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Overall Rating
3.12

Awesome: 11.63%
Worth A Look39.53%
Average: 13.95%
Pretty Bad: 18.6%
Total Crap: 16.28%

4 reviews, 19 user ratings


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Expendables, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Beat, Spray, Shove"
4 stars

“The Expendables” has been described by many people as an homage to the unapologetically over-the-top crypto-fascist action extravaganzas that flourished in theaters in the 1980’s, temporarily fattened the coffers of such long-gone production companies as Carolco and Cannon and made superstars out of people ranging from Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger to Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal. In fact, with its combination of haphazard plotting, a large cast of familiar faces coasting through the proceedings in roles that offer more in the way of smirky in-jokes than in actual character development and the palpable sense of inconsequentiality that permeates virtually every scene, it actually bears more of a resemblance to the old Rat Pack movies that Frank Sinatra and his buddies used to get together when they were in need of a few bucks and a few laughs. These weren’t great movies by any stretch of the imagination but they possessed a certain heedless charm that allowed viewers to overlook the totally mercenary circumstances that inspired them. Likewise, “The Expendables” is an aggressively dopey celebration of testosterone featuring a pec-heavy collection of current and former action stars hurling knives, punches and lumpy one-liners with all the grace and finesse of a punch-drunk fighter in the service of a screenplay that barely seems to contain proper nouns, let alone a plot, and somehow manages to provide a decent amount of fenderheaded fun for those who just want to see stuff get blown up or gunned down for 90-odd minutes.

Sylvester Stallone, who also co-wrote and directed the film, stars as Barney Ross, the aging leader of a mercenary group known as The Expendables--the other members include knife man Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), martial arts expert Yin Yang (Jet Li), gunner Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), demolition expert Toll Road (Randy Couture), troubled sniper Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) and philosophical tattooist Tool (Mickey Rourke)--that will, for a price, go into places that most would fear to tread and take on the kind of high-risk missions that the Losers, the A-Team and the Inglourious Basterds can’t or won’t accept. As the film opens, a shadowy government agent offers the group a dangerous mission to travel to the South American country of Vilena and take out its cruel and despotic dictator, General Gaza (David Zayas), in order to free the people, stabilize the government and, of course, protect American business concerns.

Ross and Christmas go down to Vilena on a recon mission, meet up with Sandra (Gisele Itie), a comely local freedom fighter with a shocking secret and discover that the real danger on the island is not Gaza but James Monroe (Eric Roberts), an ex-CIA agent who has gone rogue and is hoping to overthrow Gaza in order to take control of the country’s thriving drug trade for himself. Ross and Christmas barely escape with their lives but even though they give her a chance to come with them to safety, Sandra elects to stay behind with her people. Thus inspired by her nobility and not by the paycheck, Ross gathers the rest of the gang together in order to undertake a “Wild Bunch”-like siege that results in roughly a half-hour of non-stop carnage before all the bad guys are blown to bits and all the good guys have each had their individual moment to shine before the end credits roll to the inevitable tune of Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back In Town.”

In news that probably won’t surprise very many of you, “The Expendables” is, in many ways, a really bad film. The screenplay by Stallone and Dave Callaham is the usual barely digestible stew of threadbare plotting, one-dimensional characters, sexist attitudes (although kick-ass woman are commonplace in action films these days, the only women on display here are little more than helpless appendages) and dialogue that veers between bald exposition and forced banter before being reduced almost entirely to little more than grunts and groans in the final reel. The individual fight scenes are also a bit of a mess as well--as he did in the most recent “Rambo,” Stallone stages his fights in such a quick-cut manner that it is often difficult to discern who is doing what to who, a problem that is accentuated by having most of them take place in murky darkness. Oddly enough, considering that much of the hype surrounding the film has been based on the idea of seeing two generations of action movie stars bouncing off of each other both figuratively and literally, perhaps the biggest flaw with the film is that they never really gel together as a group in the same way as the guys did in such obvious influences as “The Wild Bunch” and “The Dirty Dozen.” The trouble is that while the older guys may not move quite as quickly as they once did, they still maintain enough charisma to hold the screen--yes, even Dolph Lundgren--but with the sole exception of Statham, none of the younger guys have the kind of presence required to play with the bad boys--people like Randy Couture and Steve Austin (who plays the bad guy‘s henchman) may be compelling in the ring but have so little presence here that they barely register even when they are given center stage. Apparently Stallone must have realized this at some point early in the proceedings because instead of following a group dynamic throughout, he mostly focuses on the byplay between his character and Statham’s while trotting out the others every once in a while for a brief bit or two.

And yet, despite all these flaws and plenty more, I still found myself enjoying “The Expendables” on some basic fundamental level. Yes, it is loud and dumb and sloppy as all get out but unlike most current action movies, it has some personality as well that separates it from the majority of its current competition. (In this context, even the occasionally cut-rate special effects have a certain charm to them.) Stallone may not be the world’s most subtle or nuanced filmmaker but he knows that the best way to tell a story as deliberately cartoonish as this is by doing it in the most straightforward and direct manner possible--if it kept winking at us throughout, it would quickly grow intolerable--and he does so in a way that keeps things humming along without ever overstaying its welcome. Although the group thing never quite pays off, Stallone is generous enough to allow all of his main cast members a moment or two to shine--yes, even Dolph Lundgren--and they make the most of them. Most significantly, at a time when most action films can barely muster up one thing that is worth recalling after the end credits have rolled, “The Expendables” comes up with two of them. The first is the much-discussed scene featuring Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger as a rival mercenary and Bruce Willis as a mysterious government spook looking to hire one of them for the mission--the three do such a good job of playing off of each other without trying to hog the proceedings that it actually manages to live up to all of the hype. The second is the non-stop array of carnage that dominates the final third of the film--a breathless ballet of bullets, blades, blood and bon mots that feels like a fan boy’s dream of every over-the-top storm-the-impregnable-fortress scene ever filmed rolled into one juicy sequence.

“The Expendables” isn’t a great film by any means but it is a fairly entertaining one and as brainless and unapologetically violent late-summer entertainment goes, it gets the job done, especially in comparison to such dogs as the similarly-themed “The Losers“ and “The A-Team.” It isn’t for everyone and if you have never shown much of an interest in the kind of meat-and-potatoes (but mostly meat) filmmaking that it serves up, there is most likely nothing on display here that will inspire you to change your mind. However, if you do have a taste for this sort of thing, you will no doubt find it to be a blast. Several of them, in fact.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=19778&reviewer=389
originally posted: 08/13/10 14:00:00
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User Comments

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 PAUL SHORTT HARD-HITTING ACTION THRILLER WITH A DYNAMIC CAST 3 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
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  13-Aug-2010 (R)
  DVD: 23-Nov-2010

UK
  19-Aug-2010 (18)

Australia
  12-Aug-2010 (MA)
  DVD: 23-Nov-2010



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