The Expendables Delivers Fun Action, Little Else

I think when every red-blooded male heard that Sylvester Stallone was putting together a film that contained some of the most popular action stars from the 80’s and today, they got all googly-eyed as if they had just seen the gates of cinema heaven.  I should know.  I was one of them. It wasn’t long after then that I discovered actors like Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger would have nothing more than cameos in the potential blockbuster.  Booo.  Nevertheless, the active lineup is still impressive.  Then as recently as this week, Lionsgate began pulling press screenings of the film.  I don’t know the real reason they did this, but I do know studios will occasionally do this when they lack confidence in their production.  Uh-oh.  Did this spell doom for The Expendables or was someone’s lack of faith unfounded?

Co-written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, the story follows a group of highly trained, highly efficient mercenaries affectionately known as “The Expendables,” who don’t just sell out to the highest bidder, but rather offer their services to the greater good of the U.S. of A.  After an early bumpy ride with one of their teammates, group leader Barney Ross (Stallone) makes the decision to cut one of his co-workers from the roster for the better of the team.  Ross and his group, consisting of right hand man Jason Statham, Jet Li, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren and UFC champ Randy Couture, form one very tough, nearly unstoppable military force.  Fellow good guy Tool, played by Mickey Rourke, also makes an entrance here and there as the retired but wise tattooing sage of the unit.

The Expendables are ultimately tasked with a ‘to hell and back’ job on a small island in the Gulf of Mexico where a dictatorship (David Zayas; Dexter) has overwhelmed the innocent civilians of the coastal landscape.  Things aren’t as they seem, however, when American involvement tied to the corrupt island leader is discovered.  WWE veteran Stone Cold Steve Austin grabs some screen time as the yes-man muscle of his boss, James Munroe, played by The Dark Knight mobster, Eric Roberts.  It becomes apparent that the Expendables team will have little choice but to descend upon the island and do what they do best…squeeze triggers and blow s%+# up.

Earlier on Friday, reports starting coming through from a handful of press around the country who did get to see the film.  It wasn’t good.  Little was mentioned about the action or lack thereof, while focusing heavily on a weak script.  Leave it up to Why So Blu to clarify.  Yes, the script is weak, toilet fodder actually, but the action is definitely present, especially in the second half of the film where it is front and center put-your-seatbelt-on present.  I know what some of you may be thinking about that script comment too.  “Who cares how bad it is?!  I just wanna see those guys blow stuff up!”  Yes, well, all the pyrotechnics in the world do not make a movie good.  People still need to speak in some convincing manner to carry the film when the scene doesn’t involve a grenade or a bullet.

Stallone and Statham work well together, as does Li when he zips around the set in front of the camera.  Still, the rah-rah lines trying to induce teamwork come up a little short at times, and if anything, conjure a snicker for how bad they sound.  No actors, however, are as bad in the film as that of Mr. Ivan Drago himself, Dolph Lundgren.  He was far better as a pissed off communist with an evil glare and a hard right than as the Scandinavian mercenary Gunner Jensen here.  With all that being said and despite some questionable green screen shots, I managed to find at least a little forgiveness in my heart when the action floodgates opened up in the second half of the film.  It was a beautiful thing.  There were enough emptied clips, thrown knives, landed punches, drop kicks, body slams, and fiery blasts to keep me happy for weeks.  Everything you hoped for (minus Arnold and Bruce Willis) happened in the thankfully lengthy and spectacular sequence that was assembled.

The Expendables doesn’t meet a lot of the criteria necessary for the film to be loved by amost, but it is a fun ride.  As a result, the various early ratings of 3 out of 5 stars for the film are accurate in my opinion.  The action is an extremely major saving grace here, from the melee to the gun battles, it was all wonderfully captured.  This movie won’t be making any top-ten list of mine, but I do give big props to Stallone for putting this production together.  The guy knows what fans want.  Who else would have been able to go out and sign this roster of actors and athletes?  If it came down to it, The Expendables could pass as the last big hurrah of action films, should such a travesty of the genre ever occur.


12 Responses to “The Expendables Delivers Fun Action, Little Else”

  1. Brian White

    Alright…you will get me to agree some of the dialog was bad and the script wasn’t the greatest…that much I can be honest with myself about.

