out of Five
Running time: 103
A perfectly cast, gleefully violent throwback to old-fashioned ‘80s action movies, The Expendables is an enormous amount of fun, providing you like non-stop gunfights, explosions, punch-ups and stabbings and aren't too bothered about things like plot, character depth or dialogue.
What's it all about?
Co-written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, The Expendables stars Sly as Barney Ross, the leader of a group of beret-wearing, motorbike-riding mercenaries that includes knife expert Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), pint-sized martial artist Yin Yang (Jet Li), big gun enthusiast Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), explosion fanatic Toll Road (Randy Couture), trigger-happy sniper Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) and, er, tattoo artist Tool (Mickey Rourke). After a meeting with the mysterious Mister Church (a cameoing Bruce Willis) and rival mercenary Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Barney takes on a new mission: to overthrow General Gaza (David Zayas), the Latin American dictator of the small island country of Vilena.
Gaza is actually the puppet of ex-CIA agent Monroe (Eric Roberts) and things quickly get complicated when Barney jeopardises the safety of their feisty freedom fighter contact (Giselle Itie), who happens to be Gaza's daughter. Meanwhile, there's trouble brewing within the ranks when Barney suspends Gunnar for being a bit over-zealous with the bloodshed.
Stallone and Statham make a terrific onscreen team, even if the rest of the cast are underused as a result. Statham also gets the best lines and the lion's share of the stunts and cool moments but, that said, everyone gets their moment to shine, whether it's Crews showing up with The Biggest Gun In The World, Jet Li fighting Lundgren, Dolph's “warning shot” moment or Mickey Rourke, er, giving Stallone a tattoo.
As a director, Stallone certainly seems to know his audience and the film is packed with non-stop gunfights, stabbings and punch-ups, to say nothing of the biggest and best explosions you'll see all summer – the harbour bombing sequence is a particular highlight while the ending is a full-on explosion-fest. In a good way.
There's literally nothing to the plot other than “they go in, they blow stuff up” and there's no character development whatsoever, though none of that really matters with a film like this. However, the violence towards Itie's character (supposedly to justify Barney's extreme response) is possibly a step too far.
More enjoyable than both The Losers and The A-Team, The Expendables is unashamedly violent fun from beginning to end. A guilty pleasure for fans of cheesy ‘80s action flicks.