In a nutshell, this movie was made to make Sylvester Stallone feel like a bad-ass action hero one last time before his 65th birthday. The previews boast of a cast full of past and present action movie actors. In reality, several of those were no more than brief cameos. The screenplay was co-written by Stallone, who also co-produced, directed, and starred in the film. Yeah, this flick was basically his way of junk-greasing his own ego. It looks like his last hurrah, and seems like he wanted to take out as many action actors as he could with him. I shall henceforth refer to the film as “The Expendable Movie”.
The exhaustive storyline is that a group of elite-force type mercenaries (The Expendables) are contracted to overthrow a dictator of a banana republic (El General). Said dictator is largely a puppet leader backed by a jilted CIA agent gone drug lord. Stallone and another member of The Expendables scout out the island to determine whether the job pays well enough for the work that it will take to complete. In the process, they meet the beautiful daughter of the General and are found out by the bad guys. They leave a swath of fire-storm fed destruction across the island and determine that the job is not worth the money. Once back at home, Stallone has a pang of conscience and decides that he must save the girl. Meanwhile, an unstable Dolph Lundgren who was just excused from The Expendables is contracted by the General and the former CIA dude to infiltrate and exterminate his former boss, Stallone. A fight on home turf ensues ending in the apparent death of Lundgren’s character. With his last breath, he repents to Stallone and tells him everything. Meanwhile, Jason Statham’s character discovers that his girlfriend has taken to another man in his most recent, month long, mysterious absence. Stallone announces that he is going back to the island and nobody else needs to feel obligated to do so. Predictably, the entire team assembles to aid his invasion. On their second trip to the island, they load everything up with C4 (which magically appears in armloads when they are ready to administer it), and kill bad guys with an assortment of weapons that share a triangular range between standard U.S.G.I.-, gun range mall ninja, and silly exaggeration of Future Weapons. There’s quite a bit of a fist fight between Stallone and Steve Austin. When our heroes are cornered between the ex-CIA’s men and the General’s soldiers, the General himself makes a statement (directly over them no less) to his men that he’s had a change of heart and plans on kicking out the Americans that have oppressed them (presumably CIA dude and his cronies). Former CIA dude chose this moment to assassinate the General, and all hell breaks loose. The Expendables are caught in a three-way battle between the soldiers and the American gang. This is when Stallone pulls out a rather large detonator switch (which must have been uncomfortably hidden in an orifice somewhere), and the rest of the movie is basically explosions, burning puddles of fuel, and raw body count. In the end, our heroes have lost no men (including Lundgren, who has a miraculous recovery and turns back to the proverbial Light Side of The Force), and Stallone saves the day. The singular surprise in the ‘plot’ is that he didn’t kiss the girl when he was leaving the island, but did promise that he would return. She was presumably left behind to cure the ills of her home with her pure heart and wise leadership. Upon their return, Statham finds that his replacement has hit his ex-girlfriend. So, he goes to the playground and beats him up along with the other bullies. That’s about it. After about the first ten minutes of set up, there are no surprises, but the entire screenplay kind of flows in all the most obvious directions. Well, besides Stallone not making out with a woman a third of his age – I really didn’t see that coming, given the context of his character.
Sylvester Stallone has never been an attractive man, in my opinion. But, he has really not aged well. His characteristic saggy eyes, crooked nose, and Novocain lip are even more pronounced in The Expendable Movie. In the film, Sly plays Barney Ross, leader of the mercenaries. He’s a caricature of a big action hero, with old skin stretched over it. He’s a tattooed, motorcycling, jewelry-wearing, gun blasting bad boy who can pull himself out of the water into a lifting-off airplane by its door-frame while wearing body armor. He dual-wields a pair of 1911s and has a SA revolver which he carries in a SOB holster which he’ll whip out to palm-fan a last-resort burst of lead at the bad guy. Carrying his M4 rifle, as with his 1911s, he aimlessly, carelessly, and wildly waves the muzzle around. Rarely does he ever appear to look for a sight picture or even pretend to exercise any kind of trigger control. This is of course consistent with Stallone’s typical, sociopathic, Hollyweird liberal, double standard on guns – even though he’s good enough to carry a gun, nobody else is. Although in his mid-60’s, it takes help from multiple men for Steve Austin overpower the grunting and snorting Stallone. Many of the other characters spend much of the movie talking about how big and bad he is. This was actually some of the better acting that I’ve seen from Stallone, which isn’t saying much.
