"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant

GUY RITCHIE’S THE COVENANT really is the official title of Mr. Ritchie’s 2023 Afghanistan War action drama. You know – in the tradition of LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER. The backstory is they were gonna be straight forward and call it THE INTERPRETER, but then they decided to get a little pompous and change it to THE COVENANT, but that meant they had to add the GUY RITCHIE’S to distinguish it from Renny Harlin’s warlock movie THE COVENANT. That’s okay, this is one he can be proud to put his name on. It’s a good one.

Let me tell you this. A few years ago I hit my breaking point with War On Terror films. I felt like even when they weren’t pro-war or militarism propaganda they were still perpetuating our complacency on this unending war. Then we finally pulled out of Afghanistan, so that sort of changed the ethics of using it in action movies, but I still wasn’t anxious to revisit the topic. When I started seeing trailers for these new Jake Gyllenhaal and Gerard Butler movies where they’re a soldier trying to get their interpreter to safety I thought “oh jesus, this how they’re gonna keep milking this thing?”

So I’m thankful to the Action For Everyone podcast and others that have kept praising THE COVENANT and KANDAHAR and explaining why they’re more interesting than I assumed. I don’t know about that second one, but I’m glad I didn’t go with my initial plan to skip THE COVENANT.

I almost didn’t want to put the poster on this review. It’s not ugly but, you know, it’s just two guys in helmets and desert camo, one with a big ass gun. I don’t know about you, but I see that and I picture the same exact sun-drenched, handheld, tactical military slog we’ve been getting dumped on us for years now. The lingo and the brotherhood and the heroic sacrifice. The water bottles, the sniper scopes, the checkpoints, the nervously looking at locals wondering if they’re suicide bombers (the first one isn’t, but the next one is), the uncomfortable raiding of innocent family’s homes, the little touches the better ones throw in to kind of shade it so you know War Is Hell and innocent people are caught in the crossfire, but still ultimately Our Boys are heroes and that’s all that matters, right?

I’m so impressed that THE COVENANT really isn’t one of those. It covers some of those things, but it really does do it from a different perspective. It also has an interesting structure to it, a couple different sections, keeping it varied and interesting for just over two hours that honestly feel shorter. (I’m gonna spoil what the different sections are below, so read with caution or just go watch it first.)

It’s not about the end of the war – it’s set in 2018. Jake Gyllenhaal (CITY SLICKERS) plays U.S. Army Special Forces Master Sergeant John Kinley. He seems like kind of an asshole. His unit’s interpreter gets killed by a Taliban truck bomb, so he goes to get a new one. He’s told Ahmed (Dar Salim, THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE, BLACK CRAB) is hard to work with, but good. Ahmed says he’s been doing this for five years. Asked if he likes it, he says, “It’s a job.” Only later will Kinley learn that in fact he fights the Taliban for reasons of personal vengeance, and at great risk to himself and his family.

You might assume this is a Gylenhaal vehicle where he has this Afghan sidekick who shows that they’re not all bad. But that’s really not what it is. Salim kinda reminds me of Temuera Morrison – he just has a powerful badass presence, outshines everyone around him, steals scenes even with few or no word. Ahmed is in a difficult position, seen as a sellout to some of the locals, generally understanding the situations way better than the Americans, having to go along with what they want but trying to be a voice of reason. For example they raid an opium den on bad info that they’re hiding Taliban weapons. He tells Kinley all the reasons that doesn’t make sense while telling the proprietor stay calm, I know you’re telling the truth, we just have to convince these guys of that.

Kinley is smart enough to notice how good Ahmed is and pay attention to what he says. On another day, everyone’s furious with Ahmed for stopping their convoy on a hunch that they were lied to about which route to take, but of course he’s right and saves them all from an ambush. When Kinley starts to do a little rule bending to get what he considers better intel they locate a major weapons cache, but the insurgents outnumber them, things go south, and only Kinley and Ahmed escape. On foot. In the middle of nowhere.