    Second…some of the CGI…also very bad, but not that bad that it broke my suspension of disbelief. Here’s what I find funny…at Comic-Con…Stallone went on and on about how little CGI was used and how they did not even want to use. What the??? There was a heck of a lot of CGI in use here. A heck of a lot.

    So here’s my take Gregg…much like your proclaimed love for Transformers 2 I can attest the same here. Like TF2, the script here wasn’t the greatest, but like you said in TF2…it was a chance for me to relive my childhood with all those big names and action happening on the screen. From that point of view, I was in nirvana last night.

    After the film was over, my wife turned to me and said she loved it. From a filmmaker perspective there were parts I wanted to chew and spit out, but instead I turned to her and said…yes, me too! And I did love it from a certain point of view…it’s a fun summer action blockbuster popcorn ride and like you said in your concluding paragraph…who knows if we will ever see something like this anytime soon again. With that being said…I had a blast with this and judging from the sh#t eating smile that Statham wore the whole time, so did he. Right now…for the entertainment factor alone, this is on my Top 10 list of the year. Will it stay there? Not sure.

    So yeah…one last thing…about Arnold. I’m kind of glad his part was only a cameo. Did you see how old he looks? Could you even want to imagine 2 hours of him trodding around on the screen? Not me. LOL. Not me.

  2. Gregg

    Yes, Arnold is starting to show his age. The toll of running a state is catching up with him. I will still buy this when it comes out on Blu-ray. I mean, anyone that grew up in the 80’s watching Rambo, Cobra, Rocky, Terminator, Die Hard, Predator, etc., how could you not appreciate the ensemble here? Chuck Norris would have made a nice addition too. Third world army men beware! You’re not safe when Stallone walks in front of the camera!

  3. Gerard Iribe

    We’re seeing this today.

  4. Brian White

    Ha ha…Chuck Norris…I’m glad he wasn’t in here. Never liked him in anything. I would have loved to see JCVD make a cameo, but he’s too good for this production. Hopefully there will be a sequel to this. Time is a ticking for Stallone and I know he has a few more good ones left in him. 🙂

  5. Aaron Neuwirth

    Yeah Gregg, I pretty much agree with what you’ve put down here. I appreciated the idea of this film and the fact that Stallone put all these guys together more than the actual film itself. I just don’t think it hand enough fun with itself, which will be reiterated in my review.

  6. Bob Ignizio

    I more or less agree with your review. I think a large part of why the script was so bad is it feels like it was written solely to shoehorn all the various name performers into the movie, rather than as an organic, naturally flowing story. Definitely not up to the level of ‘Rambo’ or ‘Rocky Balboa’.

  7. Brian White

    “Definitely not up to the level of ‘Rambo’ or ‘Rocky Balboa’.” – Bob I.

    Could not agree more.

  8. Gerard Iribe

    Saw this yesterday and we LOVED IT!!!!!!! Dolph Lundgren is GOD. Are you kidding me? Loved his intro. Some of the violence in this was Rambo redux.

    I do hope it gets released in an UNRATED, EXTENDED or DIRECTOR’S CUT. A few snippets from the trailers were left out.

    “Hello, Karma!” “I own you!” Those two come to mind.

    I’ll be seeing this again in a couple of hours. My GF hated Rambo, because she thought it was very exploitative of the situation in Burma; nearly walked out of that one. Now this one, we were laughing and pretty much going “ooohhhhhhh!!!!” So many great kills, etc…

  9. Brian White

    I don’t understand. Your girlfriend was against Stallone bring awareness to what is going on in Burma?

    How was your second viewing?

  10. Gerard Iribe

    Considering Rambo is a fictitious character. It all of sudden became Rambo in the “real world.” She saw it as exploitative.

    My second viewing of Expendables was cool. This should sound great on blu-ray!

  11. Sean Ferguson

    Wait a minute…Gregg liked Transformers 2? That movie had great special effects but the script and the direction on that completely sucked. I liked the first one but the second one was simply a cash grab with no heart.

  12. Brian White

    I will let Gregg get back to you on that. I learned better not to trash TF2 in front of Gregg 🙂 It’s a magnificent picture…