At least it’s violent – The Expendables review

The Expendables – Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Jet Li. Directed by Sylvester Stallone. Rated MA. By Simon Miraudo.

You’re certain to walk away from The Expendables with a higher testosterone count than when you walked in, but it’ll cost you a hefty dose of brain cells. Sylvester Stallone’s latest undoes the goodwill earned with his recent franchise entries Rocky Balboa and Rambo. The former was heartfelt; the latter was riveting. The Expendables is neither. It’s a slapdash concoction; a muddled and occasionally puzzling movie that hobbles to its conclusion like a feeble old man. The only reason it isn’t a career lowlight for its stars is because of their typically embarrassing career decisions.

The hook of The Expendables is that it unites the biggest action stars of the past couple of decades for the very first time. Eighties’ brutes Stallone, Mickey Rourke and Dolph Lundgren share the screen with recent heroes such as Jason Statham, Jet Li, Terry Crews, Steve Austin, and Randy Couture (and yes, there is obviously a steep decline of acting talent within those last five names). However, the novelty of these direct-to-DVD mainstays teaming up wears off quickly, and you soon begin to remember why they were banished from the world of blockbusters in the first place.

Allow me to recount what I can from the plot, although I can’t confirm that this is an accurate retelling of events. The narrative is terribly muddy. I found myself scratching my head in bewilderment more often than I did during Inception. Stallone and his cohorts (character names were perhaps given, but completely unnecessary) make up a team of mercenaries-for-hire, experts in succeeding in impossible situations, such as rescuing hostages from villainous pirates and executing evil despots. Where they regularly fail is in their ability to convey human emotion and engage in realistic conversation. They are recruited by a CIA agent (Bruce Willis) to take out a South American dictator (David Zayas) and the rogue American agent pulling his strings (Eric Roberts). Or something like that. I’m using Wikipedia to help piece together bits of information. I could have sworn a reel was missing during the screening…

The character drama – even in comparison to similarly stupid actioners – leaves a lot to be desired. I can’t even believe I’m asking this of The Expendables, but what are the characters’ motivations? They’re supposedly a group of ragtag mercenaries with nothing to lose. OK. Why? What brought them to that stage in their life? And, if they have nothing to lose, shouldn’t the possibility of their death always be imminent? Shouldn’t the stakes feel high? At no point do you believe any of these dudes are in any form of danger. Unless…was this meant to be a comedy? If so, why wasn’t it funny?

Shakespeare, author of the immortal line “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”, must have somehow predicted the atrocious action sequences of The Expendables. That’s not to call Stallone, the film’s writer/director, an idiot. I once believed him to be one of the better action directors working today. Not so any more. I can’t remember the last time a director struggled so much with composition. Stallone just does not know where to put the camera. The nonsensical madness is only augmented by laughable special effects (seemingly cobbled together by the team who worked on Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus).

Final notes: this is a movie in which Dolph Lundgren is expected to convincingly portray a junkie and have an American accent. Also, Jet Li plays a character called Yin Yang. Do with this information what you will.


Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

2 Responses to “At least it’s violent – The Expendables review”

  1. >I feel that you have totally got this wrong about this film and to be honest i felt shocked. I mean it almost looks like you know nothing about the film or the actors who your talking about. you talk about the expendables being a "slapdash concoction" and that it "hobbles" to a conclusion, how can you say that, yeah ok the film is not perfect and that there are some points which could be addressed but the conclusion for the film is no worse than that of titanic or that of toy story. When it comes down to when you mention the fact that such actors like Jason stratham and Jet Li and say that there is obviously a steep decline in acting talent, you obviously dont have a clue what you are talking about becuase if you have seen the fore-mentioned names in films such as Snatch (jason stratham)and lethal weapon 4 (Jet Li) you would then realise how "slapdash" that comment is.As for the narrative being "muddy" then you obviously dont really understand how a story really works in that it has a start (where each character is introduced and the problem is first discovered.), then a middle (where the character suffers a test.) and an Ending (where a conclusion is drawn.). Now when you say that they "fail" to convey any sense of emotion, you obviously must have fallen asleep when tool (Mickey Rourke)poored his heart out about when he walked away from an suicide of a women in a pervious job. If you would like to know the characters motivations then here Barney is doing it to keep his mind focused on other things (thus why tool keeps saying "what, you dont sleep") Yin Yang (Jet Li) is doing it for money reasons, Lee Christmas AKA MR. Christmas (jason Stratham) is doing it againg for money reasons but is getting the money to please his girlfriend, Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) is purely doing it for the trill. Now how can you sit there and say that stallone is an "idiot" when it comes to directing this picture just becuase some of the camera "angles" dont agree with you doesnt mean that its a complete right- off.

  2. >Perhaps I did lose a huge dose of brain cells after watching this film as I found it excellent. Having Stallone; Rourke; Lundgren; Statham and Li share the same screen was something that I as an action movie fan had been waiting for a long time. Sure, it wasn’t the best action movie I’ve ever seen, and of course it had its flaws (but doesn’t every single movie) but it was damn close. Stick Jean Claude Van Damme in there and it would have been the best. As what you call, a ‘slapdash concoction’ that is ‘puzzling’ – what was so puzzling about it? A group of expendables have a mission that they have to complete and they succeed. Of course it’s a clichéd plot, but isn’t all action plots? What is so hard to understand about that? All missions were clearly explained, the villains and the good guys were established in the opening segments of the film. What more needs to be explained? Stallone, as a director, showed you clearly what needed to be established to the audience. Also, as a director, I don’t feel this struggle with composition that you claim appears in the movie. The scenes flowed well between each other without me having to question what the hell was going on. There was a clear good scene – bad guy scene – good scene – bad guy scene switch going on which ultimately lead the movie to its brilliant climax and not as you put it a film that ‘hobbles to its conclusion like a feeble old man’. What is this, a dig at the actor’s age…surely age is of no importance to acting – see Harrison Ford or Dustin Hoffman. Sure, I agree, when the first initial teaser poster came out for this film and names like ‘Steve Austin’ and ‘Terry Crews’ showed up, I thought ‘Really? These are action greats, don’t think so’ but they fitted their roles to a tee in the film and I couldn’t imagine another actor replacing them (could you really imagine Vinnie Jones doing the bad guy thug bodyguard act, or Wesley Snipes carrying the brute AA-12 shotgun…)Your comment about the special effects ‘seemingly cobbled together by the team who worked on Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus’ – see scene where Lee Christmas and Barney Ross blow up the pier in their plane, or the opening segment.And finally, you say that Dolph Lundgren can’t play a junkie with an American accent – erm…so what was he doing then? Because he seemed to play that part pretty well in my opinion (I am a little biased on Lundgren, but seriously, he played the part well.) And your comment about Jet Li playing a character called Yin Yang – I don’t believe Stallone to be racist which is what you are implying, so I give you this question – what if it is a codename – just like Lee Christmas had Mr. Christmas (almost like he was being referred to a Reservoir Dogs character) .My rating (and not some poor 1.5)4.8 (if only they had JCVD…it would be a solid 5)

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