The Expendables

Directed by: Sylvester Stallone
Distributed by: Lionsgate

Written by Nick McCann


The way to movie stardom is via muscles, explosions, and fisticuffs. At least that’s what the 1980s proved, with many actors rising to popularity in the decade’s influx of modern action films. Since then, others have joined the ranks with their own fighting styles, hard-edged stories, and speech inflections. It was about time for a massive team-up. And who better than Rambo himself, Sylvester Stallone, to corral the stable?

Our gun-toting, physically-jacked, titular mercenary group is hired to disband a regime on a tropical island. A concept like that certainly opens up a fun playground for these actors to make things go boom and it does deliver when it goes off. However, the film is a bit more serious than expected, reinforcing how awful dictatorships are and having lots of downtime pondering mercenary life. Some of the content feels like holdovers from Stallone’s own fourth “Rambo” film. Not that there’s nothing worth investing in, it merely presents as more dire and modern than as an ode to the wild shenanigans of 80s cinema.

Thankfully the cast gives the movie life and charm. Of course, a movie like this has trouble balancing screen time between everyone. Still, the impressions they leave are nice no matter how much cheesy dialogue they have to deliver. Stallone and Jason Statham are in top form, having a solid bromance leading the charge. Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, and Terry Crews have plenty of highlights themselves. Eric Roberts as the villain is about as predictable a villain as they come, while Steve Austin is wooden when he isn’t throwing punches. Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis round out the nostalgia with brief but entertaining cameos.

When it comes time for these guys to pop off, “The Expendables” makes good on wild destruction and R-rated bloodshed. Albeit with lots to pick it at. There are plenty in the way of gun battles, fight scenes, and even car chases. Yet the movie adopts shaky camera angles, low lighting, and fast editing only to hamper decent action design. Not to mention cheap CGI that becomes instantly distracting. With that said, lots of bodies fall, explosions detonate, and dozens of one-liners are dropped. It knows how to have fun when it needs to.

“The Expendables” isn’t perfect but there is just enough charm and bombast to have a good time. Had the film embraced old-school filmmaking sensibilities, tightened up the script further, and buttoned up its tone, there could have been a superior version that calls back to what made a lot of these actors into action juggernauts. As it stands, there’s more to enjoy than not to.

“The Expendables” Trailer

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