The roaring of motorbikes marks the beginning of action hero mega-movie The Expendables.
Joining forces to become the purveyors of justice (if for a pricey sum) action movie stalwarts Stallone, Li, Lundgren and Austen star alongside younger action stars Statham and Couture to overcome the tyrannical regime on the island of Vilena in the Mexican gulf.
Within the opening five minutes Stallone’s name is accredited at least four times so audiences are made fully aware of how Stallone-heavy the film is; having had a hand in the screenplay, Stallone not only stars in The Expendables he also directs too – you could almost say that Stallone is the Expendables.
Although Stallone hasn’t directed a film that hasn’t featured either Rambo or Rocky in nearly twenty years, his directorial prowess is hard to deride. There are some nice shots and he uses props present in scenes to good effect. But enough about the film’s aesthetics, The Expendables wasn’t made to look pretty, it was made to be an action ultimate, a mash-up of the best-loved action stars and the exploration of what would happen if you pitted them both with and against each other.
The resulting film includes some truly ridiculous feats of violence and shoot-ups. Instead of being a gaping flaw this heavy reliance on explosions and absurd deaths is very much a flashback to the glory days of action – it’s a sad fact that the last true actions heroes existed in the eighties and early nineties; Tom Cruise’s slick Ethan Hunt in the Mission Impossibles never quite reaching the status of Arnie and Stallone’s most memorable heroes.
With the explosions being as big as the names, The Expendables promises a lot but does it live up to its own hype? The short answer? Yes and no. Fans will enjoy seeing their old favourites back at their best (Stallone’s Barney Ross is actually a good character, if not a great one) but may be left feeling that there was something lacking. The script could have been tighter, the cameos longer (we expected a little more from Bruce and Arnie) and the clichés perhaps a little less sickly but it is a film that everyone involved clearly hugely enjoyed being part of. Neither the cast or the film itself take themselves too seriously and that makes it more enjoyable than its more serious peers. The short jokes made at Jet Li’s expense, as well as that presidential joke made at Arnie’s, aren’t spiteful. Instead they allow the film to be light-hearted and not get caught-up in the worries of recession and terrorism.
It would be all-too-easy to poke fun at the film’s ageing cast and cynically jibe their attempts at recalling their glory days. That said, despite some of the movie veteran’s extensive careers, some of the acting is questionable at best. Another eyebrow raiser would eb the inclusion of Statham in such a lead role. Although in the process of obtaining a rather lengthy action-film résumé he lacks the iconic status his fellow cast members hold.
Although the script may be flawed and the acting so-so, the film delivers the muscle-flexing and arse-kicking that everyone, in all honesty, really went to the cinema to see. With a sequel already in the pipeline, who would you want to see appear in The Expendables 2?
Best bit: The explosions just top the list above the camaraderie of the expendables themselves.
Best line: ‘He wants to be president’
Best performance: Mickey Rourke is a contender but Stallone steals the show.
Best explosion: When Lundgren shoots a pirate right at the very beginning it’s pretty gruesome.
Jean Claude Van Damme declined a role in the film.
Stallone sustained a staggering fourteen injuries during filming including one which saw a metal plate being inserted into his neck due to a hairline fracture he obtained in fight scene with Steve Austin.