Unreal Movie Review: The Expendables

The Expendables was a purely ridiculous concept from the start, and it’s something it’s never apologized for. Nor should it have. Sly Stallone’s vision of reuniting our greatest living action stars in one over the top feature seemed like fantasy, and as you’re actually watching the movie, it does feel a bit like you’re dreaming.

It really is as if all our action heroes retired, and now mercenary work is what they do to make a quick buck after their franchises ended. This is what happened when Rambo ran out of brown people to shoot, when the Transporter ran out of Audis to wreck and what Ivan Drago decided to go into after his disgraceful loss to that capitalist pig Rocky.

In addition to Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Dolph Lundgren hinted at above, there’s a whole host of action stars Stallone has plucked from the ends of the earth to fill the gaps in his movie. Some aren’t even actors, rather a WWE wrestler (Stone Cold Steve Austin) and a UFC fighter (Randy Couture) proving that anyone with giant muscles and a functioning mouth will do.

At least they picked Randy Couture instead of Urijah Faber.

Pour all these macho men in a box, sprinkle some various artillery in, and shake it up like they’re angry hornets, and you have The Expendables, perhaps the most purposefully absurd action movie ever made.

Stallone leads a crew of mercenaries, callously known as “The Expendables,” who take on any overly dangerous job the government or other militias won’t touch. In addition to Lundgren, Couture and Statham on his team, he also has Terry Crews and Jet Li among his ranks for diversity in both size and color. Mickey Rourke also shows up a contract liaison/tattoo artist who has gotten tired of killing over the years. All of these people have character names sure, but I’ve never seen a movie where such identifiers were more unnecessary, as this entire film is based on the premise of its overstuffed, recognizable cast.

Bruce Willis shows up as a CIA contact who offers a job to both Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who appears in a cameo which forces a smile. It really is excellent to see him back on the screen again, even if it is only for a few brief moments.

After some expectedly stupid banter between the three action legends, Stallone takes the incredibly risky job of overthrowing a Caribbean island dictatorship. It’s being run by a power hungry, but morally conflicted general (Dexter’s David Zayas), but the man really pulling the strings is Eric Roberts, an ex-CIA spook turned criminal once he realized he could control the country’s entire drug supply and make crazy amounts of cash from it.

You need to work on your human shield technique buddy.

Also on Team Bad Guy are Steve Austin and one other henchman with very long legs and a penchant for high kicks (Gary Daniels). It’s clear this is the role Stallone had in mind for Van Damme, before Jean-Claude shot him down on the basis that the part wasn’t “substantive enough.” Bitch, please. Show up for the sequel, will you?

Stallone initially decides the job is too tough, but changes his mind when he sees the courage of the General’s daughter (Gisele Itie) who is trying to fight for her generically oppressed people. The crew mounts up, flies in and copious amounts of death and destruction commence.

Is The Expendables a good movie? No, of course not, but you can bet your ass it’s entertaining. The dialogue is painful, even for a bad action movie, and when there isn’t anyone around to be shot or blown up, the characters don’t quite seem to know what to do. That’s why we have an entire scene dedicated to discussing Randy Coture’s cauliflower ear (which he actually has in real life), or Jet Li trying to convince us he needs a raise, so he can send his kid to a better school (really, $500,000 a year just isn’t cutting it?).

Nothing to see here, just a little bro love.

But most of this is only in the initial scenes of the film, and once the action starts rolling, the film picks up increasing amounts of steam as it barrels toward it’s explosive finale. And I do mean explosive. There are so many explosions in the final scene, it would make Michael Bay cry from the sheer beauty of it. When they run out of C4, Terry Crews has a gun that actually shoots explosions. Interspersed with all this are some excellently choreographed fight and gun play scenes, including one hallway clearing shotgun rampage you will likely never forget.

It’s almost surreal watching the action unfold onscreen. Am I really watching Jet Li fight Dolph Lundgren right now? Am I actually seeing Stone Cold Steve Austin beating the hell out of Sylvester Stallone? This entire movie was conceived to be the ultimate guys’ fantasy, and in that aspect, it certainly delivers. Expecting it to be Shakespeare when it’s written by a man who can barely form audible sentences is expecting a bit much, and I would caution everyone to enjoy it just for what it is, pure, ridiculous carnage.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Who’s up for round two?

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  1. Stallone earned my money (and, I am assuming, everyone else in my theater) with his comment as Arnold is walking away with his tail between his legs. That was one of the best one liners I have ever heard.

  2. They actually do have names, I checked on imdb and they are awesome, jet li is ying yang, randy couture is toll roads and terry crews is hale ceasar. Everyone else has pretty boring names. As for the movie, I enjoyed it but it really pissed me off that stallone used cg blood and not the real/fake stuff.
    When are you guys going to do a review for scott pilgrim? I saw that the same day I saw the expendables and I was blown away by it. It was hilarious, and it had some incredible action sequences. The visual style is the best I’ve seen since speed racer. Plus, Mary. Elizabeth. Winstead. C’mon. Go see it already.

