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Testosterone-Fueled Expendables is One Lame Throwback

  • Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2010 8 Aug
  • COMMENTS
Testosterone-Fueled <i>Expendables</i> is One Lame Throwback

DVD Release Date:  November 23, 2010
Theatrical Release Date:  August 13, 2010
Rating:  R (for strong action and bloody violence throughout, and for some language)
Genre:  Action
Run Time:  103 min.
Director:  Sylvester Stallone
Actors:  Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Eric Roberts, Steve Austin, Charisma Carpenter, Mickey Rourke, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Terry Crews

From purely a marketing perspective, pitting an old-fashioned, testosterone-fueled rage-fest with Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke and Arnold Schwarzenegger against Julia Roberts' decidedly softer spiritual travelogue Eat Pray Love is a stroke of counter-programming genius.

It's just too bad that more thought hadn't been invested in the actual movie itself. Not only is The Expendables a needlessly violent assault on the senses, but a mind-numbingly incoherent one at that. Well, unless you happen to enjoy countless close-ups of beefy, bumbling guys scowling and sneering at each other. Or think gallons of fake horror movie blood spurting from the victims who are savagely beheaded, shot or slashed with a knife right through the gullet is wickedly awesome.

Like watching Simon LeBon attempting to bust a move while singing "Hungry Like the Wolf" during a Duran Duran reunion tour, you can't stop wondering why the 64-year-old Stallone, who wrote, directed and stars in The Expendables, simply didn't quit while he was ahead. After all, even the worst Rambo movie (that's Rambo 4 a.k.a. 2008's Rambo, for the uninitiated) exhibited far more mindless, guilty-pleasure thrills than The Expendables manages in just shy of two hours.

But for whatever reason the cast decided to move forward (I mean, c'mon even Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme reportedly had the wherewithal to turn down the project, which should tell you something right there), The Expendables continues in the grand tradition of 2010's The Losers and The A-Team reboot by introducing us to another motley crew of soldiers for hire.

Charged with taking down a corrupt South American dictator, these mercenaries known as "The Expendables" are comprised of Stallone, Jason Statham (Crank: High Voltage, Transporter 3), Jet Li (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, The Forbidden Kingdom) and Terry Crews (Gamer, Terminator Salvation). And just in case you weren't really sure what type of movie you signed up for, well, the opening scene effectively sets the stage.

Not content with merely rescuing the hostage from a rowdy clan of Somali pirates per their orders, the guys literally blow the top of the lead pirate's body off instead. And as you can probably imagine, Stallone only attempts to outdo himself in every scene afterward with garish, over-the-top displays of blood and guts, which essentially serve as a second-rate parody of his action movie glory days.

The trouble with so many movies like these (last summer's Transformers 2 immediately comes to mind), is that after the action-packed opening frames, the so-called "plot" only gets more muddled in confusion as the minutes slowly tick by. More of an excuse to parade the bold-faced names who signed on than anything else, Stallone doesn't really give any of them (especially Rourke, who is terrific in the limited screen time he's given) very much to do, which inevitably makes you wonder why they were even introduced in the first place.


In terms of style and tone, The Expendables also lacks sophistication—especially in the film's final act when Sly decides to borrow from the last Bourne and Bond movies and goes all shaky cam on the audience. Whether it was for dramatic effect or out of sheer boredom is really anyone's guess; but the stylistic shift was jarring to say the least.

Adding further insult to injury is the film's banal dialogue, not to mention the lame, over-promoted cameos from Bruce and Arnold, which add nary a laugh to the bottom line. If anything, The Expendables is yet another reminder that it's always better to under-promise and over-deliver, something this flick never does.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Social drinking, plus a pilot mixes his alcohol with work. Drug abuse is also referenced, plus cocaine is prominently featured in the plot as it's Vilena's chief moneymaker.

  • Language/Profanity:  A steady stream of expletives used throughout including several uses of the "f" word, misuses of the Lord's name and other profanity including b-tch, ba-tard, as- and he--.

  • Sex/Nudity:  Crude references to male anatomy and masturbation, plus a female character struts around in very skimpy attire. In one scene, Sandra is almost raped. Also at Tool's tattoo parlor, many of the tattooed folks in the pictures on his mirror are wearing nothing but their tattoo art.

  • Violence:  This is where the bulk of the film's R-rating comes from. Soldiers are killed in a variety of ways that range from relatively bloodless to downright gory. Some have knives driven into their necks, while others die by gunshot. In the most extreme cases, the victim's midsections are literally blown off their legs. Others face their fate by getting torched, having their heads cut off or in hand-to-hand combat.

Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog

For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.