Tag Archives: Jet Li

The Expendables (2010, Sylvester Stallone), the director’s cut

Ah, the utterly useless director’s cut. Thank you, DVD.

Having only seen The Expendables once, I’m not entirely sure what Stallone added for this version. The opening titles seem long and awkward (there’s now a montage introducing the team, which is even sillier since most of them disappear for the majority of the run time) and the big action scene has new music. Neither addition makes any significant difference, though there do seem to be some additional moments with the cast and the cast is what makes The Expendables work.

Most of the film’s performances are good. Nearly all of them actually, which is startling given much of the cast is traditionally laughable. Even the wrestlers are all right, though having Steve Austin knock out a woman probably makes him a lot more menacing. Randy Couture has a fun, against type monologue and Gary Daniels is good in his little part.

But the film’s best performance is, shockingly, Dolph Lundgren. Lundgren’s drug-addled behemoth is constantly frightening, but also somewhat touching and amusing. Jet Li’s appealing. Eric Roberts and Jason Statham, no surprise, are both excellent.

Stallone, other than showing off his retirement age physique, doesn’t do much. But he’s fine.

Mickey Rourke is amazing. He does more to make The Expendables “real” than anything else. Though even he wouldn’t be able to combat Jeffrey L. Kimball’s incompetent photography.

The only bad performance is David Zayas, who’s awful.

The Expendables is sometimes too long, but the acting makes it worthwhile.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Sylvester Stallone; screenplay by Dave Callaham and Stallone, based on a story by Callaham; director of photography, Jeffrey L. Kimball; edited by Ken Blackwell and Paul Harb; music by Brian Tyler; production designer, Franco-Giacomo Carbone; produced by Avi Lerner, John Thompson and Kevin King Templeton; released by Lionsgate.

Starring Sylvester Stallone (Barney Ross), Jason Statham (Lee Christmas), Jet Li (Yin Yang), Dolph Lundgren (Gunner Jensen), Eric Roberts (James Munroe), Randy Couture (Toll Road), Steve Austin (Paine), David Zayas (General Garza), Giselle Itié (Sandra), Charisma Carpenter (Lacy), Gary Daniels (the Brit), Terry Crews (Hale Caesar) and Mickey Rourke (Tool).


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Kiss of the Dragon (2001, Chris Nahon)

I wonder how long it takes Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen to script their action movies. None are ever very long (or very good—for the most part) and they’re all exceptionally simple. Maybe they have some kind of fun method to it, like they get a Domino’s pizza and write one in a night, maybe even acting the scenes out while someone transcribes it all.

Kiss of the Dragon’s got some awful dialogue, mostly because they try to be serious and show how difficult life is for Bridget Fonda. She’s an American farm girl turned heroin-addicted Parisian streetwalker. It’s unclear how she made the transition… something the script touches on, then avoids because it seems too difficult.

Fonda is all right—she has the film’s worst lines. She’s never quite believable, but she’s always too good for the script.

Jet Li’s solid in the lead role (though he’s asexual as always, which severely cuts into Dragon’s realism at times). Tchéky Karyo has a great time as the villain, though Besson is sort of redoing Leon, only with a Chinese guy in Paris instead of an Italian guy in New York.

The cultural thing is a little strange—Besson and Kamen portray the French police as corrupt murderers, while the Chinese are the good guys. The Chinese government banned the film, apparently not taking the compliment.

Craig Armstrong’s score is pretty, but isn’t well-suited.

Nahon’s direction has good moments. Dragon is always watchable, even if it’s stupid.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Chris Nahon; screenplay by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, based on a story by Jet Li; director of photography, Thierry Arbogast; edited by Marco Cavé; music by Craig Armstrong; production designer, Jacques Bufnoir; produced by Besson, Steve Chasman and Happy Walters; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Jet Li (Liu Jian), Bridget Fonda (Jessica Kamen), Tchéky Karyo (Insp. Richard), Max Ryan (Lupo), Ric Young (Mister Big), Burt Kwouk (Uncle Tai) and Laurence Ashley (Aja).


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Danny the Dog (2005, Louis Leterrier)

Danny the Dog is better than it should be–it’s not as good as it could have been, but it’s definitely better than it should be.