Bruce Willis, playing Mr. Church meets with Stallone and Arnold Schwartzenegger playing Trench for a short scene towards the beginning of the film. Church presumably represents the CIA and wants to hire a team of mercenaries to flush the island dictator. Trench is the leader of a rival team. Church wanted to meet with the two of them to determine who would be best for the job. There was a little playful banter between Stallone and The Governator, and Willis got in a few pointed threatening statements, but that was about it for these two big names in the film. I imagine that Stallone dragged on the pants leg of each of these men for weeks until they relented and agreed to do the uncredited but much flaunted cameo.
Getting back to shockingly less than absolutely terrible acting, Jason Statham really opened up his acting abilities in this film and made three facial expressions instead of his standard one! In different scenes, he managed to look pissed off (as we’ve come to expect) and hurt, and happy! Statham played Lee Christmas, a knife-flinging brawler who challenged his knife throwing against Stallone’s single-action shooting multiple times during the movie.
Jet Li played Ying Yang (I know, I know – who the hell named these characters anyway). Ying Yang is predictably the martial arts expert in The Expendables who uses caricatured Kung-Fu motions for every action (including the requisite swishing sound effects) throughout the film. He is obsessive about his diminutive stature and uses it as an argument that he should be paid more than the other mercenaries. Although his martial arts are impressive, he often finds himself helpless against the brute force of the larger characters. Although surrounded by men taller than himself, he was the giant if you count acting abilities. I’m saddened that Li even agreed to do this insulting role. He is so much more talented an actor than that.
Dolph Lundgren plays Gunner Jensen, who gets fired from The Expendables for acting recklessly and outside of the group’s code of ethics. Upon dismissal, he ominously tells Stallone that he won’t cause any trouble because he’s “a nice guy”. Gunner Jensen has a particular beef with the diminutive Ying Yang. Gunner is probably the character with the least surprises, including his betrayal and death, and his resurrection and repentance in the end.
Eric Roberts plays James Monroe, a two-dimensional former CIA agent gone cocaine drug lord. He operates the island using a team of American thugs who influence the military force on the island to keep the people in submission.
Steve Austin plays Monroe’s hired muscle, named Paine (I know – again with the silly names). He does a lot of posturing and head beating in the movie until he falls into a puddle of burning jet fuel in his final fight.
David Zayas plays General Garza, who is the only character in the film with an actual internal conflict. After years of oppressing his people, first on his own and then under the thumb of Monroe and the other Americans, he decides that his pure-hearted daughter was right after all. He comes around to an upright moral position just before his demise, for a Darth Vader-esque death.
Giselle itié plays the beautiful, kind daughter of the general. In her one-track mind, she believes in good triumphing over evil even in the worst of odds. She refuses to flee the island, thinking that she can make a difference with her presence.
Mickey Rourke plays Tool, the lovable, wise womanizing tattoo artist that gives council to The Expendables.
And, I’ve saved the best character for last: Terry Crews plays Hale Caesar, who is the support character for the most important character, his AA-12 shotgun, which nobody has heard of despite being a 28-year-old design. In The Expendable Movie, the AA-12 is louder and more devastating than any other weapon, including M4’s, AK47’s, RPG’s, hand grenades, and belt-fed machine guns. It shoots a mythical, 12-gauge round that stabilizes with spring-loaded tail fins, that explodes upon impact. This fully-automatic shotgun fired hundreds of explosive rounds from only two drum magazines and was light enough that Caesar was able to haul it all over the jungle and through the palace, and finally had to drop it to make his escape from the exploding palace.
Don’t pay full-price to see The Expendable Movie. Wait until it’s in the dollar theaters, or out on rental. Make sure you are boozed up first. This flick would be fun to watch with a group that was pretty well buzzed. Other than that, it’s kind of a waste of time and money.