The Expendables makes no apologies about what it is: an action movie made for people who have been fans of action heroes for the past four decades. The film doesn’t try to deliver a thought-provoking plot. Save that for Inception.
The Expendables is all assembling every bad-ass hero we’ve adored and putting them together for an unforgettable explosion fest – even if it’s unforgettable for all the wrong reasons. We’re talking Rambo (Sylvester Stallone), meets The Transporter (Jason Statham), meets any Jet Li flick, meets Drago from Rocky, meets Die Hard (Bruce Willis), meets The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger)… the list goes on. Dave Callaham joins Stallone as screenwriter on the film, helping to save The Expendables from potential ruin. The creative duo didn’t take themselves too seriously in making this film, helping the on-screen character dynamics and healthy flurry of actor hommage to become more laughable with every minute.
The film begins with Barney Ross (Stallone) leading his team, called the Expendables, on a rescue mission. The scene is more akin to a video game than a movie. Fans of Gears of War will delight in the carnage and over-the-top special effects of exploding body parts. Based on the opening scene and the “beef” that arises between Yin Yang (Jet Li) and a drugged out Gunner Jenson (Dolph Lundgren), you may wince expecting to see one of the worst movies of your life. Don’t give up hope. If you’re a life-long action-movie fan then you are in for the thrill ride of your life. If not, then keep wincing.
After the opening sequence, the film explores the personal life of knife-throwing guru Lee Christmas (Jason Statham). Christmas has kept secrets from his girlfriend, and she’s moved onto another man. The scene feels like a throwaway segment of cliché-forgotten hero, until Christmas has a chance to cut loose on some civilian hide later on in the movie.
The actual plot begins when Ross meets up with Mr. Church (Willis) in a Church. Don’t groan just yet. This is where the film finally switches momentum and begins to add humor to the story. Trench (Schwarzenegger) stumbles into the meeting and exchanges personal jabs with Ross. Instead of making arbitrary jokes, the two actually exchange remarks about the real-actors’ personal careers. Trench says that Ross likes to run around in jungles, referencing Rambo, while Ross calls out Trench for wanting to be President, referencing Schwarzenegger’s political career. After this scene, you’ll have a greater appreciation for the movie because most of the dialogue and story is really about making fun of action movies and the personal lives of the stars behind them. Randy Couture explains his cauliflower ear and we get references Jet Li’s overwhelming need to raise money for his family in past movies. Muscle man Terry Crews is the group’s big gunner who can throw rockets when a rocket launcher isn’t handy. The actors and screenwriters deliver a serious movie, while mocking their own careers and character types. If you know your action-movie history, you will get the jokes. Otherwise, you’ll be left scratching your head.
The story’s thin plot revolves around the South American country of Vilena and overthrowing the dictator General Garza (David Zayas). Thankfully, this isn’t a story of big-bad Americans showing third world countries who’s the boss. James Munroe (Eric Roberts) is a former CIA operative who has turned on the American government is actually controlling Garza. So it’s really American versus American. It’s in South America that Ross meets a potential love interest, Sandra (Giselle Itié).
The final attack on Garza’s fortress is nothing short of epic, if not insane. Explosions, ridiculous amounts of body parts, unnecessary martial arts exhibitions and knife action run amok. But, it’s all in good fun.
Fittingly, the film culminates with “The Boys Are Back In Town.” The Expendables is a movie for people who don’t simply like, but rather utterly adore, action movies. If you don’t fall into that category, then this movie is not for you.
The Expendables also stars Steve Austin, Charisma Carpenter, Gary Daniels and Mickey Rourke.