Review: The Expendables

(starring: Everyone who blew something up on-screen between 1980–1999)

Something about this film is undeniably charming, but I can’t put my finger on it. Not in the Robert Redford, “Cool and disarming with a smile”, but more Popeye’s “I yam what I yam” philosophy. This film knows exactly what it is, and embraces that: a big dumb action film, filled with big, dumb action heroes.

This lack of pretense is probably the only way such a ridiculous premise can work. Not the premise of a close-knit mercenary team, but rather the gathering of cinema’s combined muscle in the one screen, at the one time. If the film took itself seriously it would have resulted in a joke that everyone, including the cast, cringed at. So the result is a very point-A-to-B adventure that ticks all the boxes of a wild ride.

David Callahan’s story is that of most any 80’s tough-guy flick – good but rough mercs are hired by a potentially shady (and under-represented) Mr B Willis, to take down an oppressive South American dictator backed by a shady (and permanently leery) Mr E Roberts. The story really doesn’t stray from this well trodden path, paying tribute to the action genre’s cliche’s one by one.

Along the way each of the gentlemen has a scene or short sequence to shine in – whilst the story doesn’t require anything at all of this nature, it seems to be a way for each of these heroes to have one last fifteen minutes of fame. Whether this is the result of Stallone’s negotiations, or if it was always intended, it makes for a series of memorable sequences, from Jet Li’s dynamic martial arts to Statham’s vicious knife-fighting. Considering what I’ve already said about the film’s concept and execution, this does nothing but affirm what’s already happening elsewhere.

If you grew up with these films, or have a soft-spot for biceps and explosions (not necessarily together), then leave your brain at the door and you’ll get a kick out of this flick. If you’re more cerebral in nature and would prefer both back story and cliche-free dialogue, then the name “Stallone” should have clued you in by now.

3.5 out of 5 Blockbusters

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~ by nick on August 18, 2010.

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