Watching The Expendables you can’t help but feel nostalgic. It was quite a feat for Sylvester Stallone to bring all of these high profile action movie stars into his one mega action film. Nearly all of them are here – Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin, Mickey Rourke, Terry Crews, Eric Roberts, Randy Couture, Bruce Willis, and the governator…Arnold. First and foremost let me start by saying that I did enjoy several parts of this movie, and I would recommend to anyone looking for a good action film. Several moments during this film, I was in awe of what I was seeing. Stallone has a good sense of how to process an intensely violent sequence. It’s impressive and you will be taken back by some of them…they are phenomenal. On the other hand, there are some issues with the use of some of the players and some other minor details.
Let’s start with the positives. Stallone is a good director. He basically continues the kind of work he did in Rambo here and shows a talent for directing in your face action sequences that just ‘wow’ you. He brings the action full force and gives the film the type of feel it was looking for. The main characters are Barney Ross (Stallone), Lee Christmas (Statham), and Ying Yang (Li). Lee Christmas is probably the most developed character of the three as we actually get a small look into his personal life. Statham’s character was a good choice for this, because he is best suited for it. The scene where he gets into it with the guy that slaps his ex-girlfriend around is one of the highlights of the film. Even though Barney Ross is not as emotional of a character, like a John Rambo or Rocky Balboa, Stallone fits the ‘leader’ role quite well and you know from the opening sequence that he is the man in charge of this elite group. Li’s Ying Yang provides some decent comic relief and the fight with Gunner Jensen (Lundgren) is fun to watch.
This is a crowded film with lots of star power, so it had to be difficult for Stallone to give everyone their fair share of screen time. Randy Couture probably has the least to do, and that’s actually a good thing because he is not the best actor in the world. Steve Austin does a commendable job as Payne, the right hand man to Eric Roberts’ James Munroe. Payne is by Munroe’s side the entire film and Austin plays the role about as cold hearted as you could play it. He really is an asshole…almost as much as his boss. Roberts’, who has also done well at playing the baddie, does ok with his performance. It’s typical Eric…nothing too demanding, therefore, nothing extraordinary. Terry Crews who portrays Hale Ceasar also has some comedic moments, and his character provides some of the best ‘wow’ action sequences during the final battle sequence. Lundgren (who I loved as Ivan Drago in Rocky IV) is by far the worst actor of this group. His lines are not the best, but even if they had been better I highly doubt Dolph would have done any better. He looks the worse for wear probably more than any of the other members of this ensemble cast. I appreciate Sly’s loyalty to Dolph by hiring him for this film, but this is a case where Jean Claude Van Damme would have been a better choice. Giselle Itie, who plays Sandra, is stunningly beautiful and plays her role with a sense of toughness that’s memorable considering that she is surrounded by brooding men. It’s easy to see why Barney feels he has no choice but to go back after her…even if it means beginning an all out war.
Even though Stallone is one hell of an action director, he still has a long way to go with the use of CGI. Some of the best action sequences in The Expendables are hampered by very shotty CGI, which is disappointing, because it’s something that you just don’t want to notice…it’s painstaking to watch in some shots. Another issue I had, and it’s minor because it doesn’t happen too often, is the fact that sometimes the camera is too close during the one on one fighting scenes. I had the same issue with the Transformers films. Back the camera up a bit so the audience can see the full scope of the fight. The plot of The Expendables is a simple one. No major twists…no unnecessary lengthy amounts of dialogue. This is an ‘in your face’ action extravaganza and it pretends to be nothing more.
Mickey Rourke’s character Tool is the man that has the tattoo shop where the crew hangs out when they’re not on a mission. Rourke does a good job in his role and makes you feel like if there was one man’s place you would want to chill out at…it would be his. By far the coolest non-action sequence in the movie belongs to the much talked about church meeting between Mr. Church (Bruce Willis), Barney Ross (Stallone), and Trench (Arnold Schwarzenneger). The dialogue, albeit short, is clever and funny. It is a treat to watch Sly and Arnold banter back and forth as a couple of guys who don’t really like each other that much.
Is The Expendables worth seeing? Yes. Is it a great ‘action movie star’ masterpiece some people thought it would be? No. Is it a throwback to the old school 1980′s action films? Well, yes and no. We get moments of ’80′s cheese and it’s great to see hardcore brutality that looks ‘real’, but there is a certain lack of importance about the whole plot. Perhaps there should have been a bigger purpose…something more meaningful.
The violence in the movie is over the top, but in most cases it is realistic. You watch the brutality play out and say to yourself – that could actually happen. Of course, there are a few instances where reality goes right out the window…but isn’t that the case in most action films these days? The main issue that I had with the film is that there were so many missed opportunities here. With better use of CGI mixed with a few more ‘insanely’ filmed action pieces, plus the addition of a few more retro action icons, The Expendables could have been great. I was a little disappointed with the last couple of minutes of the film as well. I was hoping for another meeting with the big three to cap the film off, instead we end up back in Tool’s tattoo shop. I do give props to Sly for at least putting forth the effort to make a film such as this, and if he decides to bring these mercenaries back for another round, I hope he takes the mistakes made in round one and gives fans the ultimate cool action film we were all waiting for.
Check out our Top 10 Sylvester Stallone films to see if The Expendables makes the cut!