Ah ha, so that’s what this is about. The two men working together to survive, making the long, dangerous journey back to Bagram Air Base. They trek through the mountains, find places to camp out, hide from the people they come across, fall down a big hill, lose a gun, sneak up on some guys and steal a new gun. There are insurgents searching the area for them, but thankfully most of the locals they run into hate the Taliban, and won’t give them up.

A real shift in the action happens when they get ambushed, Kinley gets shot and then knocked unconscious with a rifle butt. Oh, so now it’s about them being separated.

No, not for long! Ahmed shows up, goes John Rambo on ‘em, rescues the Master Sergeant, but he’s badly wounded. So now the movie becomes about Ahmed having to keep him alive for several days, and get him home. Most of the trip is made pushing him on a wooden cart. The montages make Ahmed seem like a mythical hero of Conan the Barbarian proportions. It’s so triumphant when he gets there and then so deflating that instead of celebrating he has to surrender to American soldiers.

Okay, but there’s still a bunch of movie left. It changes up again. Kinley gets sent home to Santa Clarita, he heals up, he returns to civilian life. He owns an auto repair shop, and he does feel pretty useless since his wife Caroline (Emily Beecham, 28 WEEKS LATER) is used to running it all herself. But it’s not about him having PTSD or feeling out of place and wanting to go back to war or any of those things. The trouble comes when his friend Sergeant Declan O’Brady (Alexander Ludwig, MXP: MOST XTREME PRIMATE) visits and tells him what became of Ahmed. Kinley doesn’t remember what happened before he woke up in the hospital, he just knows Ahmed got him back to Bagram, and now he learns that Ahmed and his family never got the visas they were promised. Worse, his incredibly badass feat of carrying Kinley to safety on a wooden cart made him a local legend, and therefore a prime Taliban target, so he had to go into hiding.

Kinley can’t live with himself if he lets this stand. He spends many hours and days waiting on hold to talk to (and yell at) many workers in many army offices. He gets crazy about it. He gets people very annoyed with him. He finally gets a promise of visas through an old colleague, Colonel Vokes (Jonny Lee Miller, HACKERS), but he has no idea how to find Ahmed to get them to him. So the final section of the movie is when Kinley gets the ol’ UNCOMMON VALOR spirit, decides to go back to Afghanistan as a private citizen, and since the private military contractor he hires (Antony Starr, Banshee) turns out to be busy for several days he has to do it himself.

Most of it is very classically photographed, very controlled, but Ritchie knows when to throw in some splashes of style. There’s a great montage that happens during the Santa Clarita section when Kinley is making all the phone calls. He ends up laying on the floor, and this finally triggers his buried memories of what happened after he got shot. We speed through the whole journey on the wooden cart, including some scenes we saw before, and some we didn’t, all from either his perspective or from next to his head, laying in the cart. The cinematographer is Ed Wild (SEVERANCE, LONDON HAS FALLEN), the editor is James Herbert (BLACK BOOK, EDGE OF TOMORROW, several Ritchie films), and they do an outstanding job of making this stand out from all the other Afghanistan War movies. It has its own look and feel.

It’s top shelf work from Ritchie and all his collaborators, but the MVP is definitely Salim, an Iraqi-born Danish actor I’ve seen in a few things but never paid attention to before. In an American-soldier-and-his-Afghan-interpreter movie you don’t expect them to cast – or allow – the interpreter to be the badass, the scene-stealer, the one with the off-the-charts screen presence. You expect him to be the sidekick, but he’s really the lead for the first half of the movie. Then there’s the stretch without him, where Gyllenhaal gets to do the sort of theatrics he loves (flipping out while waiting on hold getting the run around and what not), but even when it’s Kinley’s story it’s the story of how he literally won’t be able to sleep unless he repays the debt he owes Ahmed for being the baddest motherfucker of all time. So somehow that last stretch doesn’t come off as “this is the story of Kinley and his incredible act of heroism” – it really is “man, we seriously fucked up, and we owe those guys!”

