A team of elite muscle-for-hire mercenaries are tasked with going to a remote island in the Gulf of Mexico to overthrow its Latin American dictator, General Garza. But, once there, they find he is being funded by an ex-CIA agent and, so, must overcome the force of Garza's army of loyal soldiers and the might of the American money backing them in order to free the country. But, more importantly, can they also rescue the general's daughter before it's too late?
Be under no illusions, this is not some clever parody of all the action films you've ever seen. This is just another action movie, but this time, all those people who you grew up watching, shooting bad guys and saving the day, are all together shooting bad guys and saving the day. Although, there are a few new additions thrown in, but I'll get to that. With this, there's no messing around. You get exactly what you pay for. A host of famous and familiar faces, everything gets shot and blown up, everyone leaves the cinema happy. Sort of. You do get all that, but it still feels a bit underwhelming. You see, the problem is, they tried to put a story on top of everything to thread it all together. It's pretty basic really: Evil dictator takes over foreign place backed by the good old American dollar, good Americans go in and kill evil dictator and evil Americans, righting the image of the American hero once again. This, however, just doesn't seem to fit. It seems like an unnecessary way to link all the car chases, explosions and people dying everywhere.
This film is smug. It knows it has a cornucopia of action heroes on display, even if some are mere snide cameos, and my God does it overplay it. What's Arnold Schwarzenegger's problem? "He wants to be President". Ha ha ha, it's funny because they're talking about Arnold and not his character. We get it. It's desperately tried to be self-deprecating and all-knowing but it's really turned out looking quite proud of itself when, frankly, it has no reason to be. At the end of the day, it really is JUST another action movie with the same people we've been watching do this stuff over the last 25 years.
Let's break down The Expendables here: Sylvester Stallone. This guy wrote and starred in Rocky, winner of Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 1976. Here, he's now 64 and wrote, starred in AND directed the so-called 'ultimate action movie'. The man can't let things go! He brought back Rocky, he brought back Rambo and now he's here, still determined he can be an action hero. Please stop. The dialogue's wooden and the directing is nothing special. Jason Statham. The current all-action hero from The Transporter, Crank and various others. This was about standard for him, I suppose. Jet Li. Martial arts legend. He's Asian, therefore he is small. Thanks for telling us, Sly. Randy Couture. UFC Hall of Famer, included just in case the kids watching don't know the others. Terry Crews. The token black guy, filling the role previous given to Wesley Snipes, Forest Whitaker and 50 Cent. The inbetweener, Dolph Lundgren. Nice to see him in a secondary role as a goodie/baddie junkie. Very interesting to see him as something other than 'the Russian guy'. Then, our bad guys. Eric Roberts. When Hollywood needs a man to play an evil businessman, Hollywood now turns to Eric Roberts. A surprisingly good turn in The Dark Knight led to this, where he's come crashing back to Earth. His lead henchman, 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin. Question: Why is he the bad guy? Millions of kids AND adults spent nearly ten years cheering the hell out of the guy while he was a wrestler?! Still, at least this was something different, and cements his place as one of Hollywood's emerging tough guys.
Let's not forget our cameos, of course. Mickey Rourke as tattoo artist Tool, who acts as the go-between for The Expendables and the people who wish to hire them. That's about it really, other than the fact he can throw a knife with accuracy and 'is human'. Bruce Willis as Mr Church, assumed to be with the CIA and hires The Expendables in the first place. Lots of swearing, certainly, but he's definitely not John McClane anymore. And, of course, big Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California with dreams as high as The White House. He can barely act, how is he supposed to run a country?
Overall, it's only an hour and a half, and you get exactly what you pay admission for. Everyone gets shot, everything blows up, our heroes save the day. It's not big, and it's certainly not clever, but hey, who said it was? More than anything, I see this as a passing of the torch from the likes of Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis to Statham, Austin and Couture to take over where they left off. If this film has any message in it at all, it's something like this: If something is bad, shoot it until it dies or blows up. Oh, and goatees are back in fashion.