Published Aug 12, 2010The appeal of The Expendables is obvious: some of the biggest action stars of the last 30 years coming together to fight each other and blow shit up. It's a little nostalgia for memories of the good old days when men were the only ones with rights and movie posters could get away with being little more than big guns and bigger breasts.
And while Stallone's cinematic cock rock anthem delivers on the guns promise, scratching the nudity for an inadvertently misogynist faux-feminist message, it botches what little action it has, going for old school carnage, but winding up with desultory noise.
It should be noted that while the wide cast of actors, including Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Sylvester Stallone and Terry Crews, are known for different types of action, this is very much a Rambo movie, or perhaps something out of the Charles Bronson canon. Resultantly, the plot is simple, with a team of mercenaries led by the wisecracking Stallone, idealistic Statham and erratic Lundgren heading to South America to overthrow evil capitalist Eric Roberts, who has taken over the government of Vilena.
Now, if they stuck to knife-fights and blowing people in half with redundantly large guns that would be fine, since no one expects anything particularly high-minded from a film of this nature. But they spend the first hour of the movie talking, occasionally about their wounded souls, making awkwardly homoerotic wisecracks that are only exacerbated by Stallone's claustrophobic tendency to film everyone in close-up, keeping them square in each other's faces. Even when they argue, the cutaways to melodramatic sneers and dominance posturing are often unintentionally funny, given how seriously the film takes itself.
Perhaps the oiled up gay porn tension is intentional, as early scenes have Stallone preaching how unnecessary women are when Statham starts whining about his relationship with Charisma Carpenter. Later, the vessel for saving the aforementioned deadened souls is the morality of a sexy South American filly whose purpose, mixed with passive weakness, gives the men a new reason to live, and to blow up 500-year-old architecture without feeling guilty.
Fine, the stupid plot and sad attempt at didactics are hilarious; still, there's action, right? While some slow motion explosions and protracted fight scenes deliver some visceral flare, Stallone's tendency to look only for the aggressiveness of each shot leaves the final product mostly incoherent. Even an early car chase scene is so erratic and sloppy that it's hard not to sit and think of the many superior sequences in better films, such as Ronin and The French Connection.
Essentially, all there is to marvel at here is the wonder of clever casting, since there is little purpose or merit to The Expendables aside from drinking game derision. (Maple)