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Fun, but should've been a lot better
on 22 November 2011
I had such high hopes for this film. As a lifelong fan of all those classic, big-budget action films from the 80s and early 90s - Commando, Rambo, Die Hard - I couldn't wait to see all those guys back on screen, TOGETHER. And while I didn't find the result as hopeless as a lot of people seem to, I was definitely left with a feeling of... I dunno, uncertainty.
There were just too many little problems that brought the whole thing down. Most annoying of these was the script. MY GOD. Action film dialogue should be the easiest thing in the world to write. Man gets shot: one-liner. Building explodes: one-liner. But the lines in this film were just awful. Not even so bad that they were funny (like Arnie's epic "Stick around!" in Predator). How hard can it be to write a decent quip? And given how cheesy one-liners are one of the base ingredients in an action film, could they not have put at least some effort into it? I mean, really... "Who sent you?" "Your mother!" Shut up.
Another major issue I had (sadly a very common one these days) was with the use of CGI blood effects everywhere. I HATE CGI BLOOD. It looks awful. I wouldn't mind it, except the old-fashioned way, with traditional blood squibs, looked so much better by comparison! CGI's only used because it's quicker, easier and (presumably) cheaper... But that's exactly how it looks when you see it on screen - cheap, lazy and nasty. Now I get that you can't actually blow a hallway full of men to pieces with practical effects, so in that respect, fair enough. But it was everywhere in this film. And when you use it constantly for things that could've been done a lot better with real fake blood, it just smacks of corner-cutting. (And don't even get me started on films that use CGI just so it can be removed later for a lower rating. Eugh.)
At the end of the day though, the film did have some big plus points. It's cast list was great, featuring virtually every action hero from back in the days when action films didn't go direct to DVD (and suck). Some of the new guys are also welcome additions - special mention goes to Terry Crews, who was the only one of the "new breed" I really enjoyed seeing on screen. I'm also a fan of Jason Statham, mainly from the first two Transporter films and the wonderful Lock Stock and Snatch. He has the same kind of charisma as Schwarzenegger back in the day. Granted, nobody here was doing anything even close to acting (with the possible exception of Mickey Rourke), but they delivered what you wanted. Muscles and firepower.
The massive closing shootout was also pretty awesome (even if some of the camera work was a little erratic), with Jet Li and Jason Statham in particular pulling off some amazing finishing moves. And of course, there was Terry Crew's shotgun. That thing deserves a mention all of it's own.
I just can't work out if the pros were enough to make up for the cons. Hence, uncertainty, and only 3 stars out of 5.