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Friday, March 11, 2011

An Expendable Director

sylvesterstalloneWith the recent reports that Sylvester Stallone does not intend to direct The Expendables 2 and will in fact be shopping for directors to helm the sequel to the 2010 hit film, I simply cannot help but share my opinion. First off, I want to express that I really enjoyed The Expendables for what it was. Seeing that collection of action heroes, both young and old, really got my testosterone all worked up. I totally did like two sit-ups. While it certainly has its detractors, there are many that defend the film, claiming that it delivered no less than people, specifically action fans, should have expected. That may be true as far as the actors, the characters, the dialogue and the ridiculousness of film goes, but the core element of any action film is the action, and that for me is where The Expendables failed.

To be fair, some of the big action set pieces were pretty great, for instance, Sly releasing gasoline from The Expendables plane onto a boat dock of baddies below, only to have Jason Statham, from the nose of that plane, shoot the boat dock with a flair gun, thus causing a massive explosion. That was pretty epic, but with that said, my issues were specifically with (many of) the fight scenes and some of the gun battles. For whatever reason, the almost always awful shaky-cam action style was utilized for The Expendables, and it fails miserably, as it often does. These scenes are grotesquely edited, with no real sense of direction, let alone a sense of fluidity. People like Jason Statham and (especially) Jet Li are very easy to make look great doing what they do, yet their talents were wasted due to incompetent filmmaking.

theexpendables

One scene that specifically comes to mind is the fight between Dolph Lundgren and Jet Li. Jet Li is not known for his height, while Dolph is quite the imposing figure as far as his stature goes. So here you have this great opportunity to use these contrasting physiques for what could have been a visually impressive fight scene. Nevertheless, the scene is so poorly put together that you almost cannot even discern the height difference between the two, let alone there being more than a few seconds allowed to actually see them fight one another. The worst part is, just before they fight, Lundgren's character makes a reference to Li's height telling him to, "bring it, happy feet!" hinting at what could have made for a visually great fight scene, yet, there's nothing but top down shots, poor angles and action that's too frenetic to be able to see, let alone enjoy. 

Some folks point to the shitty action and say that this is what we should have expected from a throwback action film, but those people are way off base in my opinion. The action films from the '80s were very well represented in many ways (in The Expendables), but to claim that the action from the films of that era were inherently crappy, is an incorrect notion. Now, with Stallone being the person that was basically the backbone of The Expendables, I have to shovel some of the blame on him (as well as the praise, to be fair), therefore, having him step away from the directors chair, to me, sounds like the best decision for the sequel. However, who exactly should be the one to step in and helm a sequel to a successful throwback to the '80s action film? Well, there is only one name that I feel would do it best, and that name belongs to Isaac Florentine.

While many were championing The Expendables as an homage, a love letter, a true return to the '80s action film, there was another movie that made its way straight to DVD in 2010, and that movie kicked the shit out of The Expendables in every possible way. That film was Undisputed III: Redemption. With Undisputed III: Redemption (which I admit to having a wicked boner for), Florentine put out a film that is, without trying to be, an '80s action film. Everything is in place, from hokey dialogue and a thin plot, to a budding bromance and a great antihero in Yuri Boyka. Most importantly, Undisputed III has some of the best fight scenes I have seen from a none traditional martial arts film in years. It's an '80s action movie brought to modern times with the use of style, ability and technique, all while being as hard hitting and tough as any film can be. The comparison between both Undisputed III: Redemption and The Expendables is nonexistent, because there are no comparisons as far as what was delivered.

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Both films came out in the same year, therefore my comparison of the two, but Florentine has been making a name for himself for quite some time, and I believe he is the guy that could really push The Expendables to the level that it needs to go. Now, I cannot say that the issues with The Expendables is solely attributed to Stallone, as the problems were specifically with the cinematography and, even more so, the editing. In fact, the editing was so horrendous that it carried over into the non-action scenes more than once. If Florentine were to be chosen (not that I actually think he would), it would be great if both cinematographer Ross Clarkson and editor Irit Raz could come along with him as both have worked with Florentine quite a bit and both have a lot of great experience.

There has been a ton of (AWESOME) casting rumors floating around for The Expendables 2; such as, Bolo Yeung, Cynthia Rothrock, Michelle Yeouh, Arnold Schwarzenegger (in a bigger role) and Jean-Claude Van Damme (who's already worked with Florentine), just to name but a few. Now, another rumored actor that stands out in a big way - and would totally make the Florentine pick all the more perfect - is Scott Adkins. Adkins and Florentine have made a number of awesome action films together and, quite frankly, Adkins is a specimen whose skills and presence are matched by very few action "actors" out there. The thought of having Adkins be in The Expendables 2, with Florentine at the helm, is a dream come true.

boyka

My intentions of this post was never to roll in the hate wagon for The Expendables (or Stallone, for that matter), because I really did enjoy the film, but its flaws are glaring, and to simply dismiss them by saying "what did you expect" is way off base for those specific problems. What I expected was, at the least, competent action scenes, and if the right director stepped in, The Expendables 2 could be an action masterpiece. Florentine is perfect because he has the experience , the skill and he is not a huge name outside of the world of DTV action market, but the people that know his films, know his skill and that skill is what is necessary to put The Expendables 2 over the top. If you don't believe me, watch this and you'll become a believer soon enough.

