Yesterday, I went to the big movie house in Sappington and saw two movies for $4. Wow, right?
One of them was a $4 matinee of The Other Guys, the buddy-cop comedy starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. The movie pokes hilarious fun at the mindless clichés of filmdom, pairing an aggressively bland forensic accountant with a loose-cannon detective who is in the doghouse for shooting Derek Jeter. My favorite scene is where the partners are knocked down by a huge explosion. Farrell lies there screaming: "I need an MRI! I'm sure I have soft tissue damage! Star Wars is a big fake when it shows the Millennium Falcon flying out of the fireball of the exploding deathstar!" An equally agonized Wahlberg screams back: "Don't say that! Star Wars is totally accurate!" I'm paraphrasing, of course.
The film also features Michael Keaton as the police captain who moonlights at Bed Bath & Beyond, Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson as a pair of super-cops who snuff themselves in a gut-bustingly funny way, Bobby Cannavale and Damon Wayans as still more obnoxious cops, Steve Coogan as a Bernie Madoff type with a British accent, and the luscious Eva Mendes as Ferrell's wife, who in another laugh-till-it-hurts scene exchanges sexy love messages with her husband via her elderly mother. Plus, it's one of those rare movies whose closing credits are worth watching all the way through, especially if you think there's something fishy about a Wall Street bailout costing the taxpayer enough to send every American around the globe, and about a perfrillion dollars of said bailout money going straight into the pockets of a few dozen CEOs.
The other movie was free, thanks to a "Movie Bucks" coupon from FYE, worth up to $12 at participating theaters. The umptyplex in Sappington participated all right, though the digital-theater matinee of The Expendables only cost $8. This is the film every guy of my generation has fantasized about since he was old enough to role-play tough-guy commando raids in the backyard. Bruce Willis only makes a brief, uncredited appearance; Arnold's is even briefer, and almost pointless (though Sly scores a hit with his dig, "He wants to be President"). Mickey Rourke doesn't do anything except slum around a tattoo parlor, make himself cry, and (just to show that he's still tough) throw a few knives at a target. Steve Austin and Eric Roberts play bad guys who get their guts handed to them. Dolph Lundgren gets kicked off the team for bad sportsmanship. So that leaves only Sylvester Stallone, UFC chamption Randy Couture, martial arts maven Jet Li, NFL star Terry Crews, and British action stud Jason Statham to take on, between them, the entire army of a small Caribbean country in order to neutralize Generalissimo David Zayas and save his daughter, played by bella Mexicana Giselle Itié.
It's a tour de force of muscle-man action, featuring everything from car chases to an airplane strafing a jetty, from hand-to-hand combats to gun battles with huge orange explosions, a high casualty count and major property damage. Where The Other Guys bring down a helicopter with golf balls, The Expendables manage to blow one up before it leaves the ground. Directed by Stallone himself, The Expendables trots out nearly all the battle-scarred veterans of action films of the 1970s, -80s, and -90s and throws one last, incendiary party for the whole gang. It's an action junkie's dream. As pure film, it has its weak points. Once in a while the pacing sags and you can see the wheels turning in Stallone's directorial mind: "What would be good right here is..." Some of it seems to have been at least semi-improvised. And forgive me if my lapse of attention is at fault, but I lost track of what Jason Statham was doing during a long stretch of the climactic battle. Did his character step out back for a smoke break? Where was he while Jet Li was throwing grenades, and Randy Couture was fighting Steve Austin, and Stallone was trying to save the chick from Eric Roberts, and Terry Crews was throwing touchdown passes with live shells? Hmmm. Maybe there's a sequel in this...