The Expendables is total ’80s cheese, with all the blood and gore audiences of the ’90s demand from their hard R-rated actioners. However, I would still say this is toned down from Sylvester Stallone’s 2008 throat-ripping return to Rambo. Taking that into consideration I can admit I had some fun with this film, but the idea of bringing a large group of action stars together doesn’t really pay off as much as you may think it would.
Despite the large list of names, Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham are pretty much the stars of the show, though Jet Li’s name is included in the opening credits as the other top-line star. The rest of the crew all gets second-billing and the film treats them as such. As for the trailers selling Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis as part of the cast, they get their five minute scene, but that’s it.
The story centers on a group of goofy-named mercenaries for hire made up of their leader Barney Ross (Stallone), knife specialist Lee Christmas (Statham), martial arts expert Ying Yang (Li), demolitions expert Toll Road (UFC fighter Randy Couture) and weapons specialist Hale Caesar (Terry Crews). This group has been hired to infiltrate the not-so-real South American island of Vilena where they are expected to overthrow General Gaza (David Zayas) who’s ruling the island like a dictator after entering into a deal with James Monroe (Eric Roberts), a dirty ex-CIA agent interested in starting up a little drug trade of his own and using the people of Vilena as slave labor.
Those curious about the cast members I’ve left out, but you’ve seen featured in the marketing, don’t worry I have you covered. One time pro wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin plays one of Monroe’s henchmen, Mickey Rourke is a tattoo artist that once ran with Barney and the gang and Dolph Lundgren’s Gunner character is a bit of a story all his own that I won’t spoil for you here.
As for the movie, if you’re looking for anything more than a bunch of explosions and bloodshed then you’ve come to the wrong place. Of course, if you are interested in this movie I have a hard time believing you are actually looking for anything else. You can trust me on this aspect, you get what you’ve come for, but I can’t say it’s so good it’s going to blow you away. However, the opening moments do offer a torso removal that sets the bar so high the extreme violence throughout can’t top it.
Stallone directed the film from a script he co-wrote with Doom co-writer Dave Callaham, which should give you a clear indication of what to expect in that department. For the most part it’s a “men on a mission” story, but with the involvement of so many men it’s hard to get a bead on any one of them outside of the paper thin background Rourke’s character offers on Barney and the relationship woes Christmas is involved in with Charisma Carpenter. And although I like the small bit of comedy Li adds to the film, Stallone doesn’t do much to show off his talents as Statham gets most of the glory in terms of the hand-to-hand fight scenes.
For what it’s worth, The Expendables is a fun hard-R actioner, but fun in the sense you know what you’re paying for and aren’t expecting much else. No new ground is broken here, but you will see gunfire, explosions and a large amount of chaos. I will say this for Stallone, his average is at the very least above the average of most others in this game.