Of course, both characters come out looking good. I hope you know I’m an aficionado of the subtle, silent nod of respect between two badasses. FURY ROAD is obviously the best movie to end with that (and the best movie in general), but this does one too, and I appreciate that.

Like THE GENTLEMAN, WRATH OF MAN and OPERATION FORTUNE: RUSE DE GUERRE, this script is credited to Ritchie and Ivan Atkinson & Marn Davies. The photos of real soldiers and interpreters on the end credits seem like what you put on a movie that’s based on a true story, but they make no such claims. Obviously it is based on the truth that many interpreters risked everything to help the Americans and were not rewarded as promised.

The end is really overwhelming because it’s a happy ending, it’s such a relief, and for a second I thought “Is this bullshit, to be showing us the time when they do get the visa, and everything works out fine?” But then I thought of everything they had to go through to get that happy ending, every extra length they had to go to, every favor they had to pull, every “no” they had to refuse, every rule they had to violate, every lucky break they had to catch (not to mention the $150,000 he had to pay), exactly because this was not the likely outcome, or the one supported by the system. Even before the card at the end with figures of how many interpreters were screwed over and ended up dead or in hiding, the extraordinariness of his actions means that ordinarily people get left behind.

So let’s forget about the other half of the The ‘FORTUNANT’ double feature. That one was mediocre, but THE COVENANT is really something special. The Guy Ritchie roll continues.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 19th, 2023 at 7:02 am and is filed under Reviews, Action, War. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

54 Responses to “Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant”

  1. I don’t know. While I do agree that it does sound a bit different than all the other war movies out there, it doesn’t sound too different and won’t make me put it on top of my watchlist, sorry. I’m also not much of a war movie fan.

  2. I was pleasantly surprised by this one too. When they announced that wave of ‘save the interpreter’ movies after the withdrawal, I rolled my eyes because I was worried they were going to be political. Specifically, I was worried the politics would be anti-withdrawal, and I don’t have any patience for that and I have a lot of hate in my heart for the corporate media for how they behaved in the wake of the withdrawal. But there wasn’t really any of that. It was just a badass and moving story, like this review indicates. Dar Salim as Ahmed is fantastic. And I really liked Jake Gyllenhaal, especially in the period after he gets home where he’s all haunted and sleep-deprived and starts getting all flowery. Some of the stuff he says could have come off corny, but I loved it. “There’s a hook in me. One you cannot see, but it is there.” “You think he blessed you? He fucking cursed me. I am a man who gets no rest.” “That is not how this debt works. It demands a result, not an appeasement.”

  3. Yeah, I had to check the cast list after seeing the trailer to convince myself that Dar Salim wasn’t in fact Temuera Morrison. Cliff Curtis’s career and The Mandolorian etc. ably demonstrate that maori are the Swiss Army Knife of casting minorities, so why not?

    But this review has me convinced, and excited, and I’ll check out GRTC real soon.

    For what it’s worth, KAJAKI is the best Afghan war film I’ve seen: disengaged squaddies trapped in the leftovers of another war and let down by their own side. A true story.

  4. Vern please review The Gentlemen!

  5. I’m mixed on the withdrawl…sure not a bad idea for America to get out most likely, but also funny to see the same liberals who decry being over there a lot of times being fine with us sending arms to Ukraine. Also, the big one is, it was relatively peaceful out there…we left and look what happened, suddenly all the forward movement made by women during that time is wiped off the map. Too bad ladies, get that burka on, better toe the line or your ass is getting thrown in prison or killed.

  6. The trailers for this tried to make it look as generic as possible, so I’m glad that it still has that Guy Ritchie spark. He really is one the high school jock of directors–kind of dumb, but also pretty good at the one thing he does.

    I hopped over to IMDB to see what ol’ Richie is up to, and I found it kind of amusing that one of his upcoming projects is just “Untitled Guy Ritchie’s Action Movie,” and I hope they just change the title to Guy Ritchie’s Action Movie because that tells you all you need to know.

