination. Stallone, who co-wrote the movie with Dave Callaham, is also listed as the director, but since he appears to be having trouble, in the autumn of his years, getting his eyelids and lower lip to act in consort with the rest of him, I’m hardly surprised that he had no energy left over to command the film. He plays one of a swarm of mercenaries who are hired to liberate a tropical island, which is suffering at the mercy of a C.I.A. smoothie turned rotten—and played, as logic demands, by Eric Roberts. You might expect, given the title, a few shafts of irony or pathos to be levelled at this symposium of has-beens, but The Expendables is not fit to touch the holster of The Wild Bunch, and Stallone seems genuinely to believe that he is dealing in still-cans. To this end, he pals up with a younger lump, Jason Statham, for the most incendiary scenes; each of them saves a woman in distress, but both concur, in the end, that they get along just fine together as they are, damsel-free. Steady, guys. People will say you’re in love.