The film finally gives Jet Li an appropriate English language role. Here, he can turn in a decent performance while doing his physical stuff. Li’s very likable (maybe because he’s so diminutive).

Villain Bob Hoskins is a bit of a problem though. While dynamic, the character’s too one dimensional (it’s one of those wholly evil villains) and Hoskins doesn’t bring anything to it.

The big surprise of the film (besides it being good and Morgan Freeman starring in it) is Kerry Conden, playing Freeman’s stepdaughter. Conden binds the film. She and Li’s chemistry (it comes mostly from her; he’s good here, no miraculous) is very nice. It’s not quite a romance and not quite not.

Director Leterrier’s the film’s greatest asset. His fight scenes utilizes Li’s martial arts abilities in the narrative, but he also brings the human element.

The story’s incredibly simple. It might be entirely free of subplots–for example, Freeman’s great apartment–he tunes pianos–is never explained–so it shouldn’t have much room to go wrong. Except it’s Besson; he eventually decides to dramatically shift the narrative’s course, trashing some great plot threads.

While the film doesn’t live up to its potential, it’s a shame it isn’t more acknowledged. Between Conden’s performance, Leterrier’s direction and even Besson’s script (which starts smart, then goes easy), Danny the Dog is good stuff.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Louis Leterrier; written by Luc Besson; director of photography, Pierre Morel; edited by Nicolas Trembasiewicz; music by Massive Attack; production designer, Jacques Bufnoir; produced by Besson, Jet Li and Steven Chasman; released by Europa Corp.

Starring Jet Li (Danny), Morgan Freeman (Sam), Bob Hoskins (Bart), Kerry Condon (Victoria), Vincent Regan (Raffles), Dylan Brown (Lefty), Tamer Hassan (Georgie) and Michael Jenn (Wyeth).


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The Expendables (2010, Sylvester Stallone)

The Expendables is surprisingly good. I’m not sure Stallone would admit it, but it owes more to Soderbergh’s Ocean’s series than it does any of Stallone’s popular action movies. Apparently, following Rocky Balboa and Rambo, Stallone decided to direct actors, something I’m not sure he’s ever done before. But he gets some shockingly good performances here.

The most obvious is Mickey Rourke, whose role has an extended cameo size to it, but gives Rourke this amazing monologue. The writing has its weak points during, but Rourke’s delivery creates this transcendent moment. As with most good Rourke performances, large or small, it alone makes The Expendables worthwhile.

But then Stallone gives Dolph Lundgren the meatiest role he’s ever had–a junkie mercenary–and Lundgren nails it. It’s simply a great performance. While he’s on screen, it’s just astounding to see this slow-moving Swedish hulk deliver such a textured performance.

Lots of other good performances–Eric Roberts, Terry Crews, that Gary Daniels guy who’s never had a theatrical release is a great villain, and Randy Couture, who wrestles or something… he’s fine.

Jason Statham is solid (he and Stallone are good together when the movie’s in its buddy movie stage) and Jet Li has some amusing moments.

Only Steve Austin gives a completely worthless performance, but it’s passable as he’s usually silent.

Oh… Schwarzenegger. This performance might be his worst, which is quite a statement.

Technically, the film’s a tad under-budgeted for Stallone’s ambitions, but, in the end, it works.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Sylvester Stallone; screenplay by Dave Callaham and Stallone, based on a story by Callaham; director of photography, Jeffrey L. Kimball; edited by Ken Blackwell and Paul Harb; music by Brian Tyler; production designer, Franco-Giacomo Carbone; produced by Avi Lerner, John Thompson and Kevin King Templeton; released by Lionsgate.

Starring Sylvester Stallone (Barney Ross), Jason Statham (Lee Christmas), Jet Li (Yin Yang), Dolph Lundgren (Gunner Jensen), Eric Roberts (James Munroe), Randy Couture (Toll Road), Steve Austin (Paine), David Zayas (General Garza), Giselle Itié (Sandra), Charisma Carpenter (Lacy), Gary Daniels (the Brit), Terry Crews (Hale Caesar) and Mickey Rourke (Tool).


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