    With regards to leaving Afghanistan, if the country fell that quickly after our withdrawal, then clearly the problem was trying to occupy the country for so long in the first place. And the argument about the women has been used by colonists for centuries. I’m skeptical that invading a foreign country and then trying, as outsiders, to prop it up is the best way to help women in those countries, especially long term.

    One of the best works of journalism I’ve read on Afghanistan asks the question of whether women as a whole had it better under the U.S. occupation. It makes a convincing argument that while women in cities made progress, women living in the countryside were worse off during those twenty years that we hung around. And it isn’t only that ongoing war and violence makes things terrible for everyone. It’s that the militias in the Northern Alliance that we worked with were actually known to be even bigger extremists than the freakin’ Taliban. It’s well worth the read, and it gives some good insight about why we lost to the Taliban.

    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/09/13/the-other-afghan-women

  7. Come for the Guy Ritchie thoughts, stay for the excellent Afghan War journalism recs. God I love this place.

    Ben

  8. Dar Salim is great. I’ve seen him in a couple of Scandinavian shows on Netflix, playing a soldier or a cop, and he’s really good. I would love a movie or a series where he has to go up against a crook played by Sami Bouajila.

  9. That was a good read RBatty…although one point I’d make is it seems generally the examples provided were from 15 years ago when the invasion was fresh and there was still a ton of fighting. I’m sure the cities were also filled with many of the same stories. The question I’d have is, what was it like now?

    Maybe it wasn’t necessarily best for women, but I know it sure ain’t good for them now.

  10. Bummed that I missed this in theaters but I need to really forgive Guy Ritchie. Yes I saw Operation Fortune for reasons beyond him, and I don’t blame him for that one. But when he did “Aladdin”… I feel like that was kind of unforgivable. I gave that one a shot and it felt like the fucking End of Cinema, and I side eye the fact he had to get involved in that.

  11. The Undefeated Gaul

    September 20th, 2023 at 6:09 am

    I wasn’t really planning on seeing this one in a hurry, but I’ve now heard so many recommendations I guess I’ll move it higher up the watch-list. I do have to admit that a bigger reason for doing that is learning that Antony Starr is in it, even if it sounds like he has as much of a part here as Scott Adkins did in ZERO DARK THIRTY. Even so, after Banshee and The Boys I crave to see more of this guy, so I’ll take what I can get!

    By the way Vern, it seems Dar Salim has the Danish nationality not Dutch (I’d never heard of him so I did a quick check).

  12. And I don’t want to downplay what’s happening to so many women right now in Afghanistan. It is a shitty situation. It’s just that the reality of an occupation is that you have to leave at some point, and those who live there don’t, which is an advantage that literally trillions of dollars just couldn’t overcome.

    I’ve thought of Guy Ritchie’s last four movies as his Aladdin apology tour. With The Gentlemen, he went back to his gangsters in London. And then from there he’s dipped his toes in a few different genres. I’ve always thought that making Aladdin in the most nondescript way possible was a strategic move to keep his movies funded after the King Arthur flop (a movie I absolutely love). I will say that everyone in Aladdin was a lot of fun, but for me that didn’t make up for the fact that it was such a tired retread like nearly all the Disney remakes. (Although, I don’t think Dumbo gets enough credit for being a little different).

    I’m curious to see what happens with Aladdin 2 and whether Ritchie will return (or even if we’ll see Will Smith again as the Genie). I remember liking the direct to video Aladdin and the King of Thieves, which provides a useful template for a live action sequel. But maybe it would be better if they just did something new. I wouldn’t mind seeing them pull from other Middle Eastern mythologies and magical creatures. It could be a nice contrast with so much European-based fantasy movies.

  13. I don’t know, I mean it’s obvious that ALADDIN was a case of “You gotta play the studio game once in a while”, but you guys are way too harsh on it (And the Disney live action remakes in general, of which is a surprising amount way more inspired than it seems and ALADDIN is one of them, although on the lower end of those.) For a while Ritchie was also attached to their version of HERCULES before he apparently moved on to TWOLADDIN, so we will see how this turns out.

