Sunday, September 5, 2010



A team of mercenaries lead by Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) who dub themselves “expendable” and take on the jobs that no one else will touch have been offered their latest assignment – take out one General Garza who has overthrown small South American island and placed it under military dictatorship. The job seems easy enough, until Ross realizes that Garza is only a puppet for a corrupt CIA agent setting up a drug distribution empire. The team, including Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Toll Road (Randy Couture) and Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) are ready to walk away, but a revelation from Ross’ friend Tool (Mickey Rourke) open him the idea that this not just a fight, this is something worth fighting for.

Armed to the teeth and prepared to stop at nothing, The Expendables ready themselves to free the island of Vilena and for Ross to save his dying soul. But before they can put a bullet through the eyes of General Garza and James Monroe (Eric Roberts), they’ll have to get through ex-teammate Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) who has betrayed them, the silent Paine (Steve Austin) and several hundred soldiers in a suicide run to end all suicide runs!

Exploding like a movie you’d find in the “Super Action” section of your local video store circa 1988 or maybe you’d find collecting dust in your dad’s DVD collection, THE EXPENDABLES seeks to finally reignite the flame of the unstoppable musclemen action genre that has been fanned by 2008’s RAMBO and to a lesser extent 2007’s LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD. Collecting an ensemble cast of that era’s biggest names and a few modern faces from both screen and fighting ring, director and co-writer Sylvester Stallone delivers exactly what the trailers and promotions have promised to the fans: a not very good movie featuring an uneven script with little character development that delivers all the gratuitous violence and posturing your could hope for.

Outside the ensemble cast, the action sequences appear as their own character, something to root for as the carnage unleashes on the screen. THE EXPENDABLES features four key sequences that basically hit on everything an action fan could ask for. In the opening sequence, our mercenary protagonists deal with Somali pirates aboard a freighter. Next up is an extended chase sequence as Stallone and Jason Statham attempt to escape the island of Vilena. A third sequence begins with a car chase and ends with a Toho-esque monster battle as Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren go one-on-one in a fight choreographed by Hong Kong martial arts veteran Cory Yuen. The final sequence is the against-all-odds assault on Vilena which is part THE DIRTY DOZEN and part COMMANDO both in execution and explosive flair.

While the explosions are grand, and the set pieces to demolish are even more so, Stallone’s directing leaves a bit to be desired in the “what just happening” and “who is fighting who” department. Once the action starts the camera violently shakes to-and-fro hardly stopping once to let the viewer get perspective on where everything is, and the editing is becomes speed metal fast. This is especially true in the final sequence, which takes place in the dark and has the entire cast on screen wearing black. There’s something to be said for quick pacing to get the blood pumping, but it wouldn’t hurt just to have a stationary camera roll for a few seconds to let the viewer know where and who all the players are.

When things aren’t exploding, we get to enjoy the ensemble cast quipping back and forth as they chew up a script that serves to move characters from one place to the next. In the protagonist’s corner, Stallone and Statham share the majority of the screen time, with Jet Li, and Mickey Rourke coming in close behind. All four find exactly what their characters need and spit it out fine fashion. In the antagonist’s corner, Eric Roberts and David Zayas (Angel Batista on “Dexter”) shine like they were born to be baddies commanding an army of cannon fodder. The plot may be a dozen times old, and the soliloquy about soldiers losing their soul when they stop fighting “for” something and just fight for fighting sake are about as subtle as a brick to the face, but be certain this is not parody of a bygone era but an honest attempt to add at least one more film to the unstoppable musclemen action genre.

Speaking of musclemen, the short scene that sets up the main plot and brings Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger on screen for the first time ever is a testosterone filled dream-come-true, despite the fact that this has shallow publicity angle written all over it and Schwarzenegger looks a little he’s seen better days.

Since first hearing about THE EXPENDABLES in late 2008, the film has been set up to bring action fans a non-stop tour de force romp of explosions, fist fights and familiar faces that is part nostalgia and part modern adrenaline. Stallone does deliver on those promises and even a bit more, presenting a thoroughly entertaining 100 minutes that should quickly be added to anyone’s top list of go-to flicks for unadulterated and unapologetic violence. That is until the sequel arrives, and yes, a sequel is already being talked about.


Soiled Sinema said...

Not even just the sequel but the prospect of Bruce Willis being the supervillain!

Mr. Church, you evil, evil man.

EFA said...

Ryan, you hit absolutely every nail on the head on this one. I could not have reviewed it better myself. It was totally fun, but certainly no "Rambo." Another fine review, sir!

Fred [The Wolf] said...

I enjoyed this film as well. And I definitely want a sequel.

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