It’s one of the more unusual sequel ideas floating around in Hollywood recently. The Expendables, a franchise starring has-been action heroes from the 1980s, let some old farts pretend that people still liked them, made a tidy sum of money for Lionsgate, and there’s a third one on the way. Now that Lionsgate has a true cash cow in The Hunger Games, and a cash cow that isn’t terrible for once (*cough* Twilight), the franchise is a bit unnecessary thanks to worsening critical judgment and diminishing returns. However, it seems that someone may have misinterpreted the messages clearly being sent as “ohhhhhh, people want has-been actresses” instead of “ditch the franchise faster than The Smurfs.”
The end result is this, The Expendabelles, a female version of the cash cow Stallone built. The script is written by Legally Blonde scribes Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith, who also wrote 10 Things I Hate About You (probably among the best of the 1990s teen comedies).
Surprisingly, the script is awful.
Granted, the two are primarily rom-com writers, so handing them an action movie wasn’t a bright move to begin with. And it’s pretty clear that they saw the Charlie’s Angels reboot before writing this, because this movie is a little skeevy in the wrong way. Let’s begin, shall we?
A brief reminder: everything I talk about in this script coverage is really contained within. Oh, and while I may be derisive towards the Expendables/belles, the rest of UTF’s staff seems to thoroughly enjoy the wacky action flicks… and I’m not quite sure why!
We begin with a top secret mission, which almost immediately goes to shit thanks to the evil bad guy (called Sultan in the script) and his secret weapon…an army of sharks. A group of highly trained Navy SEALs are eaten within a couple minutes by a bunch of sharks. They may kill a few ethnic stereotypes here and there, but they’re essentially eaten by sharks. In fact, this is how Osama Bin Laden hid from our military for so long, if my brief Google search recalls.
One extraneous detail, the leader of this mission, our lead Navy SEAL, is nicknamed Honey Boo Boo by his troops. Honey Boo Boo is unceremoniously killed by being beaten to death offscreen, without warning. He was as badass as his name.
We now cut to the big man himself: Sylvester Stallone, still convinced that he has fans under the age of fifty. Alongside him is screen legend Harrison Ford. They briefly discuss our villain, very creatively named Sultan, and how amazing his security detail is. I’d like to briefly remind you that they were all murdered by Honey Boo Boo and his crack team of Navy SEALs, before being eaten by a bunch of goddamned sharks.
Stallone, naturally, has a really good idea: Sultan, like most dictators, is a total complete pervert. Why not send in a bunch of sexy female secret agents to pose as hookers? This is how national security is protected, folks!
With that setup, Stallone contacts a bunch of different women, all of whom being identical carbon copies to each other in terms of personality. They are, in essence, highly sexualized ladies who can kick some ass, but never without exposing a bit of cleavage. They are…The Expendabelles!
No, seriously, they’ve all got names, but there’s no point writing about each individual one. There’s a pretty standard “assembling the team” montage: you’ve got mud wrestling here, surburban mother there, nothing out of the ordinary.
The plan is established with Stallone talking to Lead Expendabelle dressed as a limo driver. Sultan has kidnapped some guy who can make uranium for cheap. He wants to sell to other bad guys so they can make nukes. I’m glad to see an original plotline developing here.
Lead Expendabelle has one thing separating her from the others: she’s done with the mercenary life, and just wants to live like an ordinary person. Man oh man.
And how do you think all of these women react to learning that they’re not actually being contacted for their ass-kicking skills, but their feminine wiles instead? As one of the Expendabelles puts it upon learning she’s about to be violently molested for her country: “Finally, our vaginas pay off!”
That’s an actual line of dialogue in the script, ladies and gentlemen. In fact, that might be the one good thing about the script: if made, it’ll be the most accidentally funny movie since The Room. Oh hai Mark.
OH OH OH but one of them is a Hooters girl, and is literally bribed by Lead Expendabelle for the job!
Anyway, let’s get to what really matters…the action scenes!
For whatever reason, this translates into a weird five minute sequence where a series of actual hookers (the ones the Expendabelles are supposed to replace, mind you) talk about the consistency of their buttholes, as they take out a series of guards. We’re already a half an hour into this (a page of script equal to a minute of screentime), and there has been almost no ass-kicking. Plenty of sexism, but not much of the ass-kicking. But we all know that if hookers weren’t talking about buttholes, they wouldn’t be hookers. Because sex workers are all sleazy like that. Right?