    But my point is: In a way you can say that THE GENTLEMEN (Which, as you remember, was a movie that I really enjoyed!) was a way more uninspired Ritchie joint that ALADDIN.

  14. Since I haven’t boosted it in a long time, and this discussion might be an appropriate place, can I recommend the Sundance-winning documentary SONITA, about the female Afghani rapper Sonita Alizadeh?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xIJ9Ch-rKU

    Late in the movie the director makes the kind of intervention documentarians aren’t supposed to make, and it works for the movie and for Sonita, snatching victory, of sorts, from the jaws of horrifying defeat.

  15. Re: Guy Ritchie…

    This is the first I’m hearing of Aladdin 2. What of this $200 million movie he’s done that’s coming out next year and is based on a book that has never come out, by an author who might not exist?

  16. Undefeated Gaul – Antony Starr’s part is pretty small, but I’d say bigger than Adkins in ZERO DARK THIRTY and he gets to make more of an impression.

    Thanks for the correction – I don’t know why my brain always transposes those two words. Not the first or last time I’ve made that blunder.

  17. Vern please review The Gentlemen!

    OPERATION FORTUNE was an especial letdown because I hoped he’d take the one thing that really worked in THE GENTLEMEN – Hugh Grant playing a charming villain c*** – add that to the successful reunion with the Stathe in TRUCK HEIST, and course-correct on comedy. Statham is always at his best when doing comedy (cf the Cranks, the two Leterrier Transporters, SPY, the single amusing shot in Hobbs & Shaw), this looked like Ritchie applying a budget to the caper mode that he did his best work in, and Plaza seemed the absolute perfect foil for an action/deadpan/comedy Statham… but it felt so piecemeal and uncommitted that THE GENTS probably plays much better by comparison, just for having a more consistent tone.

  18. Hey Gaul, if you like Antony Starr might want to check out Cobweb where he plays a creepy dad. It was much more fun than the trailers made it look, loved it!

  19. The Undefeated Gaul

    September 21st, 2023 at 12:28 am

    Muh – Thanks, didn’t know that existed for some reason but I’ll check it out for sure! While looking on imdb I also saw he did a film called GUTTERBEE in 2019, which was actually written and directed by Ulrich Thomsen, who of course played the main villain in Banshee. After seeing the trailer though, I think I will skip that one, as it really does give off the vibe of a film you’d only do as a favor to a friend…

  20. I don’t want to argue with you Kit, Statham really does have a talent for comedy, even if OPERATION FORTUNE: VIN DE TABLE didn’t really deliver on it.

    But like Charles Bronson and Burt Reynolds, Statham has many different modes, and there’s a Statham for almost everyone. It’s telling that among his remakes there are several films originally made by Bronson and Burt.

    We have ensemble franchise Statham – the FASTs, THE EXPENDABLESs
    We have solo starring franchise Statham – TRANSPORTERs, MECHANICs, CRANKs, MEGs
    We have remakes Statham – THE MECHANIC, 13, WILD CARD, DEATH RACE, MEAN MACHINE, THE ITALIAN JOB, (GHOSTS OF MARS?)
    We have villainous Statham – CELLULAR, FAST & FURIOUS 7, [SPOILER for an 18-year-old movie] CHAOS
    We have Diamond Geezer Statham – the early Ritchie movies (not REVOLVER), THE BANK JOB
    We have cameo Statham – COLLATERAL, THE PINK PANTHER
    We have oddity Statham – the aforementioned REVOLVER, BLITZ, the CRANKs

    My personal favourite Statham is broken but enduring, soulful Statham – WILD CARD, SAFE, HUMMINGBIRD

    Now you might argue that just reflects the reality of being a 21st century movie star and is not really a reflection of his range, but I think there’s more to it than that. I don’t really care for the CRANKS, and I haven’t seen his Uwe Boll movie, but probably my least favourite Statham is attempting chemistry with Jennifer Lopez Statham – PARKER. But try getting George Clooney to take down all comers while stripped to the waist and skating through oil on bicycle pedals!