  3. @Josh- that line cracked up the entire theatre. Delivered perfectly.

    I enjoyed the bejeesus out of this movie. As did my dad, who’s favorite movies are all about the “blowed up.” The CG blood was a bit of a let down, but the auto-shotgun more than made up for that! (And that gun actually exists, look up AA12 exploding rounds on YouTube.)

    I knew what kind of movie I was going in to, and it delivered. For what it was supposed to be, I give it a 4.5/5. As an overall movie, I agree with the 3.5.

    It’s just a damn fun film!

  4. As a woman this movie felt like eating at Hooters. It’s not what I would pick but I enjoyed it for the sheer novelty factor. It was also interesting to see grown men drooling. I would have enjoyed it more a’la “Mystery Science Theatre 3000″…………..turn off the sound and make up your own lines to the actors lips moving. Coincidentally that one liner to Arnold is the only one I wouldn’t change. Last but not least if Jet Li was really going to try and get a raise…………….I think after the Dolph Lundgren matchup would have been the most effective timeo ask.

  5. Overall, I definitely enjoyed the Expendables. Painful dialog, short on story, terrible acting, but the action and the sheer magnitude of seeing all these guys on the screen at once outweighed the bad. Someone else noted the lame blood effects. How about the effects in general. The explosions looked good, almost anything else was below expectations. Especially in the beginning when Dolph shoots the one guy with the grenade launcher and his torso blows back to the wall. Did anybody else notice how lame it looked?

    Only other complaint is everybody losing their collective shit over the Arnold as president joke. It was painfully bad, and only made worse by the obese man behind me that I could have sworn was going to go into cardiac arrest.

  6. @I’mjustagirl

    That’s exactly how I felt!

    Anyhoo, I didn’t know any of the characters name (besides Statham’s character “Christmas). I just knew that as Terry Crews’ character, Jet Li character, blah blah blah.
    But, I liked how Schwarzenegger entered and exited the church with light behind him like he was frieken’ God. I guess, in doing that, Stallone pretty much crowned him as the God of 80s action movies.

  7. I went in knowing that I wouldn’t be getting good acting and expecting to be entertained. I wasn’t.

    I seriously despise this movie, it’s just horrible on all levels. The acting was grating, the script (some of the worst character names in movie history, Stallone shouldn’t come anywhere near the writing process, ever) and story so forgettable and the cinematography and editing was painfully bad. It’s pathetic to use so many super close-ups in the fight scenes to hide the fact that they’re all old, burned out geezers. Don’t get me started on the laughable attempt to get any emotion out of the scrambled mess with a extreme facial close-up of Rourke’s ugly, crying mug.
    I didn’t find the action exciting at all, there was no tension because all of them were completely invincible. Hell, I didn’t even find them awesome or cool, just numbing. I was yawning by the 20th time someone grabbed a bad guys, spun around him and shot another guy. It happened way too often.

    I was psyched to see this, I even yelled out: “Explosions!” just as the opening credits started rolling. I proceeded to fall asleep during the proceedings.
    The kicker is: I love action movies, I forgive them for not having the best scripts but just cannot forgive this movie. It had no heart, each character had maybe one definable trait. There was no need for so many characters when they’re basically just one action movie stereotype broken into pieces.

    There was just no heart and soul, I’ve seen everything in this movie done before and better, I could’ve just stayed home and watched Rambo, Rambo IV, Bad Boys, The Rock, Lethal Weapon or countless other, better, action movies.

    I just feel that it had no redeeming quality, nothing. Hands down the worst film I’ve seen this year and one of my biggest cinematic letdowns in recent history.

    1. Great comment. I’m sure people will argue that you don’t know how to turn your brain off and have fun, or that you shouldn’t have high expectations, but sometimes an action movie is just a bland, empty, cliched mess with nothing new or fun about it. I was worried that’s what this would be – a movie capitalizing on its cast when in actuality it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, and when we had seen it, it was done a helluva lot better.

  8. I’m a girl and I went with my best friend (also a girl) on opening weekend to see this flick because she wanted to drool over Dolph Lundgren (whose educational accomplishments make him extra sexy to us) and because we both looked forward to seeing the near orgasmic cornucopia of all those action men together in one screen. So, we didn’t give a hoot about whether the film would be good or bad–we actually expected it to be–and it was (cliche and all). Despite its flaws in practically everything, we giddily immersed ourselves in this flick, though I could not keep my sarcasm at bay in some situations.

    Leaving the theater, we did not regret buying the tickets because we loved the movie for what it seemed to be– Stallone calling up his boys and saying, “Let’s have ourselves a party. F— whatever anyone’s gonna say about it.” I liked his nod to the heydays of action flics: pure, mindless fun, guns and explosives.

    (Maybe Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson may want to reclaim his spot as an action hero by joining in with Van Damme in the sequel).

  9. Pretty decent review although i prefer giving it four out of five for just the sheer balls of making this movie…Lungden i’ve gotta say just stole the show.
    Just for the sequel can they make it The Expendables: Isla Nublar

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