Well, this is problematic. We’ve long been berated with rumors of an imminent female-centric spin on the popular Expendables franchise, the clunkily named The ExpendaBelles, but actual details on the project have been consistently slim. All we’ve really known has been neatly encapsulated in said title – it’s The Expendables but with ladies! – but now the film has both a director and a very distressing plotline to either A) recommend it or B) send potential audiences members running for the proverbial hills. For now, we’re checking off option B.
Deadline reports that Robert Luketic has come on board to direct the feature, which makes the film sort of a perfect marriage of his directorial territory: bad action films (Paranoia, Killers) and projects that are aimed at women while also being insulting to them (Monster-in-Law, The Ugly Truth, Legally Blonde). The film will see Luketic reuniting with his Legally Blonde and The Ugly Truth screenwriters Kirsten Smith and Karen McCullah, who previously penned both of those features, along with other (and notably more truly female-friendly) fare like She’s the Man (an underrated modern classic) and Ella Enchanted (which is sweet and funny and features a great Anne Hathaway singing performance). But beyond questionable creative talent, The ExpendaBelles has got plenty of other problems that make it sound like the exact opposite of an empowering female-led action outing.
Deadline shares that the film will pick up after “America’s Navy SEALs are wiped out trying to penetrate the island lair of a deadly despot who has captured one of the world’s top nuclear scientists, [and] it becomes clear that there is no such thing as the right man for the job and that this is a mission so impossible that only women can handle it. The only way in: some of the world’s deadliest female operatives must pose as high-class call-girls shipped in by private plane to satisfy a dictator–and instead save the scientist and the day.”
While it still seems too much to ask for a female-centric action film that doesn’t rely on sex appeal to sell its material, this is a new level. Sure, there are some vaguely bolstering bits here – “only women can handle it” – but those zippy points are instantly dashed by the indication that only women can handle the situation at hand because only they can use their bodies in a sexual manner to get at least a big part of the job done (oh, and also, all the men are dead). The ExpendaBelles should be about the physical power of women when it comes to kicking ass and taking names no matter their age or position, instead it seems that the film will place more value on showing ass and taking leers from baddies (who, yes, will probably be promptly murdered).
It’s even more boggling when you consider some of the names that have been bandied about for the film – including Meryl Streep, Cameron Diaz, and Milla Jovovich. Meryl Streep? No, Meryl, you don’t have to do this. You are Meryl Streep. Deadline has also put together a long list of other names that they’d like to see star in the film, from the obvious Angelina Jolie to “Sigourney Weaver, Linda Hamilton, Halle Berry, Carrie-Anne Moss, Geena Davis, Jennifer Garner, Kate Beckinsale, Sandra Bullock, Michelle Yeoh, Rhona Mitra, Chloe Moretz, Uma Thurman, Lucy Lawless, Katie Sackhoff, Angela Bassett, Michelle Rodriguez, Lucy Liu, Gina Carano, Pam Grier, Sharon Stone and Brigitte Nielsen.” And, no, none of them need to dress up like call girls to kick some ass on the big screen, and it’s insane and insulting that the film hinges on such a pointed conceit.
The ExpandaBelles will start shooting sometime this summer. Good luck with that.