So anyways, the Expendabelles go onto the plane, replace the actual hookers, tranquilize the pilot, and brief themselves on the current mission, which amounts to them repeatedly insulting the hostage because he’s got a doctorate. And also because he’s diabetic. Am I weird for wanting the Sultan to succeed in his evil plan, because the Expendabelles are making me hate America.
They’re immediately brought to see Sultan upon landing in whatever exotic location they’re in (the script doesn’t say much, beyond it’s an exotic island…somewhere). This may very well be the most hysterical film conversation I’ve ever read in my life. If you’ve ever wanted to hear a grown man refer to female genitalia as buckets, and have one of the Expendabelles describe her dancing skills as “a toss-up between Pictionary and fellatio,” you’ve come to the right place. On Sultan Island, things get camp to a level that would make Ed Wood jealous.
What about the actual hookers? Welp, two of the Expendables trap them on a remote beach and dress up like the Sultan and his bodyguard in order to seduce them. They’re the good guys, right?
We now cut to a party scene, where every single man in the room immediately attempts to seduce the Expendabelles, and they create increasingly elaborate ways to avoid their advances. Not much of it involves ass-kicking, although the most hysterical involves the suburban mother of the gang suddenly lactating without warning, scaring off one of her attempted rapists. Why he’s so scared of breast milk is beyond my understanding.
I would like to add here that everything I’m describing is not from my imagination, and that I’m getting this from the planned script itself.
Oh oh! Guess how they distract Sultan, allowing them to slip out of the room unnoticed! They have one of them strip for Sultan, distracting him so the rest can move. She also does this dance to the tune of a Young MC song. Oh dear God.
Clearly our screenwriters saw Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance, because she literally begins twerking in the middle of it, featuring the infamous mating ritual’s first appearance in a mainstream Hollywood film. Surprisingly, I’m pretty sure Spring Breakers didn’t have a single instance of this.
Then, in one of the weirdest moments of a film filled with weird moments, Lead Expendabelle thinks that a crocodile is the hostage they’ve been looking for this whole time. It’s played for laughs. I’m not sure how that makes any sense, but it’s campier than Samuel L. Jackson being killed in Deep Blue Sea.
In an insane miscalculation after that, our Lead Expendabelle is overdosed on insulin, while another one is whisked away to immediately have sex with Sultan.
Or she would, if the Sultan actually just wanted to sing karaoke with someone, and was afraid of being rejected and judged by his underlings. So he finds hookers instead to sing with. He even has a duet with one of the Expendabelles. This was actually pretty cleverly done, setting him up as a total pervert and then completely reversing the character. It almost makes him sympathetic.
A pretty standard stealthy action scene follows, with each Expendabelle taking out guards in rather whimsical fashions, ranging from distraction to simply shooting the bastards. They discover their hostage, who turns out to have developed Stockholm syndrome, and is now with the bad guys.
They then kidnap him and try to drag him out of the place, fighting guards the whole way. One of the Expendabelles spends the entire fight completely nude.
During this extended chase sequence, Suburban Mother gets a call from her stay-at-home husband, clearly emasculated and representing the kind of man Stallone fears the most. This goes on for about five-to-ten minutes as they escape and more people are killed.
The Hooters girl attempts to play hero by attempting to pretend that she’s been kidnapped, but she only slows their pursuers down for about ten seconds. What a heroic sacrifice.
In yet another miscalculation, the Expendabelles escape on one of Sultan’s planes, very conveniently rigged with explosives with no explanation as to why. Luckily, they manage to jump out in time and avoid his killer shark army.
But somehow run straight into the guards, now with guns! They’re dragged off to the evil dungeon, where they meet none other than Honey Boo Boo, who is still alive!
Honey Boo Boo being the Navy SEAL commander, not the pint-sized star of that godawful reality show.
Meanwhile, the hostage eagerly agrees to help the Sultan provide as much radioactive materials as possible, while complaining about the Expendabelles. Standout quote: “One of them broke my gonads. I’m not gonna be able to jerk off for a week.”
We also learn that they’re as mediocre at diplomacy as much as they are about ass-kicking. When the Sultan arrives to attempt to negotiate, they immediately piss him off by making a bunch of penis jokes. Saying that a man who can nuke the entire world has a small member is not a particularly bright or progressive move.
He promptly orders their collective execution, and then prepares to leave. However, this plan is foiled when all of the guards are suddenly murdered by…
Lead Expendabelle’s mom! And guess who was apparently the top pick to play her?
