When Sylvester Stallone announced in 2009
he was assembling a cast which would reportedly see him starring
alongside Arnold Swarzennegger, Bruce Willis, Steven Seagal, Dolph
Lundgren, Jean Claude Van Damme and other luminaries of the action
genre, those of us who grew up in the 1980s let out a collective gasp of
(m)anticipation. For film fans weaned on the likes of Terminator 2,
Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Die Hard and Under Siege the
thought of Stallone, Swarzennegger and Willis sharing screen time was a
dream come true, and a throwback to the all out ass-kickery of a bygone
era could well revitalise an ailing genre responsible for such recent
execrable fare as Cop Out and Faster.
Despite some last minute cast changes (Seagal
refused to work with one of the producers involved in the project, and
Van Damme turned down a role he found one dimensional, ahem) the end
result lives up to expectations, if only barely. Stalloneís brainchild,
if that isnít a contradiction in terms, revolves around a group of
aging, wise-cracking mercenaries for whom no job is too dangerous, no
terrorists too lethal and no paramilitary group not able to be turned
swiftly into mincemeat, as a bunch of ruthless Somali pirates discover
in the opening scene.
This ragtag crew of elite freelance
assassins is comprised of what are surely some of the most ludicrously
named characters in cinematic history, but itís great to see so many big
names on one ticket and watching The Expendables go about their bloody,
noisy business is certainly plenty exciting.
The crew includes Barney Ross (Stallone),
Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yim Yang (Jet Li), Gunner Jensen
(Lundgren), Toll Road (Randy Couture) and Hale Caesar (gigantic NFL star
Terry Crews). When a job on the corrupt Central American island of
Vilena goes awry Ross realises, after a stirring speech from his buddy
Tool (Mickey Rourke), that he canít just abandon the local populace to
their fate. He saddles up for a lethal solo mission, but his
testosterone-fuelled buddies arenít having a bar of it. They are The
Expendables, after all. They descend on Vilena en masse, intending to
oust ruthless ex-CIA agent James Munroe (Eric Roberts) and the corrupt
General Garza the only way they know how Ė by blowing shit up.
This is bombastic, brainless entertainment
at its finest; it isnít Schindlerís List, but you know what
youíre signing up for when you put a Stallone film in your DVD player.
Big on explosions, car chases, gunplay and glamorous babes, The
Expendables is an affectionate, largely successful pastiche of
everything that makes the action genre fun. The blokey,
intergenerational interplay between Statham and Stallone works well
despite the latterís somewhat leaden script, and the novelty of so many
action veterans jostling for screen time makes for a pretty damned
entertaining 90 minutes.
Yep, with nary a dull moment in sight this
unashamed brawnfest proves something of a treat for fans of relentless
80s-style action blockbusters. The body count is monumental, many of
the kills are particularly gruesome, one-liners, such as they are,
abound, as do a string of cameos Ė itís everything one could have hoped
for, nothing more, nothing less. And I mean that in a good way.
Interviews with each of the principal cast
members and the filmís producers. Stallone waxes lyrical, at one point
mentioning the fact that the CIA has used cocaine money to fund military
coups since Ďtime immemorium.í As usual Lungdren proves the most
likable and self-aware of the bunch Ė damn me that man is down to
earth. Thereís also a theatrical trailer.
Audio & Video
The soundtrack itself borders on the
generic Ė no disrespect to Mountain, Thin Lizzy and John Fogerty, but
they donít exactly get the kids hearts a-racing these days Ė but the 5.1
is suitably potent. Also available are an English 2.0 and an English
descriptive audio track.