11 comments:

  1. You nailed it. I agree on every level in regards to why The Expendables stunk. I have zero knowledge of Isaac Florentine and only peripheral knowledge of Undisputed III: Redemption. But after only 28 seconds of that clip, I'm all in. This dude needs to helm The Expendables 2 and I need to see Undisputed III: Redemption.

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  2. I agree wholeheartedly and you've really articulated my biggest problems with The Expendables; all the pieces were there but the Michael Bay "blurry flurry" effect sadly exerted its influence over the action scenes. I've read Stallone in interviews explain this away as being purposely chaotic because it makes it more "realistic" for the audience but that's a tired excuse for a poorly shot product.

    I've not seen the third installment but Florentine showed a knack for shooting great fight scenes in Undisputed 2 and he would be a great fit.

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  3. Dylan: Yes and YES! Florentine inherently makes those kinds of films on the regular and makes them better than anyone else does right now. Plus, he's always getting better at it, too. You definitely need to check out both Undisputed 2 and 3 asap!

    Karl: That excuse is used far too often. I really like hand-held in movies when the film garners it, and when it's done right, but it is not done right in The Expendables at all. It's a major break for me and has ruined a lot of films that I otherwise would have loved.

    Undisputed III is a step up from the second film on all levels. You definitely need to check it out!

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  4. Dude, I love how you have, in recent past, made numerous allusions to UNDISPUTED III. Suuuuuch a bad-ass & satisfying flick.

    I'm with you on roughly the first half of THE EXPENDABLES; I thought it woefully under-performed given its pedigree. What pulled me back from the brink and made me give an overall thumbs-up was the big finale/siege sequence where they fight their way outta the bad guys' stronghold. That part rocked ass; the way the whole film SHOULD have.

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  5. God, this is such a horrible article. You have no idea what the hell you're talking about on any level.

    Please stop writing anything, you give real critics a bad name that focus their efforts on the net.

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  6. The only problem I have with Florentine is he is unreliable. Undisputed II was amazing. However, Ninja and The Shepherd, which both came after Undisputed II, were awful. I don't know what the difference is, there, since most of the cast and crew for Undisputed II showed up for Ninja (did I mention Ninja was awful?).

    That said, I've been hounding Angela to watch III with me for awhile, hoping it lived up to II, so maybe now I can. Perhaps if they do give the nod to Florentine, then Stallone's watchful eye will keep the project from going south. I think Ninja's problem was it was too big and the same is probably true of Shepherd.

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  7. Hm. I was definitely sated enough with Stathamness and giddiness to not notice any of The Expendables' flaws (other than the lack of Statham ass) but you're probably right about these points, odd because Stallone has directed some much stronger material before. I'll just take your word for it.

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  8. Astro: Yeah, I think I may have talked about it (U3R!) too much but it's hard not to! By the way, I loved the second film, especially pimp Boyka ruling the cafeteria like a fucking god!

    I think we are pretty much on the same page with The Expendables as I too enjoyed the ending more than I did the rest of the film, and that has to do with the action being much better. It still is very flawed, but there was enough awesomeness and overall insanity to make the ending a ton of fun.

    On that note, where did your blog go?!

    Anonymous: I appreciate the time you have taken out of your busy day to leave such a sweet and well thought out comment. I know that taking time away from masturbating to Facebook pictures of girls that will never fuck you is frustrating, especially when you came all the way over here and ended up reading a pile of crap like that shit I wrote above.

    Quite frankly, it's fucking rude of me. I really didn't think about your feelings when I posted this. I should just apologize for wasting your time, especially since you had such big and important day filled with not having friends, not being liked by your family and not being attractive. It's unfair of me and I really should have factored this all in before I wrote this pile of ass.

    I hope that one day you can take a second to stop smelling you fingers and possibly stop by again, and I promise that whatever it is you read will be much better. In fact, it may even be worthy of all the real critics that focus their efforts on the web. I only ask that you mask your IP address so I don't know that you only live few hours from me. I bet Independence Lake is nice this time of year, right?

    James: I haven't seen Shepard, but I will still check it out just for the JCVD/Adkins face off, plus, I wonder how much control someone has on a DTV movie staring Van Damme? Like, could it have been an issue concerning his influence?

    I do like Ninja (but I like even the worst of action films), though I do agree that it and other films that Florentine has done are not always as good as his best movies. However, even with its flaws, Ninja has some pretty bad-ass scenes action wise.

    Undisputed III certainly does live up to the second film and is, in my opinion, better due to the action/style being all the more refined. Plus it's all Boyka all day! If and when you do see it, please let me know what you think about it.

    Emily: Ha, I was actually glad that Statham was kind of the star, which is fitting since he is the most relevant of the bunch, and I too love his little tush!

    As far as Stallone's abilities, I think it comes down to an aging director that wants to be on point with what he perceives as a modern style, one that will resonate with youth. However, he is not really sure how to do it, and may not realize that his base audience isn't really into that type of action filmmaking.

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  9. Matt-
    I had a lot of issues with The Expendables. And one of the big ones is the fight you referenced between Li & Lundgren. It didn't look nearly as awe inspiring as it should have.
    I can not forgive the dialogue.
    Great post. Way to take a stand!

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  10. Thanks Christine! The dialogue was pretty awful, though, I actually kind of liked how terrible it was! It's one of those things where you simply cannot believe that what they came up with was their best option!

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  11. I apologize for being a douche bag. The batteries for the vibrator I had up my ass went dead and I get cranky when I am not being stimulated rectally while leaving snarky comments on internet blogs. Gotta go now. My sister's home and my peep hole beckons me. Where'd I leave my lube?

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