Review: The Expendables

There are planes; cars; bikes; guns; fights; explosions; rock music; big-breasted girls; alcohol; cigars; facial hair and angry stares. So is there any depth to this testosterone frenzy? In short, no. But it’s so bad it’s awesome.

The film begins on a ship off the coast of Somalia. Hostages are being dragged around, guns are being wielded. Men in facemasks begin videoing a message to America, stating the hostages will die.

Until a group of mercenaries show up – the collectively known ‘Expendables’ of the title.

Led by former SAS soldier, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), his team of Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), martial artist Yin Yang (Jet Li), sniper Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), weapons specialist Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) and demolitions expert Toll Road (Randy Couture) quickly dispatch of the terrorists.

And so the mission is complete. Of course it never is.

Back in the US, ia approached by his archrival, Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), and a mysterious CIA operative, Mr Church (Bruce Willis), who give him the order to carry out one last mission – one he simply cannot refuse.

Should they complete the mission they will be rewarded with millions of dollars. Should they fail, they’ll most likely be dead.

The team accept it and it initially appears simple – take out the General of a fictional South American country named Vilena.

Yet all is never as it seems, and as the body count rises… well, it just rises.

Despite the initially solid plot, the film soon becomes a bit of a joke.

Let’s strip the film down to the bare bones. Basically, Stallone has arranged for every hard-man he can think of to come together and crack some skulls. That is it

Yes, there is a plot. But that soon becomes a sideshow for a group of burley men to grunt, sweat and flex their muscles.

It feels like the action films of the eighties; looks like them too. The production seems rushed and, occasionally, cheap. The camerawork is slick and shaky, but rather disjointed. And the cinematography? Well, who cares about that.

However all this culminates in a homage to the action masterpieces of old.

Stallone has written, directed and starred in this homage. It’s good he has – not many people understand the action world quite like him.

Yet a lot of the film feels like an excuse to stroke his own ego.

Dangerous chases, rescue missions and gun battles mean nothing to the plot. But they do provide really good opportunities for ripped men to look very pleased with themselves. Who can argue with such simple entertainment.

Essentially the film has been advertised – and produced – to purely live on the fact there’s such a huge ensemble cast of tough guys.

And this is where Mickey Rourke is a relief. His character, Tool, is tough like the others. But his sensitivity comes as a breath of fresh air to an otherwise sticky, sweaty fight-fest.

It is his performance which breaks up the otherwise tedious action sequences. The monologue Rourke delivers is clich├ęd old news. Despite it’s predictability, Rourke’s performance highlights there is substance – albeit drowning in protein-shakes.

The other ‘expendables’ all do their best too in delivering the one-liners and clenched fists they’ve practised for many years.

Talking of performances, those expecting to see some form of Stallone-Schwarzenegger-Willis face-off will be bitterly disappointed for the three only appear on screen for a minute.

Of course Schwarzenegger cannot commit to a film like this – he’s the Governor of California, don’t you know.

There are no such restrictions on Willis. It came as a shame to see two action legends packed into a few seconds.

Their presence would not have improved the film at all. But all that’s left now is a feeling of what could have been. Could there be expanded roles in the sequel maybe…?

Who knows. What we do know is this movie is made by men, about men, for men.

It’s a film to get men into the cinemas and feast on popcorn. It’s a film to laugh with and laugh at. Most of all, it’s a film to enjoy – no matter how simple your mindset has to be to do so.

Never a classic but – in terms of the action genre – it’s certainly not expendable.

3 out of 5 stars

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