Rating: R (strong action and bloody violence throughout, and some language)
Length: 103 minutes
Release date: August 3, 2010
Directed by: Sylvester Stallone
Genre: Action, Adventure, and Thriller
Cast: Full cast and crew
“The Expendables” is reminiscent of the 80’s action adventure movies where gladiator-strength heroes defeat megalomaniacs in nonstop around the globe using brute force weaponry like high power rifles, helicopters fitted with machine guns and explosives, rather than sophisticated, high-tech gadgetry. There is violence throughout the film, but it is not grotesquely extraordinaire.
“The Expendables” is not a film that will win awards for its is script; however, the delivery of bravado one-liners and succinct dialogue among all the characters is masterful. These heroes are not distracted by romance, conventional lifestyle and greed; rather their job is to save the world, one country at a time. That’s not to say that the elite, ex- U.S. Military solders aren’t well paid to do questionable messy jobs official governments can’t; they are mercenaries after all. However, for this special ops team, their actions, whether rescuing kidnapped victims in Somalia, saving a damsel in distress, or overthrowing tyranny, are more driven by an invincible, collective belief that there is no one better for the job.
Sylvester Stallone’s filmography career is prolific, with him often involved in both directing and writing. “The Expendables” is no exception. As director and co-writer, Stallonepulled together a band of venerable stars that, for the most part, have a decades long history starring alongside each other on the silver screen. He stars as Barney Ross, a warrior of few words, who leads his five sidekick mercenaries from one perilous adventure to the next. Ross’s respite from the action is reflecting about the good old days with a former fighting comrade, Tool (Mickey Rourke). Tool operates a tattoo parlor that serves as mission headquarters, as well as a safe haven for the team when they are off duty. The parlor scenes provide insightful glimpses into Ross and Tool‘s history together and the impact of their career decisions on soul and life. Not to disappoint viewers, the characters clearly are a hard-hitting hero studded group who sport tattoos, smoke cigars, drink, and drive macho motorcycles when they’re not dishing out bloody justice.
The major story line opens with CIA operative Mr. Church (Bruce Willis cameo) offering Ross and mercenary rival Trent Mauser (Arnold Schwarzenegger cameo) a mission to overthrow General Garza’s (David Zavas) military rule over the small island country Vilena. Mauser declines. (As an aside to those diehard Willis and Schwarzenegger fans, production rumors for the sequel “The Expendables 2” suggest larger roles from these two mega action heroes, as well as other big names not in the first production.)
Ross develops a reconnaissance mission to Vilena to determine the best assault plan to overthrow Garza. Accompanying the expendable leader is Lee Christmas (British actor Jason Statham), formerly with the SAS, British Special Air Service. Christmas’s expertise in wielding any-size blade with surgical precision pays off in big dividends when unexpectedly all mayhem breaks out; they did not expect Garza‘s army to be under the brutal control of James Munroe (Eric Roberts), a rogue CIA agent turned drug lord. It is then that Ross and Christmas realize that the CIA target is Munroe rather than Garza.
Ross pulls together an elite team of mercenaries for a risky mission to dismantle Munroe and Garza‘s regime. In addition to Christmas, the assault squad includes: demolition expert Toll Road (Randy Couture); Yin Yang (Jet Li) martial arts expert (what else would one expect from a real-life martial arts champion from China); and brawny weapon specialist Caesar Hale (former NFL player Terry Crews). Missing from the team is sniper specialist Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) whose psychotic break reeked havoc on the earlier mission in Somalia. Returning to Vilena the team strikes down the enemy giving audiences what they would expect: stealthily delivered high-flying martial arts moves, whizzing bullets, firebombs, and just enough ruthless savagery to get the job done.
All in all, the film appeals to a wide age range, including women (box office reports indicate that 38% of moviegoers have been women). The veteran cast, who some viewers might mistakenly think are way past their “action-hero” prime in real life and must be caught in a time warp, offers more than nonstop action. Their characters banter family-style, discussing the morality of past missions and humorously comparing whose weapon is the biggest and baddest. The mercenary unit is more a family than a brotherhood, capable even of forgiving one of their own: Gunnar Jensen who joined forces with the enemy returns to the fold. The limited dialogue and nonverbal winks and nods reveal a beguiling on-the-screen camaraderie that catches the audience’s attention. This reviewer wondered at times whether these guys were really acting or reliving their collective action-hero careers. It is easy to imagine that through the course of filming “The Expendables” there was mucho macho, not to leave out unscripted spontaneous action and quips. It is the beguiling synergy the actors portray in their characters that draws one into the film. “The Expendables” is well worth a trip to the box office or a night in front of the TV at home.
Rating: 3 ½ out of 5