  21. Just came back from THE EXPENDABLES 4.

    Not good. It’s a minor step up from TE3 though.

  22. The Undefeated Gaul

    September 21st, 2023 at 3:34 am

    Felix – that’s a shame but not entirely unexpected judging by the trailer. How is the Statham VS Iko fight though? I was at least holding out hope that would be decent.

  23. “Not good. It’s a minor step up from TE3 though.”

    Yikes! If this barely cleared the low bar of Exp3, then it’s streaming for me.

  24. It’s not like anybody expected much from EXPEND4BLES at this point. None of us even expected a 4th movie to happen!

  25. Since EXP3 is the best movie of the first three, this sounds promising!

  26. The Undefeated Gaul

    September 21st, 2023 at 4:29 am

    Pegsman – massive Mel Gibson fan I suppose? I am too, and he is indeed the best villain from the whole franchise so far, but his performance in part 3 was literally the only thing worth watching. Even for me, that wasn’t enough to save it…

  27. The Undefeated Gaul

    September 21st, 2023 at 4:35 am

    Nothing against Van Damme by the way, but Gibson brought some proper serious intensity to his performance. He truly did not care he was in a shitty movie, he gave it his all anyway.

  28. See also: Machete Kills.

  29. Van Damme was fun as a villain but it’s still cheesy, it’s a goof. When Gibson did one, it felt like finally there was a PROPER, genuine villain. It’s still a goof but he was great in it.

    Borg I do like Statham and it’s fun to see him in a variety of things, but even in all of those modes, for the most part he’s just doing Statham. The franchises, solos and ensembles are all totally similar except for the amount of screen time he has in them. And even when he does comedy it’s more about being comedic in a tough Statham way.

  30. Sure, Muh, he generally plays to his strengths of growling and hitting, but I think it’s a mistake to dismiss him as a one-note actor. Not that anyone here was. But he can do banter with the best of them, and I really do believe the more soulful Statham of SAFE and HUMMINGBIRD is him stretching.

    Aside from all that, making that list made me think about his impressive work ethic and quality control. It’s really only the CRANKs I don’t care to watch, and I know many people admire them.

  31. Before TAKEN I used to believe that Statham was the new Bronson. But I don’t think he’ll ever take the same route as old Granite Face. Neeson on the other hand…Not that I don’t enjoy his movies more than late 80s and the whole of the 90s Charlie B. Why the F. didn’t he take the role in CITY SLICKERS?!

  32. All the EXPENDABLESes are wounded ducks in completely unnecessary ways (EX1: illegible shakycam, EX2: unforgivable comedy, EX3: inexplicable PG-13 and overreliance on untalented newcomers) so I expect no different from EXPED4BLES.

    For the record, here are more rankings of the series thus far:

    1. EX3: Most intelligible action, best supporting performances by Snipes, Banderas, and Gibson

    2. EX1: Sincerity and quirky turns by Dolph and Mickey Rourke just barely overcome sloppy filmmaking on every level

    3. EX2: A fucking crime against cinema, wasting promising roles for Adkins and JCVD on the lamest, most disrespectful dad joke bullshit imaginable. A movie so bad it honestly made me like action movies less. The genre still hasn’t fully recovered.

  33. Yeah, I can’t think of any other series that was ever produced as badly past the fans’ wishes as THE EXPENDABLES. And it seems like the easiest job in the world! You have all those action stars, you just have to put them in the 80s action throwback that you promised us! Did they even ask DeSouza if he wanted to write it?

  34. Borg I have to say I love that Statham actually made the Cranks because I can’t imagine any other action guy who still has a lot of choices, would make those. It’s pretty funny that he said fuck it why not.

