Theatrical Review: The Expendables

Barney Ross is the leader of a group of mercenaries called The Expendables and they’re about to take on a job where they overthrow a dictator in a small country called Vilena.

That’s about all I’ll say about the overall story to The Expendables, the long-awaited movie from director and star Sylvester Stallone that gathers together some of the greatest ever stars of action movies. Has it been worth the wait? Well, I certainly think so.

Since making Rocky Balboa a couple of years ago and then following it up with Rambo, Stallone’s been showing up that he still has the chops to make a darn good movie, and The Expendables just adds to that, and in my opinion surpasses those two great movies.

This is a cool throwback to 80s action movies with some modern techniques thrown in. The story and character interaction remind of the sort of thing that we would see from writer Shane Black (the Lethal Weapon movies) and that’s very cool, as every character gets a chance to have their little bit of spotlight in the movie.

Yeah, it’s high-charged action but at the same time, it has those moments where it’s allowed to breathe and spotlight more than just moving from action sequence to action sequence. It’s also very self-aware of the type of movie that it is, but it’s not a mocking self-awareness, it’s all played straight.

But really, the main thing that we’re going to see this movie for is just it’s terrific assemblage of action movie stars. And while Stallone is the lead, it never once felt to me like he was dominating the movie, this really felt like an ensemble film. But he is the glue that holds it all together and he’s extremely solid.

And what a cast- Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, and Terry Crews form the rest of The Expendables and Mickey Rourke plays a former team member who’s since retired from the life but still hangs with his pals. Statham has been one of my favorite guys to see in movies for awhile now, and he doesn’t disappoint here. He and Stallone have the tightest relationship amongst the group and their chemistry is very good. In the action sequences, while all of the guys are very effective, Statham tends to standout to me with an intensity to his moves that just looks authentic. Jet Li is given top billing in the movie, though his part is a little smaller than Stallone’s and Statham’s, but he also gets the chance to provide some cool comedy relief as well as have one terrific fight sequence with Dolph lundgren.

But it doesn’t stop there, of course we have the uncredited appearances of Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger that have certainly been pushed strong in the trailers for the film. Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis are just together for one scene, but it’s a good one. Willis plays the man who’s hiring for the job and Schawarzenegger is the head of a rival mercenary group. Willis brings the intensity to the scene and Stallone and Schwarzenegger take some funny shots at each other. It’s very short, but it still feels like your genuine moment that’s a special thing if you’re a fan of big-ass action movies.

And it still doesn’t stop, Eric Roberts is absolutely terrific as the villain of the piece and Stone Cold Steve Austin plays his right hand man. Roberts looks great here and he’s just a commanding presence whenever he’s on screen. Austin has few words, but when they’re delivered, they’re authentic. He literally goes toe-to-toe with Stallone in one fight sequence, and hands Stallone his hat.

The Expendables is the last of the big three “Men on a Mission” movies for the year (the other two being The Losers and The A-Team) and I have to say, it’s my favorite of the bunch. It’s a rollicking ride that’s self-aware without spoofing and delivers the good with some prime action sequences and big stars. It’s also left open-ended, so there’s the chance for sequels and I hope Stallone and company return for more (and hopefully work with other action stars as well, like Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Dwayne Johnson amongst others). Fun stuff and highly recommended.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

15. August 2010 by Darren Goodhart
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