To say that Sylvester Stallone has become a parody of himself would be giving the man too much credit. It would imply a certain self-conscious intelligence that, if “The Expendables” is any indication, simply isn’t there.
Then again, it’s possible that I’m being too harsh on the guy. It’s possible that “The Expendables,” for which Stallone wears the triple crown of writer, director, and actor, is a brilliant postmodern reflection on the jingoistic tendencies of his past endeavors. But if that is the case, it’s certainly not evident in the trailer.
The setup is standard: when everyone else fails, this elite group of wisecracking guys do the impossible, etc. The players, likewise, are what you would expect: Jet Li (…who plays a character named Yin Yang), Jason Statham, Terry Crews for some spice (“Old Spice,” that is, ha ha). But the film also features UFC celebrity Randy Couture and WWE ex-superstar “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, a move which to me signals a throwback to the olden days of movies like “Predator” and the like.
The problem is that movies like these have become a bad joke, a fact to which Stallone appears to be either oblivious or indifferent. The action climate has changed; there’s no such thing as a “serious” action movie that doesn’t acknowledge its own absurdity. True, there are outright parodies like 2008’s “Tropic Thunder,” but even films like “The Losers,” which came out this weekend, play with the genre’s tendency towards bombast.
So it’s unclear towards which demographic this marketing campaign is aimed. The shift towards the self-conscious action flick transported the genre into the realm of art from the drudgery of commercial pablum. The pablum was necessary as a basis for innovation and commentary (we wouldn’t be able to mock it if it wasn’t there), but the question on my mind is, what’s the point of going back?
“The Expendables” hits theaters August 13. Whatever.