  35. Majestyk, I agree with your ranking, but I would add that #3 also has the best story and, dare I say it, acting.

    As EXP4 was meant to be a spinoff about Lee Christmas, I guess in let’s say 20 years it’s just Statham and a bunch of todays action stars left.

  36. Jesus, what’s this love for EXP3? Yeah Gibson was effortlessly magnetic as always and Banderas and Ford got a chuckle or 2 from me, but I guess everybody else is ok with the sidelining of no-name randos like Snipes, Statham, Dolph and Crews in favor of veteran action heavyweights like Kellan Lutz, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz and Rhonda Rousey?

    (I await, with the same bated breath, for what stalwart action greats like 50 Cent and Megan Fox are going to bring to Ex4.)

    I submit, for the defense, shakycam and nudge-nudge wink-wink post modern meta humor are lesser crimes by comparison.

    I swear, it’s not long before Jesse Johnson’s TRIPLE THREAT will be re-appraised and finally bestowed it’s long overdue recognition for truly knowing how to use it’s All-Star Team of Bona Fide Ass-Kickers.

  37. There is no lesser crime than the jokes in the second one. That movie should be tried in the Hague.

    They introduced Chuck Norris to Clint Eastwood’s theme. I repeat: They introduced CHUCK NORRIS to CLINT EASTWOOD’s theme.

    There’s no punishment harsh enough.

  38. I meant there is no *greater* crime. I apologize. I get stupider just thinking about EXPENDABLES 2.

  39. The sins of Exp2 are certainly acknowledged. Everyone and their second cousin knows you ONLY EVER introduce Chuck Norris to THE DELTA FORCE THEME and you NEVER get Chuck Norris to tell a Chuck Norris joke.

    But…Stallone ditching fan favorites to go on a mission with 8th Vampire from Twilight, an ex-Boxer, ex-MMA fighter and that cocky pilot from TOP GUN MAVERICK sets my teeth on edge.

    See…thinking about Exp2 makes you stupid, recollecting Exp3 pisses me off.

    Which underlines the point that when it comes to Fucking Up A Sure Thing, The Ex Franchise is in a class of it’s own.

  40. I guess seeing how mad you guys get just talking about these movies is one of the joys I get from them.

  41. I think I just never got over the feeling of betrayal I got from reading all of Stallone’s interviews before the first one about how he was making a real movie with the real warrior spirit, something strong and vital that encapsulated why we loved these types of movies and why they meant something beyond the explosions and one-liners. He was coming off ROCKY BALBOA and RAMBO so it seemed possible that he could deliver an emotionally cathartic coda to an entire genre whose time had passed. A WILD BUNCH for our day. Then what we got was some snarky bullshit for dipshits who hate action movies but think CON AIR is the best one ever made. He sold us out for likes and never looked back.

  42. “dipshits who hate action movies but think CON AIR is the best one ever made”

    Hey, I’m sure my mother wouldn’t like the EXPENDABLES movies too!

  43. We went through most aspects of this franchise after the premiere of #3, so I don’t feel the need to say much more. Only that I saw all three of them last weekend, and I was still entertained for 5 h and 30 m.

    Majestyk, what I got from the PR campaign for the first one (mostly from that…entity over at AICN) was that they were making some kind of homage to the straight-to-video/Michael Dudikoff/CANNON cheapies we got in the 80s. And guess what…

  44. I don’t think I’m asking a lot from The Expendables movies, just that if someone is going to be on the Expendables, they should have more action movie cred than, say, Bob Odenkirk.

  45. I don’t think the cast of THE EXPENDABLES has to be full of action movie veterans only (By that measurement Harrison Ford shouldn’t have been in part 3), but yeah, it is sad that the supposed throwback to the golden era of American action movies delivers way less than the action movie starring the director of LET’S GO TO PRISON.

  46. Okay, I’ll bite: How is Harrison Ford not an action movie veteran?

  47. Ford is but not like Stallone, Statham, or Lundgren or Jet Li, where action movies make almost all of their filmographies. Stallone has no Blade Runners and Ford was equally as successful in Witness as he was as Jack Ryan. Of course the same could probably be said for Bruce Willis who also has a pretty varied filmography.

