The Expendables (2010) – Review

3 Stars

Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables officially marks the completion of the actor’s late career comeback. Rocky Balboa and Rambo were far more serious affairs. This film is purely interested in entertaining, no messages about aging pugilists or the social strife in Burma, just a lovingly made homage to 1980s action films and the musclemen who headlined them. Stallone and fellow mesomorphs Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis (think of them as The Dirty Half-Dozen) seem to be having a ball and the goodwill and camaraderie onscreen spills over to the audience.

A group of mercenaries are hired by a shadowy CIA figure to takeout a ruthless dictator of an island country somewhere in the gulf. After a recon mission goes terribly awry, Stallone and his scouting partner Statham are forced to evade capture by boarding a seaplane and fleeing. Once back home the unit has a crisis of conciseness and are compelled to return to the island to rescue a captured female resistance fighter.

The plot is basically a recycled variation on Stallone’s own Rambo series. However the One Man Army approach of the 1980-90’s is over. Populating the screen with familiar faces and large personalities was a popular notion before the ‘star vehicles’ of the last 25yrs. Thankfully Stallone the director has put aside vanity in the service of making a good film, while Stallone the screenwriter gives a lot of juicy dialog to the other actors and Stallone the actor lets guys like Lundgren and Roberts steal scenes.

The Expendables isn’t a perfect film. I think it portrays the lifestyle of a soldier for hire as a boy’s club which is undoubtedly irresponsible. And the few women we do meet in the picture are not full characters, rather plot points. The story is so preoccupied with the pyrotechnics of the action it never stops long enough to give us any real time with these characters. However there is a five minute scene at the center of the film in which Mickey Rourke is allowed a soliloquy. It’s a beautiful and strong piece of acting that is as gripping as anything in The Wrestler.

The box-office success of the film gave Stallone his biggest hit in 25 years and insured a wave of sequels. I can only ask that with the next go-around they spend sometime with the lesser expendables. And will someone please give Dolph Lundgren a role in a big movie, he walks away with the film right under the nose of Rambo, The Terminator, The Transporter, John McClain, and Stone Cold.

Director: Sylvester Stallone
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li

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