How it started:
Around a table lit by one bare, swaying light bulb, surrounded by guards armed with machineguns and banks of security cameras, a secret writer’s meeting took place. On the table was a half-spilled folder containing files with the following headings; Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger… And they said; How can we bring these men together?
Answer; You can’t. Not believably, at least.
From the onset The Expendables looks like a movie bulging with testosterone and steroids, surrounded by guns, skulls, and fire- a feast of bullets and bombs with more than a sprinkling of blood. But after a few scenes it becomes evident that the most magnanimous achievement of this film is the cast. The cast. The cast. And this point is stressed again and again.
The very jacket of the movie is nothing more than a list of names with the tagline “Choose Your Weapon”, likely implying that the actors themselves are the weapons. Most of the actors don’t even don a role for the film. With the exception of Lundgren and Li, everyone seems to be playing themselves or a culmination of their previous roles. In a moment of levity, Couture even goes so far as to explain his cauliflower ear, a result of rigorous wrestling, which is laughed off by the other men as an old story they’re tired of hearing; possibly from their studio chairs or trailers.
Not to say that the boy’s club, all-star, dream team casts don’t make for good movies. There are plenty of examples of big names or bad-to-the-bone men coming together to kick ass. Dirty Dozen, The Magnificent Seven, Ocean’s Eleven. But each character was given his due by way of clever introduction and dialogue. Unless you know most of the expendables being expended from their earlier work, you’re left watching a bunch of big sweaty guys shooting the ribs out of pirates.
The plot is laid out like a connect-the-dots game. Group of paramilitary mercenaries get hired to do another dirty job. Biggest, most world-weary of the mean men feels sorry and sympathizes over the plight of smaller, less mean men (or women) in a land not their own. They all come together out of a sense of duty, gunfights ensue, one of them is a traitor, the government is corrupt, white people are behind the evil, blah, blah, blah…
With tank treads over guts,
The action is bloody and looks expensive and there’s a lot of fiery death. Bad guys die in cool ways. Knives are thrown. Dudes are punched. Fists are bumped. If you plan on enjoying this movie I would first recommend drinking a beer or ten, and inviting over your friends. The ones who smell like motor oil and locker rooms.