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Why “The Expendables” Is More Than Popcorn Entertainment

Posted on November 27 2010 10:00 pm
Assistant professor of criminal justice/homeland security, reserve deputy sheriff, author and trainer.
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The movie The Expendables came out on DVD and on at least DISH pay-per-view this week.  Christa Banister from referred to it in her review as “. . .One Lame Throwback”  noting as well that it was “a needlessly violent assault on the senses” and “a mind-numbingly incoherent one at that.”  She even had the temerity to compare it (sort of) to Julia Roberts’ Eat, Pray, Love which Banister referred to as a “decidedly softer spiritual travelogue” (emphasis mine).  She could not be more wrong.

The basic plot involves The Expendables, a group of mercenaries who have seen better days being recruited to  clean up a problem and kill the bad guys on Vilena a South American island.  A job the government can’t (or won’t do), but a job The Expendables will do, for the right price.

While there’s no question that The Expendables returns us to a more interesting time for movies, I would submit that in fact it is more spiritual and more important than most other recently released movies (on DVD or otherwise).  Why?  As Klavan noted in his review, The Expendables is about “manhood – namely, the masculine imperatives to defend the girl, get the job done and be loyal to your buddies”.

I would suggest that it’s not just manhood, it’s Biblical manhood at its best.  These guys epitomize what the Bible calls men to be: protectors, righters of wrong, peacemakers, not peacekeepers.  Christmas takes on five or six guys because his former girlfriend is beat up by one of them, her current boyfriend.  After telling her, “this is what I do for a living,” he also says to her “I’m not perfect, but you should have waited.”  An imperfect man, standing up for what is right. While few of us could take on five or six like he does, we’re all imperfect and we too can stand up for our wives, our girlfriends and for women all over the country and world who are beat on just because.

For reasons not wholly understood by him, Ross has to go back to Vilena. He can’t get the girl staying there out of his mind. He can do something “right” perhaps for the first time in his life.  He can (hopefully) right a wrong because it’s the right thing to do.  And he does so unselfishly, by giving his friends a way out, they don’t have to go, to which Christmas at least initially appears to agree. It is Yang though that perhaps has one of the most important lines. “Friends don’t let friends die alone.” What greater love than to lay one’s life down for a friend?  The others see this as well, when Christmas says, “It’s not easy being your friend,” and Harley replies, “We’ll die with you, just don’t ask us to do it twice.”  What a great group of men to have around you, huh?

The blog, The Art of Manliness recently posted “Being Fully Present as a Man.”  The author suggests that as men we should be as fully present as possible in all aspects of our life.  It is “a manful way to live.” It means not being distracted from what really matters, requires bravery and the ability  “to open oneself up to both unmitigated pain and undiluted joy.” This, the author says is the “path of true manliness.” This is the path of The Expendables and this is why it matters, to women, to men and to society.

An assistant professor of criminal justice/homeland security, Jeff Rush is also a reserve Deputy Sheriff, author and trainer.

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