By Dave Campbell | August 12, 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 fearless Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) is a man with an internalized past who lacks emotion and leads a misfit team of mercenary warriors dubbed The Expendables. The rest of the team consists of Barney’s right hand Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), former SAS and blade expert, Yin Yang (Jet Li) the close-quarter combat and marshal arts master, Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) the long-barrel weapons specialist, Toll Road (Randy Couture) a demolitions pro and “smart guy” of the group (established by showing him read a book), and Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) an overall combat and sniper expert who struggles with authority and controlled substances.
Barney is presented with a new job by the mysteriously cryptic Mr. Church (Bruce Willis), who meets Barney and Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) in a church to find a taker for a job no one else would take. The team takes on the seemingly routine mission to overtake General Gaza (David Zayas), the dictator of the small island country of Vilena who has been murdering his own people for years. Before taking on the main job, Barney and Christmas head to Vilena for a reconnaissance mission to meet their contact Sandra (Giselle Itie), who is a local freedom-fighter with secrets. During the mission they quicly learn that the true enemy is an ex-CIA agent gone rogue named James Monroe (Eric Roberts) guarded by Paine (Steve Austin) who is really the puppet master to a large scale drug operation. Barney and Christmas are soon made on the island, and are forced to bail on Sandra and the job. Torn by failing Sandra and her people, Barney gathers the team to return to Vilena and finish what he started.
The Expendables is literally a testosterone fueled attempt for Stallone to rekindle the experience of the 1980’s & 1990’s action flick. What we get is a mash-up of unexplored characters that have zero chemistry, a flimsy script, and a lot of old guys still trying to live the dream. Just like in the 2008 film Rambo, Stallone disturbingly looks like a walking erection due to the fact that he is still juiced up on human growth hormones (HGH) and testosterone. At 64 years-old, Stallone looks like a freaking ox and still proves that he can fight like one too. However, enter a couple of slow-motion running scenes and his age really starts to show. I know that Stallone is the star here, but maybe those shots should have been saved for the younger and leaner Statham.
The writing in The Expendables lacks any kind of real substance other than a scene with a monologue from Mickey Rourke. The remaining dialogue consists of less than original one liners, multiple fist pumps, and tough guy phrases like the often rumbled “bring it!”. I was highly impressed by Stallone’s return to the Rocky series in 2006’s Rocky Balboa, in which he also wrote, directed and starred, but I should have known something was wrong with The Expendables the moment Jean-Claude Van Damme declined a role because it and the story lacked substance…you know how much Van Damme clings to that.
We really don’t learn much about any of the characters in The Expendables other than Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) and Tool (Mickey Rourke) who have the most expansive and deep characters…if you want to call them that. The Expendables also isn’t as action heavy as they are trying to sell it in the trailers. The film opens with a very bloody intro to the team, a car chase/fight pops up somewhere in the middle, and the bulk of the action (shaky close up fights and a multitude of explosions and gunfire) comes in the third act.
The nostalgia and excitement of Stallone, Willis and Schwarzenegger being on screen together has really hyped this film as an epic event, but aside from the list of stars in the film,The Expendables is really B grade, Direct-to-DVD film making that is ultimately — wait for it — expendable.