That’s right, they were hoping that Academy Award winner Meryl Streep would play this role. It’s also revealed that she’s an ex-girlfriend of the Sultan, meaning that there’s a possibility that Lead Expendable could be his daughter.
Whoa. Man, it’s like Oldboy all over again.
Using a conveniently located tracker device, they find where Sultan’s going. And not only that, they’ve got backup.
Another set of Expendabelles! Who are also completely indistinguishable from one another, but thirty years older!
I see a pattern emerging here…
Although it then goes to another pattern, where something alternatively creepy and hilarious happens. Whilst Honey Boo Boo chows on food brought by one of the older Expendabelles, Lead Expendabelle and her mother fight over who gets to sleep with him. Happy family fun for the whole family.
Meryl Streep’s getting yet another Oscar nomination soon, I can feel it.
I’d like to briefly make a personal comment at this stage in the review: why is it that evil movie henchmen are always easily distracted by hot girls in bikinis? Are we as a gender that cliched? Personally speaking, if I saw a hot girl in a bikini appear out of nowhere on an evil tropical island, I would immediately get suspicious. These guards are perpetually horny, so they naturally let their guards down as one of the Expendabelles appears out of nowhere and loses her top to distract them.
However, there’s more important things to consider here: DANCE PARTY!
Yep, the evil Sultan, who’s about to sell uranium that could potentially threaten the entire world, has a dance party where he meets up with his North Korean and Iranian buyers. Because stealing from a shameless remake of Red Dawn is OK, guys.
Seriously, does America identify its enemies by who gets mercilessly killed in its action movies still? I thought we moved past that to making all our enemies vaguely Arabic because al Qaeda. And as we all know, if one terrorist is a certain skin color, all people of that skin color bad.
Interestingly, instead of negotiating for the nukes, the buyers collectively begin insulting the nerdy genius guy’s apparent lack of sexual experience, because he wears glasses, and in the world of 1980s action movies, cool people don’t wear glasses, they take growth hormone.
Meanwhile, the Expendabelles decide to rescue their idiot colleague who got herself kidnapped to buy them time. Instead of stopping the sale of the uranium. Since we’ve already proven that Sultan isn’t going to kill her, why save her first? Save the world first! It’s what John McClane pre-A Good Day To Die Hard would do, although James Bond wouldn’t change tactics.
Naturally, they make a bunch of semen jokes upon finding her. Because she’s dressed as a hooker, geddit? It’s funny!
Right when the auction concludes is when the Expendabelles decide to attack, completely ruining the element of surprise and sending the entire building full of guards after them.
It’s not exactly clear in the screenplay exactly what happens besides everyone randomly shooting at each other. Somehow everyone ends up outside a page later. I apologize for the inconvenience, folks.
One of the Expendabelles randomly leaves the scene after shoving a small dog in her bra.
Meanwhile, Academy Award winner Meryl Streep confronts the Sultan, where they prepare to do battle.
By the way, have you ever wanted to hear Meryl Streep make a bunch of erectile dysfunction jokes while fighting a guy? You get that experience thanks to The Expendabelles, improving marriages everywhere.
Meanwhile, the North Korean guy I mentioned earlier knows kung fu or something because he’s Asian, duh. Two of the Expendabelles take him on as Meryl Streep fights the Sultan and two more are on a helicopter fighting a couple other guys. I’m not entirely sure what’s going on at this point.
At this point, the Sultan has won his fight and escaped to a conveniently placed submarine. The helicopter eventually explodes. The Sultan’s submarine explodes because it was loaded with C4. The day is saved, kind of. Lead Expendabelle seems like she’s been killed for all of ten seconds, in the classic “pretend the main character has died to force an emotional reaction out of audiences.”
What comes next is the Expendabelles performing one of the last cliches of the movie: the walking forward in slow motion. Sylvester Stallone congratulates them, and the movie’s over…
EXCEPT ONE LAST DANCE PARTY!
Yep, that’s how this action movie ends, with yet another dance sequence. The end.
Anyways, now that I’ve finished this, I’d like to make a few personal statements about the script itself.
Firstly, everything I’ve just described previously is in the script. I don’t know if this is the final draft, and I’m hoping it isn’t.
