The Expendables Review
Directed by Sylvester Stallone
Produced by Avi Lerner, John Thompson, and Kevin King Templeton
Written by David Callaham and Sylvester Stallone
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, and Bruce Willis
Runtime: 1 hr, 43 min
Rated R for strong action and bloody violence throughout, and for some language
Released: August 13, 2010
Reviewed: February 18, 2013
I’ve been told I need to write for people’s attention spans, so that’s what I’m gonna try to do. It’s gonna be tough because I have a real piece of crap today, and we all know how I love to go on rants.
People, there comes a time in every action stars life where they realize they can’t go on like this. They realize that if they do one more running jump off a flaming semi-truck through the windshield of their buddy’s Mustang while shooting at bad guys in a helicopter with a grenade launcher in mid-air and holding an armed nuclear device...well, they will probably break every bone in their body. So, the Arnold Schwarzneggars, Bruce Willi and Sylvester Stallones of the world reluctantly hand over their AK-47s and RPGs to the Jeremy Renners, Tom Hardies and Joseph Gordon-Levitts of the world. Now, one of three things can happen to these post-stardom action stars:
- They go on to become governor of the highest populated state in the United States of America. I’m not sure how; it just happens.
- In denial that their time is over, they star in The Expendables.
...and may God have mercy on the souls of whoever’s unlucky enough to see the either of those last two.
I mean, holy sweet mother of mercy, how does a movie like this happen? I understand that it’s supposed to be paying homage to the big action blockbusters of the 70’s and 80’s, but...it’s like they weren’t even trying. Look at the freaking cast list! This movie has arguably the biggest action star cast of any movie since the beginning of time, and they couldn’t even bother to come up with a vague semblance of a plot. I seriously bet that I could explain the entire premise of this movie in one sentence. You know what? I’m gonna try; here we go: a team of mercenaries is given a mission to take out a South American dictator, who also happens to be a front for an ex-CIA officer, at which point explosions and slo-mo ensue. Ta-freaking-dah! You think I’m exaggerating? Watch it and see for yourself. I am not responsible for whatever brain-melting madness ensues.
I guess, looking back the acting didn’t suck that bad. There are definitely no memorable performances, but there’s nothing that completely utterly sucked. Same with the script. Sure, it’s full of trite action movie cliches that make you want to take an ice pick to your ear, but it’s mostly harmless stuff. Action movies can still be really enjoyable if they deliver on the action scenes, which The Expendables doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely action scenes, but there’s a huge problem with them that takes away from the movie as a whole.
Action scenes, particularly climaxes, take their power from the fact that the viewers don’t want anything bad to happen to the characters when they are so close to attaining their goal. They like them, they might identify with them, and their yearning for the protagonists to reach the end credits is what usually gives the climax it’s intensity. Take Saving Private Ryan, for instance. What gave the climax it’s intensity was the fact that you knew each of those characters. You wanted each of them to make it out alive, and that wanting is what kept you on the edge of your seat, wondering if your favorite characters would make it out okay. If the characters in The Expendables had been thought out, it would have been okay. Unfortunately, there is nothing to differentiate between the characters. We don’t know any of them, or anything about them, and even if we do, The Expendables misses out on the next thing that makes action scenes so good: the “coolness”.
When you do action scenes in a movie, there should be something that sets them apart. This also means that you need to find the right balance between action scenes to keep the pacing up, and scenes for character development to keep the audience rooting for the characters. Too many action scenes and the climax feels like a let-down; too few and the pacing is too slow. I’ll use Skyfall as an example this time. There were several action scenes to keep the audience at the edge of their seats, and they were all different. From the fight at the top of the train, to the silhouette fight in Shanghai, to the awe-inspiring climax, each action scene in Skyfall had something to set it apart. The action scenes in The Expendables are set apart reasonably well, but the balance is off. There are too many fight scenes, so the climax is just an incredible let-down, filled with special effects that a fourth grader could have done in Adobe After Effects. The action scenes, therefore, fail on both levels, and the movie fails as well.
There is no reason that this movie should suck the way it sucks. There is no excuse. Once again, I know it’s an homage to the action blockbusters of the late 20th century, but Stallone seems to have forgotten what made those movies what they were. Granted, they were usually stupid and brainless, but they were fun, and that’s what made people want to see them. The Expendables misses out on that, wasting an incredibly talented cast on action scenes that build up to a crappy climax. The character development and plot are both nonexistent, the acting is unmemorable as is the script, and the whole thing is about as thrilling as an episode of My Little Pony. Avoid this like the plague, because that’s what it feels like watching it.
THE EXPENDABLES’ FINAL SCORE: 2/29; 7%; F
See the trailer for The Expendables here.
Wannabe Movie Critic