Belfast Telegraph

Has-beens, absurd plot ... yes, Stallone’s film will be a hit‘

By Frances Burscough

Last weekend I saw the advance screening of two brand new films. This in itself isn’t unusual; as a lifelong movie buff I always keep my eyes peeled for the public preview shows and hate to miss any that might prove to be memorable.

As it turned out, both were — but for very different reasons. One was the absolute worst and the other was the absolute best of the year so far without a shadow of a doubt. They were, quite simply, polar opposites in every possible way and for that reason alone I would recommend them both.

To see them back-to-back — with the terrible one first — like I did, proved to be a useful exercise. It challenges you to analyse what is good and what is bad; why you like and why you hate; it forces you to choose. Like any good, old-fashioned movie, in fact, it makes you take sides ... with the goodies or with the baddies.

The Expendables — which officially opened here on Thursday — is so bad it’s like a joke. A joke that goes on and on, isn’t funny, isn’t clever and doesn’t even have a punchline. Indeed, it’s impossible to imagine how it got made and how so many acting mega-stars got bamboozled into appearing in it — until you see who the director, writer and lead actor is. Yes, Sylvester Stallone himself did all of the above.

He wrote it, directed it and starred in it and no doubt put a lot of his own money into it, too — and, let’s face it, he’s not exactly the sharpest tool in the box, is he? Still, he no doubt imagines it will relaunch his career and a string of soulless sequels. The result is like a cross between Rambo and Rocky but with all the (few) good bits taken out. And instead of a credible storyline or realistic characters, he simply threw in a load of his old, ageing and ridiculously famous buddies to play old, ageing and ridiculous caricatures of their former selves.

Aye, they’re all there, like a ‘Who’s Who’ of has-beens or are-but-for-the-skin-of-their teeth. Jet Li plays a nifty Ninja-type with a small-man complex (no change there, then); Jason Statham is the regulation cheeky-chappie Cockney (there’s always one); Dolph Lundgren is a muscle-bound thug; Mickey Rourke does his Red-neck misfit and Sylvester Stallone plays, well, he plays Sylvester Stallone.

The plot is as asinine as an episode of Power Rangers and the script is drivel. But who cares? There’s more blood, guts, weapons, war, flying limbs and gushing gore than all the Rambos put together, so who needs a point or purpose?

Meanwhile, the second film I saw was hauntingly memorable enough to counteract all that was expendable about The Expendables.

Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinski — which is now showing at Queen’s Film Theatre, Belfast — is as beautiful and meaningful as the other was ugly and meaningless.

Directed by Jan Kounen and starring the relatively (and refreshingly) obscure Anna Mouglalis and Mads Mikkelsen, it’s the impossibly passionate love story of two of the 20th century’s most influential and intriguing artists — she a brilliantly successful couturier and fashion icon, he a struggling, misunderstood and yet brilliant composer. The pair tormented and yet inspired each other beyond words. Indeed, every scene in this film is so evocative and their story is so compelling that it almost tells itself without the need of dialogue.

The fact that this version is in French with English subtitles should not put you off. If you’re interested in music, or ballet, or art, or architecture, or fashion, or modern history, or anything that inspires great artists to produce great works with great passion, then you really need to see this. It captures the essence of passion almost as effectively as Chanel No 5 captured “the essence of woman”.

It’s just a sad fact of life that out of the two, the film which will be probably be the bigger box-office hit and the greatest block-busting success will no doubt be The Expendables; while Coco and Igor will languish quietly on Film Four and the elitist arty channels forever.

Belfast Telegraph

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