By Don Simpson | August 13, 2010
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Writers: Dave Callaham, Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Eric Roberts, Steve Austin, David Zayas, Gisele Itié, Charisma Carpenter, Gary Daniels, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger
The hometown hangout of Barney’s (Sylvester Stallone) ragtag team of mercenary warriors (dubbed “The Expendables”) – Lee (Jason Statham), Yin (Jet Li), Hale (Terry Crews), Toll Road (Randy Couture), and Gunnar (Dolph Lundgren) – is the appropriately named Tool’s, a tattoo parlor owned by ex-Expendable, Tool (Mickey Rourke). (Note: Rourke is the least of the onscreen tools to be found inside Tool’s.)
Not long after returning from an explosive opening job for hire, Barney goes to church to meet with a man using the not-so witty moniker of Mr. Church (Bruce Willis). A competing mercenary, Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), is also present; but after an exchange of the cleverest dialogue of the script (fed by the nostalgia of seeing Stallone, Willis and Schwarzenegger onscreen together), Trench declines Mr. Church’s offer and promptly exits – leaving Barney’s team as the only option.
Mr. Church’s assigned mission seems to be routine: overtake General Gaza (David Zayas), the evil dictator of the small island country of Vilena. Barney and Lee fly to Vilena to meet their rebel contact, Sandra (Giselle Itie). Within a matter of minutes, they learn that the true enemy of the people is an ex-CIA agent turned cocaine kingpin, James Monroe (Eric Roberts). Learning that their assignment is a fraud, Barney and Lee are forced to flee the island with a bang. Distraught with guilt about failing and abandoning Sandra, Barney and his team return to Vilena for an explosive grand finale.
A lackluster attempt by director Stallone to rekindle the bombastic blockbuster actioners of the 1980s & 1990s, The Expendables is a tired testosterone fueled sausage fest. Penned by Dave Callaham and Sylvester Stallone, the script is monopolized by lame one liners and totally lacks substance (no surprises there!). In some circles, that would be fine if there was ample action to compensate for the lack of narrative (surprisingly the film only features a few epic action sequences); instead, Stallone opts to give himself and Lee each a love interest. Lee’s subplot is a long-winded and failed attempt to give Lee some depth and generate sympathy for his character. Basically, Lee returns home from assignment to find his significant other – Lacy (Charisma Carpenter) – shacking up with another man. Barney’s tiresome sub-plot consists of him repeatedly ogling and pining over Sandra.
Admittedly, I knew The Expendables would more than likely not be my cuppa tea; but I was holding out hope that Stallone would have the foresight to either go totally self-reflexive (JCVD) or over-the-top camp (A-Team). Except for the brief cameos of Willis and Schwarzenegger (and Lundgren’s lobotomized performance), there is very little focus on the elephant in the room – the resurrection of the ancient relics of Reagan-era action heroes. Instead, Stallone attempted to make a modern day action film – and he wound up with an expendable one that is over-reliant on CGI effects (including cringe-inducing CGI blood and gore) and lacking everything else.