Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas
The daylight hours are growing shorter, most of the kids are back in school, there’s only one more holiday left…so it sounds as if summer’s over. Eh, not quite. Not as long as there still one more testosterone-fueled, bullet-splattered, knuckle-bruising over-the-top action flick left to see. And The Expendables is a doozy, with enough action, fights, chases, shoot-outs, and explosions to keep a dozen movies going.
The cinematic juggernaut behind this loud and proud pastiche is none other than Sylvester Stallone. Just when everyone thought his career was in the tank, he bounced back with a sixth Rocky and a fourth Rambo film that re-ignited his activity… and bankability at the box office. Once again, Sly is the guy in charge, as he co-wrote, directed, and stars in The Expendables. To make sure he had enough star power to appeal to the target audience, Stallone shares screen time with Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, and a fistful of TV wrestlers, plus cameo appearances by Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. But so you’re not disappointed, I should tell you that for the amount of screen time Willis and Schwarzenegger have, it takes you longer to put your socks on in the morning. Still, it does add to the mystique of what some might call a reunion of the over-the-hill gang.
The threadbare plot concerns mercenaries-for-hire being sent to an island in the Caribbean to wipe out the dictatorial regime that is pulling in a fortune in drugs. Its yet another variation on The Dirty Dozen theme that you’ve seen before. But that doesn’t matter, as Stallone knows his core audience. Guys around the world have either endured or avoided Sex And The City 2 and Eat Pray Love to get to The Expendables.
The performances, not counting the wrestlers, are just fine. Not surprisingly, the best performance in the bunch is from Mickey Rourke. “The Comeback Kid” plays a retired mercenary who is now a tattoo artist. In his one big scene, he actually makes you believe that he’s a guy who’s had a hard life, made bad choices, but has a heart, and wishes things had been different. The sleazy, greasy uber-villian is personified by Eric Roberts (yes, Julia’s brother), with ultra-tan, slicked-back hair, and a villainous demeanor that’s about three shades less subtle than Snidely Whiplash. But it’s fun to watch him having fun with it, despite the fact that he shares no screen time with Rourke, his cast mate from 1984’s The Pope Of Greenwich Village.
On the down side, there are too many subplots, which are probably necessary to give every cast member a chance to do something other than be scenery. Although there are a couple of good laughs, most of the dialogue is fairly stale. And most of the action is cartoonishly unbelievable, despite it’s fast-paced ferocity. There are no surprises, and everything proceeds to the obvious conclusion as expected. But that’s ok. Despite the flaws, The Expendables does manage to deliver the goods.
As I was waiting for the film to start, I wondered why Stallone didn’t really stack the deck and include Steven Seagal in the cast. Once the trailers started running, I knew why. Seagal is back in the new Robert Rodriguez bullet-blasting epic Machete, which opens in two weeks.
The R-rated The Expendables is now showing just about everywhere.