That is, when they’re not actively engaged in kicking someone else’s backside.
What do you have when you put Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis in an empty church, negotiating a hit contract, and in walks Arnold Schwarzenegger? Nothing. Just a lame joke about how he wants to be U.S. president. Ok, so much for cameos. The rest is just the steroid saps deciding they’re going to accept some mercenary job where they go mow down a bunch of hapless soldiers, and discover they’re helping some former-CIA agent (Eric Roberts, brother of Julia) gone rogue to establish a military-style dictatorship, featuring a bruising bodyguard (Steve Austin), a puppet general, and his beautiful helpless daughter (Giselle Itie). Sneering Sly Stallone and his band of thugs all escape unscathed, of course, and here’s what passes for character development: Jet Li with the quick kung-fu, though they still make fun of his short stature; Jason Statham with his lethal hand-to-hand combat skills, though he looks quite ordinary, and can’t seem to keep a girlfriend interested; Dolph Lundgren, who’s the one having trouble controlling his violence, and when the group tries to corral him, he turns on them; but none of that really matters. What we’re here to see are the explosions, the fights, the spray of bullets, the chase, the tough commandos willing to go fight for any reason, or even no reason at all.
The only scene with any emotional resonance is, not surprisingly, with Mickey Rourke, playing a tattoo artist, who says that the one time he regrets anything is when he didn’t go back and save the girl who was going to throw herself off a bridge. He just let her, and walked away. And it still bothers him. And a silent tear rolls down his rough-hewn visage.
Stallone, after hearing that story, tells the others he’s going back to rescue the general’s daughter. They point out that he doesn’t even know her. He says he realizes that, but he’s gotta go, anyway. They, having nothing better to do, go with him, because that’s what friends do. So now they’re fighting for no particular cause, no pay, and no target outcome. They just love to brawl and make mayhem. They don’t have families, they have no idea what to do in relationships with the opposite gender, and for fun, just put another tattoo on themselves.
Whoa. If this is where action hero guys get sent out to pasture, maybe it would be best to just leave them there in their little garage clubhouse, still waiting for that next phone call to spring into violence. Wait, maybe we could send them to find Osama Bin Laden — they’re expendable, right?
RONALD P. SALFEN is pastor, Grace Church, Greenville, Texas.