To men of a certain age, the premise (and promise) of having all these guys in one film – an old-school love letter to the blow-‘em-up action movies of the ‘80s and ‘90s – seemed like a dream come true.
Or, maybe too good to be true…?
A shady figure (Bruce Willis) hires mercenary Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his crew – including a knife expert (Jason Statham), a martial artist (Jet Li), an explosives specialist (Randy Couture), a loose cannon (Dolph Lundgren), and an all-around badass (Terry Crews) – to bring down a Latin American dictator (a cartoonishly accented David Zayas) who’s backed by a rogue ex-CIA man (Eric Roberts).
On paper – or more specifically, the poster – The Expendables should have been a cinematic savior, a shot in the arm of the summer movie season. Only adding Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal, and Jean-Claude Van Damme (who turned Stallone down) would have made it even more awesomely complete.
Yet despite all the action, gunplay, carnage, and stuff blowing up real good, there’s a feeling of detachment from what’s going on.
The script (by Stallone and Dave Callaham), while heavy on macho talk and tough-guy jokes, comes off as less than fluid. It feels more like each character is making statements rather than conversing with their co-stars.
And after an exhilarating, bloody opening scene of Ross’ unit rescuing hostages from Somali pirates, this action film is (gasp!) surprisingly quiet for the next 30 minutes before bringing back the boom. It all ends with a 20-minute assault on the dictator’s palace that plays out like Rambo & Friends, as Ross’ five-man unit decimates an entire army without one of his guys getting killed, shot, or even injured.
Of all the stars of The Expendables, it’s Statham who’s the breakout. He’s an impressive badass with his knife skills, he does some gonzo hand-to-hand combat, and he’s the only character with some sort of background in the form of estranged girlfriend Lacy (Charisma Carpenter).
In terms of The Expendables’ lesser-seen star power, Mickey Rourke is entertaining in his three-scene cameo as a former member of Ross’s crew. But the 5-minute summit between Stallone, Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger feels like a first take (and half of what Schwarzenegger says is unintelligible).
Ultimately, The Expendables lives up to its title: While passably entertaining, it’s highly disposable.
Is it suitable for your kids?The Expendables’ body count is ironically countless, as dozens if not hundreds of people are killed by the time the credits roll. There are shootings, stabbings, dismemberments, exploding bodies, and broken necks o’plenty – as well as a scene of torture involving waterboarding. Oh, and there are a handful of profanities.
Will your FilmMother want to watch it?Highly doubtful.
* Director: Sylvester Stallone
* Screenwriters: Dave Callaham, Sylvester Stallone
* Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Eric Robers, Steve Austin, David Zayas, Charisma Carpenter, Giselle Itié
* MPAA Rating: R (strong action and bloody violence, language)
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