The Expendables

It’s saying something when a movie’s quietest moment comes right at the beginning, when a posse of Harleys thunders down a dark street.

The Expendables is so loud, so violent, and so intense that you may just overdose on testosterone and build a few new muscles as you watch it.

You will also have a slam-bang time, shout ‘Hell yeah!’ more than once, and leave very satisfied with what you’ve just seen– even though much of the cast is often MIA.

Most, if not all, the credit for The Expendables’ success goes to Sylvester Stallone, who co-wrote and directed it with no holds barred. Bigger, faster, louder, and stronger than anything that’s hit screens so far this year, the movie does exactly what it sets out to do– entertain you by going over the top in pretty much every department that’s ever been associated with ‘guy flicks’.

Stallone plays Barney Ross, the leader of a group of mercenaries that makes the A-Team look like a Saturday morning cartoon. The action starts with him and his crew (Jason Statham, Jet Li, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren, and Randy Couture) efficiently ‘neutralizing’ a crew of Somali pirates.

The smoke has barely cleared when Ross is hired for his next assignment, which is revealed in a hilarious and clever scene with Stallone’s old Planet Hollywood pals, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ross’ new mission? Head to a small island of the coast of South America and overthrow a dictator who’s using the country to fuel his own drug smuggling operation. When Stallone and Statham arrive on pre-mission recon tour, though, they learn the real brains (and money) behind the outfit is American slimeball James Munroe, played with a perfect amount of over-the-top badness by Eric Roberts.

Thus– the killing, mayhem, explosions, shootouts, car chases, knife fights, bombing runs, and good ol’ shotgun-shellacking begins.

The real key to The Expendables‘ success lies in the fact that Stallone and his boys knew exactly the kind of movie they were making. No one has any pretense, any illusion that they’re going to be up for an award anytime soon, and there was apparently no thought about anything other than making an all-out, throw-you-through-the-back-of-the-theater bit of bad-ass craziness. I doubt that five minutes ever goes by without them shooting, knifing, or punching someone.

And yet… much of the cast is woefully underused. This is essentially the Stallone and Statham show, with a couple fight scenes thrown in just so each of the other guys can earn his paycheck. Mickey Rourke is relegated to a thankless role as the team’s soul-searching philosopher, Steve Austin (as Munroe’s henchman) spends most of his time standing in the background with his arms crossed, and Couture’s shining moment comes when he tells the team (for the seventeenth time, apparently) about his cauliflower ear.

I can’t believe I’m making the argument for more guys to get into the action, but it’s just such a waste to have many of the headliners offscreen for the vast majority of the movie.

In the end, though, The Expendables delivers what really counts– pure fun and pure adrenaline. Could it have gone even bigger? Sure.. but not by much. My ears are still ringing.

3.5/5 stars