Directed by Sylvester Stallone
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Mickey Rourke, Charisma Carpenter, Giselle Ite, David Zayas, Randy Couture, Steve Austin
So a plan was hatched to get some of the greatest action stars of the 80’s 90’s and even the 2,000’s together in one 80’s style action packed shoot ‘em up. Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgrin and Mickey Rourke bring on the 80’s while Jet Li represents the 90’s, and Jason Statham is the elder of the 2,000’s with wrestlers Steve Austin and Randy Couture bringing on the new blood. Sure Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger are in the film but what they have to do barely amounts to more than cameos (more on that later). No one expected the movie to be a really well written masterpiece but fans of old school action sure hoped this one would be entertaining.
The Expendables are a team of mercenaries for hire traveling the globe kicking ass. They are good guys though. They accept jobs only when those jobs pay well and they deal with bad people. Rourke’s character doesn’t go out and fight anymore but he helps the team acquire their jobs and he also applies some fairly extensive tattoos. The film for better or for worse is taken right from the 80’s action movie mold. Along with all of the predictable machismo action and comedy relief Stallone does try to build in just a little heart and drama to the proceedings. Unfortunately the drama comes off more as melodrama even though Mickey Rourke does a solid job with his lines and the heart is about as shallow as it gets. With that said though would you expect anything else from an 80’s action flick?
One fried I saw the film with asked me “so where’s the Canon Group logo?” For me that says it all. Mission Impossible, Delta Force, the second and third Rambo films (the first one was actually pretty stellar), Commando, and countless others were just rollercoaster rides of action and adventure with just enough story thrown in to tie those scenes together. These films were just their own sort of unapologetic exploitation films, the only exploitation films to survive the 70’s actually outside of some horror stuff. So yeah the story is weak in some places. In one scene Stallone’s character sits down for a tattoo and in the very next cut he gets up with a completed tattoo even though Rourke’s character never even appeared to start the work. There are a handful of other small story hiccups throughout the film that stand out.
The thing is none of those hiccups matter once Stallone and company are kicking ass. There’s only one scene featuring Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Willis and there’s more charisma in that one scene than from a dozen younger metro-sexual wannabe’s that are trying to do movies these days. The scene is the best in the movie and it’s clever, very winking at the audience, and hilarious. Stallone made a smart decision with this film by only giving a few lines of dialogue to the two wrestlers. They are both terrible actors but they are allowed to say little and do what they are good at the rest of the time, look menacing and fight. Jet Li is a scene stealer in this film. Yes he’s a bad ass but Stallone is actually able to put him in a situation where you actually feel sorry for him and there are even some great laughs out of his character. Lundgren is a great actor either but his staying power gives him points. His character has a drug problem in this film and that story is handled the clumsiest of all of the smaller stories.
This is high octane action presented in an old school way. Sure there’s some CG enhancement but it doesn’t look like an animated film the way most modern action films do. It’s classic mega macho fun like we haven’t had in theaters in 20 years. At 64 years old Stallone still looks like he could kick my ass and it was great to see him handing out beatdowns again on screen. It would be great if he could inspire some macho out of the next generation instead of this sappy looking pretty boy mess that’s splattered all over the screen most often these days (Are you listening Twilight?). It was fun watching the crowds come out of The Expendables because young guys were all pumped from it and punching each other in the arm, like they were 12 years old again. I guess that’s the biggest compliment I can give to this movie, it made me feel like I was 12 years old again and few movies, even the ones I really love, have the ability to do that these days.