Takers (2010) -vs- The Expendables (2010)

Takers -vs- The Expendables

Mark Sanchez, Featured WriterThe Smackdown

Coming back to the Smack is always a pleasure — sometimes eye opening, often inspiring. So what do I get now upon my latest return match? The summer rot. Juvenile comedies, more people biting my neck, or killing me some other way. In a way, it’s like I never left.

Two summer action releases prove my point. Takers just opened, showing there’s no honor among thieves but yes, a sense of fashion. And very messy. It’s bound to do strong business in this summer’s soft box office. The Expendables arrived earlier with lots of advance word about its well-known, if not well-acting, cast of movie tough guys.

Both films are what they are, without apology or distinction. It presents a different kind of Smackdown: Are these movie retreads worth leaving the house?

In This Corner

A crew of LA desperados steals big and apparently well enough to afford a glossy high-rise life and a closetful of great clothing. A pal rejoins the takers after a stretch in prison. He has an idea for a big “take” and a personal score to settle. Does this spell trouble? Your spelling needs no help, but the crew does when the high-caliber heist goes sideways. Think Ocean’s Eleven. Think Heat and Scarface. And there’s Officer Jack Welles (Matt Dillon) on the chase and being chased by the internal affairs people at the station house. How does this play out? Remember those movies I just mentioned? John Leussenhop directed these movie leftovers from a script he pieced together with Peter Allen and Gabriel Casseus.

In That Corner

The Expendables must be the latest stop on the tour of overripe action stars, and the producers pull no punches. Seasoned mercenary Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) is recruited by a mystery man (Bruce Willis in an uncredited cameo. Smart man) to eliminate a dictator and a rogue CIA man (Eric Roberts) who control a South American island. You know where this is going: Bang. Crash. Flames. Gunplay, knifeplay and body parts served up with relentless ugly gusto. The good guys and the bad guys (if there are such things here) include people you’ve seen before:

  • Jason Statham
  • Jet Li
  • Dolph Lundgren
  • Steve Austin and Randy Couture (from the wrestling arenas)
  • Mickey Rourke
  • Terry Crews

The Expendables even features Arnold Schwarzenneger in a brief, uncredited speaking role.  Doesn’t he have a state to run? This movie inserts a pair of arbitrary story diversions: Statham’s character strikes a blow against domestic abuse (huh?); a woman on the island attracts Stallone’s momentary attention. These subplots make you scratch your head. Sylvester Stallone directed a script co-written with Dave Callaham.

The Scorecard

The best human moment in Takers comes early on: Hayden Christensen’s gang character plays a snippet of that old delight from Hoagy Carmichael and Ned Washington, “The Nearness of You.” From that point on, it’s pretty much downhill. The violence — and there’s lots of it — comes in bloody tones and choreographed in slow motion meant to pass as artiness.

By contrast, The Expendables makes no such claims. I wondered about this cast as I watched. Did these guys lose their money to Bernie Madoff? The lure of sweat and testosterone? I don’t care enough to find out.

Why this dialogue?

Paine: Who sent you?
Barney Ross: Your hairdresser.

Indeed, why was I sitting in the theater?  I’d rather be in a cool dark room with someone lovely and fun, listening as the songbooks of Jerome Kern and Cole Porter tell us better stories about being special and alive. That experience offers meaning and possibility. This ghastly movie? Not even close.

Since this is a Smackdown, someone must lose apart from the audience.

The Decision

Every film is an achievement just getting made, and that’s true here, barely.

The Expendables is well-named. Diverting for a moment, low value, disposable. Our winner — Takers — lingers awhile longer and it should. You’ll wonder just where you’ve seen the fractured direction, staccato editing and story cues before. Nice outfits, though.

Honestly, I can’t imagine spending an evening with either film. That darkened room and music seem more attractive by the minute — better surroundings, much better company, and a chance to learn how honest, imperfect lives might align.

About Mark Sanchez 81 Articles
Oregon based media and communications consultant Mark Sanchez is on the fifth or sixth step of his recovery program from his career as a television news reporter. And that’s the way it is. Mark has been an Oregonian since the Reagan administration and shows no signs of leaving. He lives in Portland — a city that is famous for its transit system, its rain, its independent film community and, lately, for the TV series Portlandia, which Mark notes is about half-true, but to protect confidential sources he won’t say which half.

4 Comments on Takers (2010) -vs- The Expendables (2010)


  1. P.S. I know that the “Mark” you’re referring to is Mark Sanchez, not Mark D. Just wanted to clarify after I read your post, then mine. I sounded confused..
    Thank you for your time!


  2. I think the public is getting so fed up with “crap” movies. Have you had a chance to see “What If?”
    Also wondering how the script for Mark Dacascos for a new series is going?
    Thank you, Bryce.
    Carla


  3. Thank God, Mark and I are available to cover all the crap!!


  4. Thanks but no thanks, Hollywood. You can keep your action heroes and caper films. Blow up a little something. Chase your tail. Punch someone in the face. Shoot a gun. Throw a grenade. Drop a bomb. Knock yourselves out. I’ll be over there, listening to dialogue and watching characters who act like human beings. Until the fall arrives with all the Oscar bait, I’m going on a strict indie, documentary, classic, estrogen-fueled and foreign language film diet with a little Pixar confection for dessert.

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