Theatrical Review: THE EXPENDABLES
Writers: Dave Callaham & Sylvester Stallone (screenplay), Dave Callaham (story)
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Mickey Rourke, David Zayas, Eric Roberts
Sylvester Stallone has been pounding in his fist and flexing his bicep in the action genre since the 1970s. So Sly definitely knows action, and he seems like a good choice to put together and lead an all-star team for violent entertainment, which is essentially what he did with THE EXPENDABLES, as he co-wrote, directed, and starred in the film. And this move did indeed turn out well, with THE EXPENDABLES being the explosive fun action fans would want it to be.
Who is expendable? Well, Stallone plays Barney Ross in the film, who is the leader of the excellent mercenaries, "The Expendables." However, there is more than one action star on the team, Jason Statham is Lee Christmas, Ross's right hand man. Lee Christmas can kick any non-expendable ass in the room but has just been dumped by his girlfriend and is taking it like 15 year old who has been broken up with for the first time - a funny tweak for an action hero. The martial artist action star gets representation with Jet Li as Ying Yang, who is like the little brother of the group.
Dolph Lundgren is also expendable as the strung-out Gunner Jensen (awesome movie name), who is becoming too unstable to be in the group. Lundgren did his most well-known ass-kicking in the 80s and early 90s, as his films now tend to go straight to video. But Lundgren's presence is a nice treat for those who have been loving the action genre for many years, especially for members of my generation, who remember as kids watching Lundgren kick and punch many asses for our entertainment. Dolph has been out of the mainstream for a while, but he still makes Jensen a fine loose-cannon.
The two other expendables are Terry Crews as Hale Caesar and mixed martial arts icon Randy Couture playing the eccentric, Toll Road. Crews' resume is pretty diverse but he has done some work in the action genre (recently with GAMER), and plus Crews has the look of an action star (bulging muscles, terrifying stare); he definitely fits. Couture's selection for is another sly, self-aware pick, having a guy who is best known for entertaining with his masculinity and fists but not on the screen, rather in the ring (octagon).
The expendables get offered a seemingly impossible (of course) mission that involves defeating a dictator, General Garza (David Zayas), and his sizable army (especially compared to five guys, as Gunner is kicked-off the team early on). Garza dictator also has a backer in James Munroe (Eric Roberts), a former employee of the American government. Munroe is a heartless and shrewd action villain, whose type you saw plenty of during the 80s and 90s. Roberts gives him a nice glaze of vile sleaziness, and makes him a good, bad guy.
Stallone and his guys (and also big kudos should go the film's editor and choreographer) create a sufficient amount of high-quality action. Yes, THE EXPENDABLES does what it needs to do, displaying well-crafted and brutal action that contains several over-the-top but oh so awesome moments. The action is a success; the first and most critical goal is accomplished.
There is a fair amount of attempts at humor worked into the film. The Expendables do a lot of joking around and taking shots at each other, something very common for a group of guys to do and a smart touch - helping them not seem like one-note killing machines and keeping the film from feeling dryly ultra-serious. And the humor is pretty enjoyable; not nearly as strong as the action (naturally), but should still earn some chuckles.
Stallone makes sure to give his (big) baby some playful touches. You can feel a smile and a wink from Sly when Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis have cameos in the same scene with Stallone, and when a mixed martial arts expert from the UFC in Couture having a fight with Munroe's henchman, who is played by former WWF (now WWE) wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin, they're not action movie stars but they were some type of action stars. Stallone salutes his main genre well and clearly out of love.
THE EXPENDABLES is a satisfying, affectionately made gift for action geeks. Thanks for the old, and new memories, Sly.
Note: This review has been changed since originally being published.