Dir: Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone lured me into a screening of The Expendables with his list of action movie cast-offs and he will lure you in too. Where else can you see Sly, Mickey Rourke, Eric Roberts, Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis and even Arnold Schwarzenegger share the screen circa 2010? Unfortunately, The Expendables does nothing to update anything for the new millennium, extending the poor production values and jingoistic politics of the decade where these actors topped the bill in films like Cobra, Red Scorpion and Year of the Dragon.
The plot, which is perfunctory and only exists to give the muscle-bound actors an excuse to fight, involves a group of mercenaries led by Stallone’s Barney Smith that is contracted to go to a South American island and overthrow an evil dictator. Of course, that dictator is actually the puppet of an evil American CIA rogue (Roberts) who is determined to use the island to produce cocaine. Doesn’t Sly know the kids are using meth these days?
With all the big names in the movie, only Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Randy Couture and Terry Crews go off to fight the evil dictator. Rourke just exists to wax poetic and Lundgren is kicked out of the group before they even head south, though he does have an exciting fight scene with Li. Willis and Schwarzenegger are limited to cameos, appearing in only one scene along with Stallone that amounts to nothing more than a reunion of the Planet Hollywood board and not even one punch is thrown. But there is a cheesy joke that I won’t dare ruin.
The rest of the film is just a grab bag of poor special effects and action movie clichés. Imagine that these types of movies came out in rapid succession in the ’80s. To modern audiences accustomed to the moralistic worlds of Jason Bourne and Evelyn Salt, The Expendables will be a tough slap in their pasty, liberal faces. Terrorists are bad news and they exist for one thing: to blow the shit out of!
Despite being in the business for many decades, Stallone appears to have learned nothing about directing. The script is full of leaden dialogue and at times it feels like a pastiche of different conversations pasted together. Worst of all are the naïve scenes of male-bonding that exist as a breather from the action segments.
Perhaps Stallone’s biggest mistake (or coup) was the inclusion of Statham and Li in the cast. None of the crusty elders (especially Stallone) can keep up with the fiery action (or acting in the case of Statham) of these two younger cast members, reducing Stallone and Lundgren into lumbering hulks who can barely articulate a line. And I swear to God that Lundgren, after being pummeled by Li, smiles and says, “My turn!” before unleashing a volley of blows.
The Expendables is not a complete bomb because it does slake the curiosity factor. Those going into the film looking for blood and some mindless fighting will be satisfied. But there is nothing ironic or inward looking about it. While Jean-Claude Van Damme has gone all post modern on our asses lately, perhaps Stallone and his films could benefit from some introspection. There was a time and a place for movies like The Expendables, but it sure as hell ain’t now. Time to move on, Sly.