Director: Sylvester Stallone
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham,
Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Eric Roberts, Steve Austin,
Randy Couture, Mickey Rourke, David Zayas, Giselle Itie, Gary
Daniels, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis
RunTime: 1 hr 43 mins
Released By: InnoForm Media & Cathay-Keris
Rating: M18 (Violence)
Official Website: http://expendablesthemovie.com/
Opening Day: 19 August 2010
only life they’ve known is war. The only loyalty they
have is to each other.
They are the Expendables: leader and mastermind Barney Ross
(Stallone), former SAS blade expert Lee Christmas (Statham),
hand-to-hand combat specialist Yin Yang (Li), long barrel
weapons specialist Hale Caesar (Crews), demolitions expert
Toll Road (Couture), and precision sniper Gunnar Jensen (Lundgren).
Living life in the fringes of the law, these hardened mercenaries
take on what appears to be a routine assignment: a covert,
CIA-funded operation to infiltrate the South American country
of Vilena and overthrow its ruthless dictator General Garza
(David Zayas). But when their job is revealed to be a suicide
mission, the men are faced with a deadly choice, one that
might redeem their souls…or destroy their brotherhood
Anyone who has ever been a fan of the big bloody action movies of the ‘80s must be eagerly awaiting Sylvester Stallone’s old-school testosterone fest “The Expendables”. It isn’t just that it promises the same kind of lean, mean, brute-force action that Stallone’s return to the Rambo franchise “Rambo IV” delivered so elegantly two years ago, it also boasts just about the most awesome ensemble cast ever assembled for such a flick.
As with his two recent comeback films- “Rocky Balboa” and “Rambo IV”- Stallone assumes both writing and directing duties on “The Expendables”, and his thorough involvement ensures that this film is retro in almost every way. The story is textbook old-school- a battle between two groups of mercenaries, one with a conscience who call themselves “Expendables” and the other devoid of it.
The mission that pits them against each other involves the fictional South American island of Vilena where a local despot Gen Garza (David Zayas) is making life a living hell for the locals. But of course, like any fan of Stallone’s “Rambo” films will tell you, the real villain is really an American- this time, a rogue CIA operative turned cocaine peddler Munroe (Eric Roberts). Stallone’s gang is hired by a CIA honcho “Church” played by Bruce Willis, and the meeting between Stallone and Willis also features an uncredited cameo by Arnold Schwarzenegger- the appearance of the triumvirate brief but tongue-in-cheek amusing in its allusions to the Governator’s Presidential ambitions.
So Sly goes about rallying his crew for the mission- the likes of leader Barney Ross (Stallone), knife-man Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), combat expert Yin Yang (Jet Li), weapons specialist Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) and Toll Road (Randy Couture) whose presence seems to be little more than just make up the numbers. Oh, they used to be six strong- their last member the live-wire gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) who goes off the tracks during the opening rescue mission and is left out subsequently after trying to kill Barney and Yin Yang.
Like most ensemble movies, the sheer number of supporting characters means that most end up underdeveloped- but specifically in the case of “The Expendables”, one can’t quite help but feel that much of the talent is actually wasted in bit roles here. Indeed, the film ends up more often than not feeling like a Stallone/Statham pairing, with scant little for the rest of the lineup to do.
In particular, Jet Li isn’t given much to do except be the butt of the “short” jokes and Mickey Rourke’s ex-Expendable turned tattoo artist Tool is also largely wasted, save for a monologue where he ruminates on his time in Bosnia when he lost his soul. If even the heavyweights like Li and Rourke are given short shrift, you can imagine the fates of Crews, Couture and Steve Austin who plays Munroe’s bodyguard/henchman Paine.
But hey, most of them were probably not hired to act, but to fight- and in this regard, Stallone makes sure that each one of them gets at least the screen time to show off their moves. Statham’s knife-throwing packs cool precision, Li’s kung-fu fighting (choreographed specially by Cory Yuen) showcases his agility, whereas the rest of the cast demonstrate their raw strength. The mano-a-mano clashes here include Stallone vs. Austin (during which Stallone reportedly sustained several injuries), Lundgren vs. Li and Couture vs. Austin; and it’s evident that Stallone gives his all despite being past his prime.
Much of the action is crammed into the last-third of the film, which certainly makes for an intensely riveting finale chock-full of extended fight sequences, loud gun battles and tons and tons of explosions. Yes, these were the hallmarks of the action movies of the ‘80s, and Stallone makes no apology for creating the same over-the-top preposterous mayhem that so defined the blockbusters of that decade. Pity though that his editors chose foolishly to adopt the quick-fire editing of contemporary action films for the fights, almost rendering the parallel brawls between the various characters in the climax to an incoherent blur.
A lot of the first hour is devoted to macho speak between the characters, and watching these guys taunt each other is part of the guilty pleasure that Stallone wants his fans and the fans of the cast he has assembled here to enjoy. It certainly helps when his actors are more than happy to go along for the ride, wearing their manhood on their sleeves while making fun of each other. Advice like “a man who gets along with women is a man who can get along without them” may sound anachronistic, but the actors know they are portraying men from a different generation, for whom riding on motorcycles and getting ink on their bodies were symbols of their identity.
From the characters, the dialogue, the story and the action, “The Expendables” is through and through a throwback to the action flicks of the “Rambo” era. It is also Stallone’s last hurrah for actors like Lundgren, Van Damme, Steven Seagal and even Sly himself, who have in the last decade seen their movie stars fade into oblivion, relics of a bygone era consigned to the shelves of video stores.
Expectations are naturally high with such a cast that Stallone has assembled, and some may inevitably end up disappointed by the lack of screen time or character development for most, if not all, of the supporting characters. Still, this packs the hard-hitting action that fans of old-school action flicks love, and face it- you probably won’t find another movie like this on the big screen in today’s day and age, so treasure “The Expendables” for the rarity that it is.
(No one makes ‘em old-school action flicks like Stallone does- and this loud, brutal and violent affair is a homage to the ‘Rambo’ era that fans will find nostalgic)
Review by Gabriel Chong