Sylvester Stallone, with The Expendables, AKA “The Gun Show”, has done one of the greatest feats of casting since It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, bringing together some of the most bad ass, musclebound action heroes of the last 15 to 20 years in one film, under one roof. The Expendables has bad writing peppered with some funny one-liners, a plot that looks stripped straight out of a late 80s made for TV low budget action movie, but you won’t be watching The Expendables for the writing. You’ll be watching The Expendables for the ass-kicking, sweaty testosterone-filled, skull-crushing action. And it does have that.
Like I said, the plot of The Expendables is… uh… expendable. Very much so. In a nutshell, there’s this evil Caribbean dictator general guy (David Zayas), who is under the thumb of a powerful American drug dealer (Eric Roberts) and his thugs (Steve Austin and some no-names) and so the CIA sends in a small group of elite super badasses: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Terry Crews and Randy Couture. Dolph Lundgren was part of the group, but he’s pretty crazy, so he gets kicked out and ends up working for Eric Roberts. The group gets the job from Mickey Rourke, an old member of the group who’s now retired to a life of tattooing and pipe-smoking. Stallone meets up with an enigmatic man named Mr. Church (Bruce Willis), who is deciding to give the job either to Stallone or his men or Arnold Schwarzeneggar. Schwarzeneggar declines the job, saying that he’s not up to running around in the jungle. And there’s some stupid, boring subplot about Jason Statham trying to make up with his girlfriend. Yaaawn. It does produce one great ass-kicking scene on a basketball court, but that’s it. And of all the badassery, oddly enough, I think Bruce Willis in his short cameo was one of my favorite actual characters. Lundgren was pretty good, but i would have loved to have seen Willis burning through henchmen with a shotgun and a machete.
Blah blah blah. Also, notice that I don’t list any character names. Because it’s not important. No one really has a name, and is barely referenced by their name, because the names are all generally stupid, underlying the shitty quality of the writing. Stallone is Barney Ross, Statham is Lee Christmas, Jet Li is Ying Yang, Dolph Lundgren is Gunner Jensen, Couture is Toll Road, Terry Crews is Hale Caesar and Mickey Rourke is Tool.
So the plot is dumb, but where the movie shines is its amazing fight scenes. There are plenty of good explosions, but mostly, The Expendables is all about mano a mano giant pecs and biceps combat, in which fists, kicks, elbows, knees, heads, guns and knives are all used in equal measure to provide maximum carnage per square inch. Faces get destroyed, heads get chopped off, arms get lopped off, shins get shattered, jugulars get severed and nameless military thugs get blown apart with an automatic shotgun. It’s not art, it’s not beauty, but it’s exactly what you would expect. I just wish that they would have cut out all the crap in the first half of the movie— all the girlfriend crap, all the forced and poorly done character development and just filled it to the brim with fighting. But it’s definitely worth seeing in the theater, if for no other reason to tell your grandkids of the time you saw Stallone, Stratham, Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren kicking the piss out of each other. Also, Stallone runs like an old man and sweats like a fucking plaza fountain.
I think I’ll have to get this on DVD when it comes out just to burn it and edit it down to all the good shit. But there really isn’t a whole lot to say about The Expendables. There’s no deep meaning to extrapolate and there’s nothing to ponder. It’s got some bad parts and it’s got some good parts, but it’s all good, cheesy, sweaty fun.
3 / 5