    2 had the scene you really came to see…Sattlone, Willis and Arnold together doing a big shootup. The fight with Van Damme should have been better, just seemed sort of shrugged off and Damme takes too many punches without giving enough back. 3 really did have the best action, even the brief fight with Gibson and Stallone at the end was quite good.

  48. Depends on your definition of “action movie” I guess. Sure, the INDY JONESes had a bunch of really cool action scenes, but I think the only one in Ford’s filmography that I would really count as action movie is AIR FORCE ONE. Unless I’m forgetting something huge. But I’m absolutely not against him being in them, considering the screen icon that he is. Like I said, in response to Kaplen’s Action Movie cred comment: The Expendables don’t have to be all ass kicking muscle men with a long history of machine gun wielding, bone crunching roles IMO. When the first movie came out, Terry Crews was known as the cuddly dad from EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS and scene stealing supporting parts in Wayans Brothers or Sandler comedies and nobody complained.

  49. I would definitely call Raiders action movies, that is their reason fr being. Much better than an average action, of course. Ford’s stuff tended to be more in the adult thriller mode that would have fights and action but yeah, while I’d still call them action movies, they’d usually just have a couple of real action scenes in them…like the Jack Ryan series, The Devil’s Own or The Fugitive. And shit even his dramas like Witness, since it was made in the 80s, had to end with guys in cheap three piece suits running around a farm with shotguns. Didn’t they all end with three bad guys in three piece suits running around with shotguns or silenced pistols? Even 80s comedies?

  50. This probably won’t come as a surprise, but EXPEND4BLES is the worst one yet. It looks ugly and chintzy, it’s haphazardly edited and structured, Stallone is barely in it (and spends many of his scenes sitting down), Iko Uwais and Tony Jaa are wasted (Jaa less so, I suppose), the returning cast members are mostly wasted, the new cast members are mostly wasted. The return of the R rating is welcome, but then you don’t get more than a couple of suitably gnarly deaths. Statham taking the lead seemed like a solid idea on paper, but unfortunately we don’t get the good Statham here, we get the Statham of FAST AND FURIOUS PRESENTS HOBBS AND SHAW. And really, that’s the movie’s tone all around, lots of unfunny riffs and comedy bits.

  51. Perhaps should take this to the other thread but I think it could be argued the INDYs, the Jack Ryans, THE FUGITIVE, and heck, perhaps even BLADE RUNNER fit a lot more of the criteria of action movie than the ROCKYs do (OK, maybe excepting ROCKY IV).

    Not by me because I can’t be bothered. But someone could argue it, I suspect.

  52. Well yeah but it’s not like Rocky was the only movies Stallone made. Rockys are drama, but aside from a few odd comedies where he was trying to pull an Arnold, or his earlie rcareer which had more dramas…it was usually Stallone with a machine gun in a movie that was Basic Action. Like, you take the action out of a Ford movie you’ll be fine, the rest is still really good. Not so much with Sly.

  53. Glad to see you enjoyed this one. I absolutely loved it. It really caught me off guard; it’s one of my favs of the year.

  54. I’m open to *some* wildcard members, given that Terry Crews did work out (and it’s not like Predator didn’t have Shane Black hanging out with Sonny Landham), but I don’t think the series’ strategy of adding nobodies to the mix works out with any consistency. And at this point, half the team is randos taking time away from the guys I actually want to watch, if those guys even make it into the movie at all (there’s no reason Wesley Snipes shouldn’t be back, he is NOT that busy).

    But that’s been the Expendables’ problem all along. Too many characters, too many cameos, not nearly enough energy actually spent on action scenes and villains. It’s like the whole franchise has turned into a farm league for Liongate’s straight-to-DVD division. (“Scorpion King 7, starring Expend4blesTM’s Levy Tran!”)

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