Because damn, did this script just make the mistake Charlie’s Angels made, where they assumed that the only way women can fight men is with their sexuality? The sheer amount of semen jokes in this script alone is absurd. It also proves that Hollywood has a major problem when it comes to gender: it at once attempts to appeal to what it thinks men and women want. Men want sexy babes, women want empowerment, according to the cliche. Trying to appease everyone at once just creates a series of cardboard cutout “sexy badasses” who appeal to neither, because of how unbelievably snotty they all are in the process.
Hollywood, most women just simply aren’t that terrible. If there’s nothing else you should know about them, they’re human beings too.
The biggest problem with the script is the subtle suggestion that the Expendabelles can’t succeed in a conventional fashion. The only reason they even gain access to Sultan Island is because they pose as hookers. They do spend a weird amount of time insulting the real hookers, and in turn insult each other for their sexual experiences. This film has such a negative view of sexuality that it’s almost funny. The female characters who’ve had a lot of sex get shamed for it, but so do the ones who haven’t had much experience at all.
If you’re wondering why I’m talking about this so much, that’s a good thing. We should not be having this talk about a goddamned action movie. But seriously, it’s like every other line is “boo you whore!” It’s like they’re all carbon copies of the Plastics from Mean Girls.
Not to mention that all the male characters are portrayed in this film as complete horny slimebags. From the numerous sexual assaults in this film played off as laughs, to the Expendables literally kidnapping a plane full of hookers in one of the sideplots, there’s such a weird rape-y vibe to the whole thing that I gotta wonder who thought this was funny. More stereotypes on top of stereotypes.
Now why aren’t these characters realistic? I couldn’t care less if they were empowering, when people like Britney Spears and Katy Perry are referred to as “empowering,” it’s clear that that word means nothing. They’re not realistic because there’s no development whatsoever. They’re introduced, given some sexist catchphrases, and thrown into action. I don’t care about any of them because they’re all foul human beings. By the way, this applies to every character except the Sultan.
Sultan I liked very much. In fact, I think I liked him because he was the only one who had more motivations then “look good in leather.” He is clearly trying to play up the image of a dictator, invited all these girls to the island, just to have someone to hang out with. It’s even implied that he molests one of the Expendabelles before it’s revealed that he just wanted a karaoke partner. Get rid of that ridiculous scene where he fights Meryl Streep and tune out the sexism in his dialogue, and he’d make a twist on the conventional Hollywood villain: a guy who seems evil, but only wants a friend.
And with him comes the tiny glimmering hope of this film: that this isn’t a completely pointless endeavor. I feel like the screenwriters were probably pressured into inserting a ton of the crap that became this screenplay, since they’re not half bad (and 10 Things I Hate About You is a guilty pleasure of mine) normally.
Here’s the way I see it: you can either make a shameless cash grab and get the bare minimum out of it, or you could put some extra effort into this, get rid of the hooker subplot, develop the characters, and make the next Die Hard. Or you could just make a shameless cash grab.
I feel like you’ll probably pick the second option. It’s easier. And that’s a shame, because there’s a surprisingly good villain hiding in the shadows of this crappy screenplay.
Seriously, this film would be ten times better if you got rid of the semen jokes and small penis references. Just do that for me. Take those out at least. Don’t make this film into your negative views of sexuality. Just make it a fun action film. You can do that. Right?
Anyway, this needs serious changes if it ever wants to stand a chance at the box office. Machete Kills has proven that you can’t rely on a moderately successful franchise to succeed without some serious thought. And Machete Kills was just terrible in every way, as much as I loved the campiness of the first film.
And I am partially biased here since I’ve never liked the other movies in the franchise Stallone made to keep his career going. I don’t see the point. But even objectively, pretending that this is an original film, this isn’t worthy of production right now. This isn’t campy bad like Showgirls, this is bad-bad like Mac and Me or Battlefield Earth or everything M. Night Shyamalan has made after Unbreakable. This is The Room or Birdemic level of bad. It’s even funny in the completely brain-dead way Tommy Wiseau’s “masterpiece” was.
So yeah, get on fixing this up. It’s got a tiny bit of potential. Get rid of all the Expendables altogether except for Stallone, their scene with the hookers was incredibly creepy and just plain wrong. Give up on getting Harrison Ford and Meryl Streep in this, unless the next draft of this screenplay is incredible. Get rid of the bad jokes, and best of all: let the Expendabelles be the ones chosen not because they’re women pretending to be hookers, but because they’re the best of the best.
Let’s put it like this: would the Expendables have to pose as hookers to gain access to an evil secret lair? Probably not.
So yeah, Stallone, fix this. Someone fix this. Now. If you want to make money, fix this.