Saturday, July 16, 2011

'B-Movie Friday' Review: The Expendables (Sylvester Stallone, 2010)

I don't readily surrender myself to films I have a high expectations about being crap. Lately, I have been trying to keep films in perspective and have willingly suffered a couple of dire releases just to remind myself that awful films do exist (as if Transformers: DOTM wasn't enough). The first film was the woeful Battle: Los Angeles, and the second, which I watched as part of a recent Friday Night B-Movies Marathon a friend of mine and I are undertaking, was Sylvester Stallone's overwrought, adrenalin-charged muscle film, The Expendables. 

Now, I remember when this was released at the cinema last year, to the infamy of squeezing as many hardcore action heroes into the one film, but I was never unfortunate enough to catch any scenes. I had initially expected it to be an homage to the classic 80's and 90's action flicks of Arnie and Stallone, and might be a bit of brainless fun. While I had read some pretty scathing reviews about the film (over-indulgent brutality, misogynistic themes pop up), it was so much worse than I feared, that I felt I had to report.

The film opens with Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham leading a team of elite mercenaries known as 'The Expendables' to the Gulf of Aden, Somalia, to stop local pirates from executing hostages on board a merchant vessel. Barney Ross (Stallone) and Lee Christmas (Statham) are joined by Yang (Jet Li), Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), Caesar (Terry Crews) and Toll Road (Randy Couture). Each macho-man apparently has his own specialty - Christmas is a knife expert, Gunnar a sniper, and Toll Road a demolitions expert for example. If you picked up that they had individual attributes, you have deciphered the indecipherable action sequences better than I. An intense shoot-out ensues following Jensen's instigation, which results in much machine gun fire, the first of many large body counts, Ross' dismissal of Jensen from the unit (for psychological problems and alcoholism) and the crew's eventual return to their base in New Orleans.

Ross is given a contract by 'Mr Church' (Bruce Willis' two minutes) to overthrow a brutal dictator, General Garza (David Zayas of Dexter), who lives on the South American Island of Vilena. A mercenary rival of Ross, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, also turns up at the church to hear the offer. Luckily for Ross, he's too busy (or something), so he starts with the preparations to fly to Vilena for a reconnaissance with their contact, Sandra, Garza's daughter. A couple of other completely unnecessary things happen; Christmas visits his girlfriend, Lacy (Charisma Carpenter), only to discover that she has found a new bloke, declaring her lack of knowledge about his profession and his lengthy absences to be the reason. Christmas would later bash up this 'new guy' when he finds out that he beats her. How this is relevant, I do not know. Ross also stops into a tattoo parlour to meet his former teammate Tool, (Mickey Rourke, in the film's best performance), who exists only to deliver a couple of monologues about the morality of their profession.

When Sandra is captured and tortured by ruthless ex-CIA agent James Munroe (Eric Roberts), the real target serving as a backing to Garza, Ross becomes obsessed about saving her. The Expendables assemble and infiltrate Garza's compound, fighting through Munroe's henchmen (led by Steve Austin), a returning Jensen, and the entirety of Garza's private army to rescue her. It's all ridiculously stupid, made even more so by the anticlimactic, but inevitable, showdown between Stallone and Roberts. There were some moments here that surprised me - a few 'quality kills' if you like - but the staging of these violent action sequences (in darkened warehouses and courtyards), and the sporadic camerawork and editing, mean that they are near-impossible to follow.

Stallone seems clueless about how to make the film interesting, resorting on more than one occasion to just blowing things up when the action gets stale. The silly use of digital blood, the clunky stunts (which all seem to resemble wrestling moves) and the general lack of inventiveness (capturing a moving jeep from multiple angles and haphazardly meshing it together doesn't count) adds little to the incoherent plot. The dialogue is frequently inaudible, thanks to Stallone's atrociously mistimed mumbling, and riddled with terrible one-liners. You also get the sense that each of the actors (except Stallone and perhaps Austin) are ashamed by their decision to be involved in this diabolical mess. It's not fun, it's just crap.

My Rating: 1 Star (F)


  1. Haha ... funny review Andy.

  2. Thanks! I had fun! A really quick write up...

  3. "Each macho-man apparently has his own specialty." I also did not pick that up. Did they even vaguely establish that? Or had I already fallen asleep by that by point?

    I also think you and I should each have one year added to our lives free of charge for having endured this movie.

  4. Yeah, I had a quick read about it to make some sense of the film, and apparently, this is the case! I agree. I mean, I willingly sat down and watched it (based on your response haha), but I'd like some kind of reward! Woeful stuff.