There’s been a wave of movies in the past few years that I call the ‘I’m too old for this shit” genre. They feature the action stars of the 80s and 90s (and Helen Mirren) teaming up together to shoot a lot of people and be old in each others company.
Expendables and its sequel are the prime motivator of this genre.
Perhaps it’s refreshing to see these aging action stars still running about with guns. You’re never too old to enjoy a decent action movie, why should anyone be old to star in one. And the feuds are priceless.
Upon the news that Bruce Willis would be replaced for Expendables 3 with Harrison Ford (apparently aging action stars are inter-changeable, like the bachelors on The Bachelorette), Sylverster Stallone tweeted the following:
Greedy and lazy? Career failure?
Rocky insults John McClain and the “I’m too old for this shit” genre gets even more juicy (juiced?)
Still, there’s a fascinating dynamic to these Expendables films and the cultural space they inhabit. Nostalgia for the way they used to kill, back in the old days. Expendables (and 2 and 3) is a collaboration of actors who have been in the Hollywood action world for 30-40 years, now in the twilight of careers. These are men defined by playing iconic and macho males of violence. Each has sought to redefine their presence in the movies, some more successfully than others ( Arnold Schwarzenegger in politics or Chuck Norris in “politics”). But how can you escape career defining roles like Rambo? Die Hard? Terminator? Or just being Dolph Lundgren or JCVD?
They have defined for my generation what manliness and bravado in movies means. In great films (Die Hard and Rocky are masterpieces) and in terrible films (Die Hard 2, Rambo 3 are not) Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis have unmistakably added to the American cultural understanding of violence and manhood.
Audiences understand that this model of macho cannot last forever. The very title of the series indicates as much. But before they go, they’ll throw a little ire at one another, to remind the world: these boys Tweet their wiles yet.