More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.36%
Worth A Look38.64%
Average: 13.64%
Pretty Bad: 18.18%
Total Crap: 18.18%

4 reviews, 20 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Pick of the Litter by Jay Seaver

Fahrenheit 11/9 by Peter Sobczynski

House With A Clock In Its Walls, The by Peter Sobczynski

Life Itself (2018) by Peter Sobczynski

Unity of Heroes by Jay Seaver

Hanagatami by Jay Seaver

Predator, The by Jay Seaver

Fahrenheit 11/9 by Rob Gonsalves

Madeline's Madeline by Jay Seaver

Won't You Be My Neighbor? by Rob Gonsalves

subscribe to this feed

Expendables, The
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Jack Sommersby

"It's 'Expendable', That's For Sure"
1 stars

Those looking for good old-fashioned escapist entertainment that's actually decent better look elsewhere.

Sylvester Stallone's star-studded The Expendables is so creatively bankrupt and by-the-numbers that I'm surprised all the talent managed to work up the energy to report to the set every day. Of course, they're picking up big paychecks for appearing in such mishmash, so while it's their financial gain it's most definitely our loss (and their loss as artists, of course). Nobody going into this is expecting something of Shakespearean quality, naturally, but did the puerile proceedings have to be this listless? You could easily write the bare-bones plot on the back of a matchbook: Stallone and his team of big-money mercenaries do battle in the small South American hellhole of Vilena against a dictator of a general and a merciless ex-CIA drug kingpin who're exploiting the impoverished people in harvesting cocaine and butchering the ones who dare to revolt. In blatantly aping the outstanding The Dogs of War, co-writer/director Stallone even has his character do initial reconnaissance by going in as an exotic-bird photographer just as Christopher Walken's mercenary did in that much-superior movie; and as was also the case there, he rediscovers his buried conscience and risks himself to correct a moral wrong. But in that underrated 1980 classic, you cared about the characters and were caught up in the fascinating preparation details that went into the mission; here, it's more or less dead space in between the battles, and posing as characters are easy profiles who lack any real dimensions. Stallone obviously thought the marquee value alone was enough to carry the day, and rather than integrated story elements he just throws in topical stuff like Somali pirates and waterboarding for easy effects. While his previous effort Rambo was far from exemplary, it was entertaining and took on in horrid detail Burma genocide and gave it some moral weight -- it wasn't just a jingoistic exercise that exploited and sensationalized; and Rambo's emotional reawakening had weight, too -- Stallone unlayered it with admirable nuance. Here, his character is grim from the onset and doesn't lighten up much -- when he's determined to go back to Vilena and rescue a woman contact who chose to stay behind because she believes in her cause, he might as well be going back to retrieve his wallet. Stallone wants us to see that this tough guy is one heck of a guy, but his motivations are so mushy and one-dimensional that there's not really a second when we're glad he's around. It also doesn't help that the two head villains are the ultimate in cardboard figures -- they seem to punching some sort of Movie Baddie time clock without the slightest desire to go over their forty hours.

Granted, with decent action sequences The Expendables wouldn't be so susceptible to all these nitpickings, but the sad truth is that Stallone's done a flat-out terrible job of choreographing them. They're all overedited and overshot, depleting them of any semblances of flair and spatial cohesion; and he'll speed up the film stock in the middle of them that's irksome and only succeeds in calling our attention to the movie as such. (He employed some of this in Rambo but did so with discipline and tact.) And the set-ups to the non-Vilena ones are nauseous: one mercenary has an estranged girlfriend with a new boyfriend who you know is going to abuse her just so he can be seriously abused later on; and when another one has been kicked out of the unit for being strung out on drugs, you know it's only a matter of time before he tries enacting violent revenge on his comrades (in the resulting auto chase, Stallone drives a vintage black pickup much like the vintage black car he drove in the central car chase in Cobra.) And when Stallone isn't fouling the action factor up, he throws in a bunch of bottom-barrel, half-ass moralizing that's purely groan-inducing. Mickey Rourke plays a cynical tattoo artist who's only on screen to deliver some monologues on having his soul burned out and his incapability of having a nurturing relationship with a woman. He's intended to mirror what the other men are to inevitably be if they keep up in this line of work; he's supposedly past the no-return line with no hope of emotional redemption, but of course we're to see that his recognition of this is indeed proof that he isn't. Rather than genuine introspection it's merely self-attitudinizing to prove The Expendables isn't without a "heart." The performances, alas, are no help. As mentioned, Stallone is joyless and granitic. Jet Li, as usual, fails to register on the silver screen. Dolph Lundgren and his diction are casualties. Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger do career-worst acting in their (thankfully) brief cameos. Eric Roberts relies on too many past mannerisms as Villain Numero Uno. Steve Austin is pallid as the henchman. Even a stalwart like Jason Statham, with nothing to sink his teeth into, can't come up with anything fresh this time around. All around the movie is underwhelming. Going in you want to get behind it and root for it in the hope of it delivering a rip-roaring good time, but again and again Stallone keeps shortchanging the audience by shoveling out a bunch of lazily-conceived manure thinking that the window dressing of the cast is enough to sate us. And what's tripped him up is that our bullshit detectors are working perfectly fine throughout this inchoate mess, thank you very much, Sly.

Brings back fond memories of "Rhinestone" and "The Specialist"!

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 12/14/10 12:38:39
[printer] printer-friendly format  
Trilogy Starters: For more in the Trilogy Starters series, click here.

User Comments

12/29/17 morris campbell boring old geezer action flick 1 stars
5/29/13 fartvenugen total poop 2 stars
10/25/12 Charles Tatum Something this dumb shouldn't be this fun 4 stars
7/21/12 Sean Harrison Terrible movie but not the worst. 2 stars
8/01/11 Piz Action overload which is fine by me. Well done and delivered. 4 stars
5/26/11 Glenn Laurence Hardy Junior Please friend me on facebook! 4 stars
3/22/11 Richard79 Sly fires a second round into puerile, teen trash like Die Hard 4. 3 stars
1/18/11 Ramone Derek has AIDs and it's from a monkey. 3 stars
1/07/11 Derek Crap actions, dialogues. Cinematic equivalent of toxic waste. 1 stars
11/27/10 othree Fun movie = fight scenes, bad story, viagra&steroids all around! 3 stars
11/27/10 mr.mike Great actioner. Now if only I could understand what Sly and the rest were saying........... 5 stars
9/11/10 M SICK!! 4 stars
8/30/10 MickT Greatest action film in ten years, no fightclub girly man shit here. 5 stars
8/28/10 Mitch Dolan fucking amazing 5 stars
8/21/10 Sugarfoot Decent movie with some good action. Nothing more, nothing less. 3 stars
8/17/10 Lundgren's Knife Closest actual movie version to Seinfeld's "Death Blow" 5 stars
8/16/10 KingNeutron Shot on poor-quality film stock, -bad- CGI, average plot - hopefully Sequel will be BETTER 3 stars
8/15/10 Dan Two words: Fucking awesome. 5 stars
8/15/10 action movie fan despite some akward moments a great tough action film that we all should be thrilled by 4 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  13-Aug-2010 (R)
  DVD: 23-Nov-2010

  19-Aug-2010 (18)

  12-Aug-2010 (MA)
  DVD: 23-Nov-2010

[trailer] Trailer

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast