The film “The Expendables” was released in theatres in 2010 and was described thus “An all-star cast of action movie icons headline Sylvester Stallone’s explosive action thriller about a group of hard-nosed mercenaries who are double-crossed during a treacherous mission.” The main attraction of the film was that it featured a group of over-the-hill soldiers transplanted into an unfamiliar environment that they have to blast their way out of.
Actor/director Sylvester “Rambo/Rocky” Stallone recruited the cream of ‘80’s and ‘90’s action hero figures and got them all to act with him in the film. The cast includes Arnie Schwarzenegger (Terminator), Bruce Willis (Die Hard), Dolph Lundgren (Rocky IV), Jet Li (Once upon a time in China), Mickey Rourke (recently of The Wrestler) and Mr B-Grade himself, Eric Roberts. To this day, I am mystified that Jean-Claude van Damme and Steven Seagal failed to make the grade – perhaps they asked for too much money? To satisfy the younger generation of action lovers who only know Arnie as The Governator, the team also brought Jason Statham of the Transporter franchise into the setup.
Some of the actors have been making films since the 1970’s and several of them became Hollywood legends primarily through the action genre. Love them or loathe them, they are difficult to ignore and have arguably been extremely successful at what they do. It was with this history in mind that I approached this testosterone-fuelled film with great expectations. Let’s be clear – I wasn’t expecting a plot-driven thriller with great dialogue that kept me on the edge of my seat – I just wanted something that had a lot of action and the semblance of a plot. What I did get was extremely bad acting, a childish plot and badly filmed action sequences. It is an understatement to say that the film disappointed and bombed at the box office.
The Springbok team for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand that was announced last week brought back the (bad) memories of The Expendables.
The familiar, tried-and-tested, reliable faces are there – For Sly Stallone read John Smit, whilst for Schwarzenegger, Willis and Lundgren you get Matfield, Botha, Du Preez and Habana. For the Jason Statham element, the selectors have added Patrick Lambie and Heinrich Brussouw to show that they have “developed” the team. The one major change is the director who was previously Jake White replaced by Peter “P.Divvy” De Villiers.
One of the key problems facing the Boks is that their inspirational captain is arguably not even the best player in his position as hooker. Despite proving himself consistently as the best South African hooker, Bismarck du Plessis has had to make way for Smit in the front row. Like Stallone attempting to bring back the glory days as an action hero, Smit is trying to coax his weary limbs into battle once more and we can only hope the result is better than Sly’s efforts in The Expendables.
Another critical area for the South African team is a lack of variation on attack. The Boks are renowned for their physicality at the breakdown area as well as their tough defence, but they do seem to suffer from a lack of cutting edge up front. Morne Steyn is as reliable as ever with the boot and will probably start the majority of the games to ensure the Boks keep the scoreboard ticking over, but Steyn is not as good at distributing the ball and rarely brings his outside backs into play.
The Boks should have enough petrol in the tank to qualify from their group and get past the quarter finals. If they get to the semi finals, perhaps they will show us all that they are not so expendable after all.