Usually, I like to start my reviews with a cold opening, like some sort of opening thesis paragraph to break the ice and warm things up for the hot meal that is my review. But in attempting to write this particular review, I felt like a cold opening won’t be suitable, so I’m just gonna go and say this:
You could take 50 lbs. of pork rinds, four kegs of Budweiser, two seasons’ worth of football (the manly kind where you use your hands), throw 80 lbs. of meat on a charcoal grill, add 17 scantily-clad women to look at, and it still wouldn’t be manly enough to match The Expendables’ masculinity.
Writer/Director/Star Sylvester Stallone took it upon himself to unleash a real action movie full of testicles and testosterone because he felt action films were becoming too stagnant and reliant on special effects editing and gimmicks. Accumulating some of the top action stars of the past decade, Stallone makes a strong attempt to present the type of action film we haven’t seen in awhile, resulting in The Expendables.
The Expendables is an action epic about a mercenary/black ops group on a mission to take down a rogue ex-CIA agent, James Munroe (Eric Roberts), as he runs an illegal drug operation on the island of Vilena with the General Garza (David Zayas) and his right-hand man, Dan Paine (Stone Cold Steve Austin). However dangerous the mission may appear to be, Expendables leader Barney Ross (Stallone) is inspired to complete the mission for sensational South American sexpot, Sandra (Gisele Itie). With a supporting team of CQC and knives specialist Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), token karate kid Yin Yang (Jet Li), pew pew power house Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), and boom boom boss Toll Road (Randy Couture), the Expendables make their attack, leaving a trail of bodies, ketchup blood splattering, and explosions in their wake.
Considering Sly’s focus on delivering an action-packed art piece, the story suffers greatly. A lot of the twists and turns in the script are so predictable and uninspired, coming off as a bit of a throw-off. Yet, you can tell that Stallone tried really hard to make the film serious, and that’s the largest gripe I have against it. He attempts to add depth to the story, with little sub-plots about Christmas’s estranged relationship with his girlfriend, a tense father-daughter relationship, a betrayal in the family, and Barney’s own struggles with love and loneliness. I applaud the effort, but really, who really expected anything out of The Expendables beyond large explosions and epic fight scenes? However, to offset the sad attempt at a serious story, Stallone also inserted scenes to accentuate the already overt masculinity overtones in the film. For example, there’s a scene where Barney’s getting a tattoo from ex-Expendable, Tool (Mickey Rourke). Why? Beyond illustrating how Barney is just such a badass that can take all kinds of pain, any time of day, I have no idea.
Another failed aspect is the cast itself. While I’m a fan of the majority of the ensemble cast, there’s no real spotlight set on anybody beyond Roberts, Stallone, Statham, and to a lesser extent, Dolph Lundgren’s Gunner Jensen character. Li, Crews, Couture, and Austin are sadly brushed off to the side for a majority of the film. It’d have been nice to get equal screen-time for everybody, but as big as the cast was, the sacrifices are understandable. That’s not to say that I didn’t love the focus on the main characters, though. I’m a huge Statham fan, so it was great to see how much attention he got, sort of like a passing of the torch.
Speaking of torch passing, a lot of attention was drawn to the cameos in the movie. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis have cameo roles in the film as a rival group leader and job contractor, respectively. Schwarzenegger’s cameo was a bit of a throwaway, getting maybe five minutes of screen time, yet it’s exactly what was needed. It was nice to see he still had the chops to deliver snappy lines. As mentioned earlier, Rourke also has a slightly-expanded came role in the film, but out of the three, his was the weakest. I don’t know if it’s the writing or the direction, but his lines and delivery were just terrible. I loved The Wrestler and know that he’s an amazing actor, but this role was just awful.
If you love action films that are heavy in muscles, massacres, and machismo, yet light on story, The Expendables might be your type of film. It’s a very empty, yet entertaining film that, if anything, will make you wish you’d get your ass off the couch and into a gym. For everybody else, don’t expect anything more than a shallow collection of sweat, blood, and… well, there aren’t any tears, because real men don’t cry.
Sean Walsh: 8.45 – Great. A shallow-in-the-best-of-ways script, high-adrenaline action, and a stable of talented action megastars helped make The Expendables an instant classic. Stallone may be getting old, but he’s still got a lot of fight left in him, and with a sequel already greenlit, The Expendables has the potential to become the next great action franchise.
Andres Bolivar: 5.70 – Bad. By all means, The Expendables is a shallow movie. While that may sound like an insult, it’s probably the greatest thing it’s got going for it. Had the movie been tongue in cheek or satirical of the genre, the sacrifices in story, dialogue, pacing and chemistry would be excusable. Instead, it’s a poorly crafted film that takes itself too seriously, draining half of the fun along with it. It’s not a bad thing if you want to turn off you brain for 103 minutes, but if you’re looking for substance or even something poking fun at the genre, it’s not here.