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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Sly Stallone's 'The Expendables': Why has the movie split the conservative movement?

August 17, 2010 |  5:27 pm

Sly_stallone I guess if conservatives can't agree on really important things in life, like whether Israel should bomb Iran or not, then it should come as no surprise that they can't agree on whether "The Expendables" is a good movie, much less whether it's actually devoutly patriotic or anti-American. Film critics, for example, have pretty much all decided that the Sly Stallone over-the-hill gang action picture was a lousy movie with a great marketing campaign. But in the conservative blogosphere, a heated debate has arisen over the film's relative merits. As a liberal, I think this is a good thing, since liberals can never agree on anything, so it's reassuring to see our conservative brethren in a similar situation. 

New York Post blogger-critic Kyle Smith, who is unusually pragmatic about most ideological matters, is in the lousy movie camp, writing that while "The Expendables" is clearly a hit, "let’s not fool ourselves into thinking it’s a good movie, shall we? I wanted it to be good too. I have no problem with manly derring-do.  And no, it’s not 'so bad it’s good.' It’s just bad."

But Big Hollywood's John Nolte, who sees pretty much everything in strictly black and white terms, seems to think "The Expendables" might be the most stirring, patriotic film to come out of Hollywood since John Wayne's "The Green Berets." Nolte went to great lengths to bash my colleague Steven Zeitchik, whom he called a "cultural enforcer" for gently making fun of the film's old-school take-no-prisoners patriotism. For Nolte, the film "is a much more impressive achievement than the likes of the flood of 'Syrianas' that have bombing one after another at the box office over the past few years."

But over at Libertas Film Magazine, my pal Jason Apuzzo has a completely different point of view, finding "The Expendables" entirely wanting, especially when compared with Angelina Jolie's "Salt." As he put it, "The Expendables" features "a nasty, anti-CIA plotline featuring Eric Roberts as an ex-CIA drugrunner who waterboards women; Jolie's film paints a much more flattering picture of the CIA and our intelligence services in general, besides being completely pro-American." 

I guess the tie-breaker here would be knowing what Bill O'Reilly thought of the film, but so far I can't find any evidence of him weighing in on the subject. Until Papa Bear makes his views known, let's just say that it's reassuring to know that when it comes to Sly Stallone movies, conservatives are displaying a healthy diversity of opinion,

Photo: Sylvester Stallone at a screening of "The Expendables" last week in Las Vegas. Credit: Ethan Miller / Getty Images