'Expendables' fun but forgettable
Everything about Sylvester Stallone's testosterone-fueled, ultra-violent The Expendables is over the top, and not in that Stallone arm-wrestling sense.
From its action star-studded cast to its gleefully excessive gore to, well, everything, it attempts to take viewers back to the '80s action movies of yore, where big men fight big enemies with big guns, resulting in big explosions.
It's also a big let-down, as director Stallone (Rocky) delivers a rather forgettable entry in his brawny tome, riddled with lame dialogue (even for this genre), computer-animated blood and shaky-camera cinematography that distracts from the genuine stunt work on screen.
On the other hand, The Expendables succeeds on an intrinsic level, that of Stallone simply having fun, shooting - with cameras, that is - what he wants and how he wants it. Having directed, written and produced, it's his movie, and he's not embarrassed to show it.
In tone, it's pure '80s, right down to its classic rock soundtrack and macho man camaraderie. With a simple plot intended to take viewers from Point A to Point B with all the mayhem in between, The Expendables isn't a thinking man's movie, but rather an excuse to bring back the action of yesteryear. All it asks is that you sit back and enjoy the bumpy ride.
Unfortunately, it's just not a very memorable trip, though there are a few roadside attractions.
Stallone stars as Barney Ross, leader of a deadly mercenary group called the Expendables. His teammates are (brace yourself) Lee Christmas (Jason Statham, The Transporter), Ying Yang (Jet Li, Hero), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren, Rocky 4), Toll Road (UFC's Randy Couture), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews, Idiocracy) and Tool (Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler).
Naturally, each has their own unique ability - Lee's knives, Ying's martial arts, Gunner's sadism, Stallone's protruding blood vessels - that comes in dangerously handy during their covert missions.
They're put to the test when a client called Mr. Church (Bruce Willis in a cameo) recruits them to overthrow the cruel dictator (David Zayas, Showtime's Dexter) of a fictitious South American island.
So dangerous is this particular mission that even Barney's former colleague (Arnold Schwarzenegger in a fun, tongue-in-cheek cameo) turns it down.
But not the Expendables. As Barney and Christmas journey south to scout the situation, they learn the dictator is merely a puppet to drug-running, sleaze incarnate Munroe (Eric Roberts, The Dark Knight) and no-necked, muscle-bound henchman Paine (WWF's "Stone Cold" Steve Austin).
It's a simple plot and set-up for the promised action, though by boasting such a large cast of action stalwarts, it's stretched a little too thin. Stallone struggles in finding something for everyone to do, as the genre's hallowed cliches whiz by like explosive-tipped bullets.
Dialogue in such movies is expected to be cornball at best, but The Expendables' is not at best. Repetitive jokes involving Li's height, or lack thereof, grow old fast, and Statham's closing lines are just plain embarrassing. But the actors give it their best, which, granted, doesn't always amount to much, though Roberts and Rourke offer the film's most rewarding performances.
Roberts is back and having fun in his 20th century element as the smarmy villain, while Rourke delivers a surprisingly thoughtful monologue on the human condition. It kind of comes out of nowhere, proving Rourke to be the most talented of the bunch and, as far as cinema goes, the least expendable.
In kicking (and punching and shooting) it old school, Stallone goes traditional with stunt work and handcrafted special effects, including miniatures and actual explosions. But his shooting style of choice - that frenetic, herky-jerky, close-up camera style - does not do it justice. Were it not for the sounds of gunfire, fists pummeling flesh and, yes, explosions, it's hard to tell what in blazes is happening on screen.
Though generally fun and mostly harmless, this ultimately makes The Expendables live up to its name.
The Expendables, rated R for strong action and bloody violence throughout, and for some language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.