Where does it come from:
I believe it was an extra on some release – I do not know which, but it has its own IMDB page and was produced by Epix, which is a pay TV station. They produced the superior John Milius documentary that I reviewed at Cinema Sentries.
I saw it online at Daily Motion.
There is no uber-narrator. It’s all interviews, footage, and some Sly Stallone talking about what he’s doing, what he’s trying, what he sees himself accomplishing. This narration begins expansively, but quickly becomes much more nuts and bolts (and much more interesting).
Tone of Documentary:
For this type of movie, surprisingly open-eyed, and eye-opening. It is only a documentation of the movie-making process – not press kit interview stuff, no one talking about how great everything is. It’s a real filmmaking documentary. There’s some talk about the intent of the movie (recreating the 80s action film dynamic, loading it with 80s stars) but Sly Stallone is clear-headed about the kind of film he is making, and about stardom in general. Kids crowd him everywhere he goes. He understands that, “It’s not me. It took me about 30 years to get that.”
Almost all of the footage is on-set, so anyone who was there at the time. And this means sometimes interviews with tired crew-members who don’t much want to talk, and a Sly Stallone who is in deep pain. During the movie he ruptured a tendon in his foot, needed neck surgery for a spinal issue, had shingles and all kinds of ailments. It doesn’t show in the times when he is actually doing the work.
I have not seen the Expendables movies, and I don’t much care to see them. The footage of the actual film didn’t look like anything I would go out of my way to check out. But this is a great documentary on the process of making an extremely complicated film. Action movies tend to go lower-rated by critics for a number of reasons, legitimate and illegitimate. But there is nothing easy about this type of movie-making. Filming people talking is infinitely less complicated and easier to do. The disrespect for action filmmaking, if it isn’t largely based in ignorance, is political. These movies are not useful (no good art is useful, and those who seek ‘use’ for art, and find art that is not directly useful ‘problematic,’ are friends of tyranny and enemies to all that is good). They advance few agendas, and are at least sympathetic toward, if not wholly laudatory of masculine values. And Sly is upfront about this. It’s a movie about men overcoming odds, very specifically men. I guess women filter into the Expendables series eventually – I don’t care, any more than I care about these movies. I do care about filmmaking, and feel I have a better understanding of it having watched this doc. It is not antiseptic, it is not boring, it is not hagiographic. It is illuminating, all that a doc should be.
Film Nerd Bits:
This isn’t a film nerd style doc. There’s no old trivia – the movie, I understand, is full of winks and the like, but this is just a nuts and bolts in-media-res show of moviemaking.