Monday, April 18, 2011

The Expendables (2010)

After Stallone touted the virtues of American jingoism, violent conflict resolution, and arm wrestling, Stallone entered the 2000s fresh out of ideas. Rather than challenge himself as an actor, writer and director, he instead rehashed some of his most popular characters and removed any possible political or emotional relevance.

Rocky Balboa is now a shell of his former glory; John Rambo is not just a man without a war, he's a man without any discernible enemy or purpose; and to cover Stallone's catalog of generic 80s action schlock, he brings out The Expendables, a fun action movie hiding within poor lighting composition, a needlessly complex plot, and indiscernible slurred ad libbing by its overwhelming cast of has-beens, might-still-bes, and never-wases.

A pretty good summation of the movie.
The Expendables consists of a rugged team of mercenaries hired out to do the jobs no one else wants. The film opens on a boat taken over by pirates off the coast of Somalia. Much like the opening of Cobra, Barney Ross (Stallone) has little patience with the greedy psychotic gang of foreigners. He has slightly more patience than drug-addled teammate Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), who decides the pirate's torso is a little too attached to the lower part of his body than he'd like.


After kicking Gunner out of the group for being too violent for a mercenary, Barney takes on a new mission on the Caribbean island of Vilena. Hired by a mysterious unnamed man from "The Agency" (Bruce Willis), they are to assassinate the island's leader, General Garza (David Zayas) who rules the tiny nation with an iron fist and help from sleazy businessman James Munroe (Eric Roberts) who uses the island who grow cocoa plants for the drug trade with his henchman Paine (Steve Austin) and The Brit (Gary Daniels). Barney and Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) go to the island to "check it out" and see if they should take the job, leaving behind fellow teammates Yin Yang (Jet Li), Toll Road (Randy Couture), and Hale Caesar (Terry Crews).

As the previous paragraph hints at, one problem with The Expendables right off the bat is there are too many goddamn characters with ridiculous names. Every scene is a romp through the Wal-Mart DVD dollar bin, and even in those movies most of these actors would get third or fourth billing.

Barney and Lee fly to the island at their own expense to see if they should take the job. Why only the two of them? Were Sly and Statham the only ones in the cast available for location shooting? If you have a team of five dudes, why a scouting party?

Not surprisingly, the island is in ruin, and they ruin it even more by eviscerating its meager army with anti aircraft rounds and immolating the poor soldiers beyond recognition. Barney uses a wrinkle in time to jump onto the plane to safety.

Back on dry land, Christmas discovers his on again but mostly off again girlfriend is dating some jerk (with HAIR) who also beats her up. Confronting him on the basketball court in front of all his domestic violence condoning buddies, Christmas pummels the gang and shows them the error of their ways and folly of their brodom.

Bros 4 Lyfe.
Originally planning to turn down the job in Vilena, Barney has a change of heart after talking to Tool in what I assume Mickey Rourke thinks is a modern remake of First Blood, giving a moving speech about the horrors he witnessed in Bosnia. Did no one tell him this movie is a joke?

"And that pile of goo was YOUR BEST FRIEND'S FACE!"

The Expendables would be a fun shoot-from-the-hip action movie if not for a few small problems, the first being that it's a complete mess. Stallone's direction is incompetent to the point of incoherence; the film vacillates between muddy night scenes and extreme close ups, as if haphazardly splicing Andy Warhol raw experimental footage over a Bergman film. Most of the actors don't appear to know what they're doing or saying. Eric Roberts looks like Sir Lawrence Olivier compared to the rest of these dinosaurs, based solely on his ability to enunciate. And poor Jet Li, once a proud international action star, is relegated to Chop-Chop coolie Asian sidekick stereotype.

Stallone's composition: "Darkly Dressed Old Action Star Under New Moon at Midnight."

Not even the title makes sense, as Stallone, in a use of the rarely used "Super-Irony," makes a movie titled The Expendables, overcasts it with a legion of nobodies, and then doesn't kill any of them! Not even Gunner, who is shot through the heart, is killed. He inexplicably shows up at the end right as rain, and completely forgiven for betraying the group and attempting to murder its leader.

Lou Lumenick of the New York Post referred to The Expendables as "the brain-dead male equivalent of 'Sex and the City 2.'" I have yet to find an apter comparison.

Arbitrary Rating

37 main characters out of a possible 120,000 (Source: Screen Actors Guild website)

Quotable Quotes

Gunner: It's good to hang pirates.

James Munroe: (after shooting a prisoner) Now we can see inside him, and what I see is lies.

James Munroe: Being wealthy is very good. It allows people to be the real asswipes nature intended them to be.

James Munroe: First of all I don't feel comfortable talking business with a giant carrying a shotgun.

Gunner: You shot me.
Barney: Don't give me that, you were gonna kill him.
Gunner: I was just gonna scare him.


  1. This sounds like the live action film for some GI Joe knockoff toy line that never forgot that Schwarzenegger shows up just to hand Stallone the mission, then walks off.

    Lamest. Cameo. Ever.