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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Expendables

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service

The only thing higher than the body count is the testosterone level in "The Expendables" (Lionsgate/Millennium), a brutally violent action movie that teams, for the first time, some of Hollywood's biggest tough guys with an assortment of professional sports stars.

The result is "The Dirty Dozen" on steroids, with much more brawn but far less acting chops.

The soundtrack to this very loud film includes the 1970s Thin Lizzy hit "The Boys Are Back in Town," and indeed they are. Leading a band of misfit mercenaries is Barney Ross, played by Sylvester Stallone, who also directed and co-wrote the screenplay with David Callaham. Barney, not surprisingly, combines the wit and sensitivity of Rocky Balboa with the lethal weaponry of Rambo.

Barney's crew is called the Expendables, and each member has a knack for handling guns, knives, or explosives. There's Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Toll Road (mixed martial artist Randy Couture), and Hale Caesar (ex-NFL-star-turned-actor Terry Crews).

The spiritual guru and deal broker for this brotherhood is Tool (Mickey Rourke), a soulful tattoo artist who leaves his mark—literally—on every member.

There's trouble in paradise—in this case a South American country called Vilena—and Barney and Lee go on a reconnaissance mission. There they find rogue CIA agent James Monroe (Eric Roberts), who has overthrown the government, taken command of the army and set up a corrupt regime financed by drug trafficking.

Monroe's bodyguards include the aptly named Paine (Steve Austin of World Wrestling Federation fame), and Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren, who battled Stallone in "Rocky IV"). Jensen is a turncoat, thrown out of the Expendables for violating the brotherhood's strict moral code by his substance abuse.

After blowing up half the capital and shooting everyone in sight, Barney and Lee barely escape with their lives. But Barney is smitten with resistance agent Sandra (Gisele Itie), and he vows to return to Vilena with the entire gang to find her and restore the nation's freedom.

Despite a slender script and minimal dialogue, "The Expendables" tries to be several films at once. It's a morality tale of good versus evil, with the promise of redemption for a group of warriors, each of whom has been around the block once too often. It's also a buddy movie, with Barney and Lee trading tips on dating women in between throwing grenades. Finally, it's a message picture on freedom and patriotism, with justice dealt out to hostage-takers and enemies of democracy.

Unfortunately, these themes get lost in the sheer chaotic spectacle of the film. "The Expendables" is an assault on the eyes and ears, akin to going 10 rounds with Rocky himself. Under Stallone's direction, everything gets supersized: People don't simply get shot; their heads and bodies explode. It's not enough to blow up one building; the entire town must go.

"The Expendables" is not without a few funny moments, and two uncredited actors nearly steal the show. Bruce Willis plays CIA head Church, who gives Barney his new assignment. And Barney's rival is Trench, played by the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The film contains relentless bloody and graphic violence—including shootings, knifings, explosions, decapitations, torture, and implied rape—and some rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.


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Anthony Claret: The "spiritual father of Cuba" was a missionary, religious founder, social reformer, queen’s chaplain, writer and publisher, archbishop and refugee. He was a Spaniard whose work took him to the Canary Islands, Cuba, Madrid, Paris and to the First Vatican Council. 
<p>In his spare time as weaver and designer in the textile mills of Barcelona, he learned Latin and printing: The future priest and publisher was preparing. Ordained at 28, he was prevented by ill health from entering religious life as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but went on to become one of Spain’s most popular preachers. </p><p>He spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her rosary, it was said, was never out of his hand. At 42, beginning with five young priests, he founded a religious institute of missionaries, known today as the Claretians. </p><p>He was appointed to head the much-neglected archdiocese of Santiago in Cuba. He began its reform by almost ceaseless preaching and hearing of confessions, and suffered bitter opposition mainly for opposing concubinage and giving instruction to black slaves. A hired assassin (whose release from prison Anthony had obtained) slashed open his face and wrist. Anthony succeeded in getting the would-be assassin’s death sentence commuted to a prison term. His solution for the misery of Cubans was family-owned farms producing a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market. This invited the enmity of the vested interests who wanted everyone to work on a single cash crop—sugar. Besides all his religious writings are two books he wrote in Cuba: <i>Reflections on Agriculture</i> and <i>Country Delights</i>. </p><p>He was recalled to Spain for a job he did not relish—being chaplain for the queen. He went on three conditions: He would reside away from the palace, he would come only to hear the queen’s confession and instruct the children and he would be exempt from court functions. In the revolution of 1868, he fled with the queen’s party to Paris, where he preached to the Spanish colony. </p><p>All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press. He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain, and wrote or published 200 books and pamphlets. </p><p>At Vatican I, where he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, he won the admiration of his fellow bishops. Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, "There goes a true saint." At the age of 63, he died in exile near the border of Spain.</p> American Catholic Blog The greatest tragedy of our world is that men do not know, really know, that God loves them. Some believe it in a shadowy sort of way. If they were to really think about it they would soon realize that their belief in God’s love for them is very remote and abstract. Because of this lack of realization of God’s love for them, men do not know how to love God back. —Catherine de Hueck Doherty

 
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