This is a film which unites some of the greatest action stars from the last two decades including Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone.
Was it worth the wait? Hell Yeah!!
Review contains spoilers
The Expendables are a group of highly trained mercenaries who take on impossible jobs for money. They are given roles by their handler ‘Tool’ (Mickey Rourke) and are introduced to the fast shooting leader, Barney ‘Schizo’ Ross (Stallone), knife specialist ‘Lee’ Christmas (Statham) short martial artist ‘Ying Yang’ (Li), big gun liability ‘Gunnar Jensen’ (Lundgren), Demolition expert ‘Toll Road’ (Randy Couture) and big gun ‘Hale Caesar’ (Terry Crews).
The team begin by boarding a boat where rebels are holding hostages that are to be executed. Outnumbered, we get to see their great skills against the odds. It’s a superb opening scene of coolness, sharp shooting and humour, and it sets the scene nicely as well as throwing in an upper body decapitation leaving the legs standing for good measure. Welcome to the action!
From here, we head into its main “story” where the Expendables are offered a job by the CIA. Their mission a covert ‘Op’ into Vilena to overthrow South American murderous Dictator General Garza (David Zayas). A reconnaissance mission leads Barney and Christmas (not the most tough sounding named action heroes) to meet local freedom-fighter and contact Sandra (Giselle Itie) who shows them who their real enemy is, former CIA operative James Monroe (Eric Roberts), who pulls the political strings, and his muscle Dan Paine (Steve Austin) and ‘The Brit’ (Gary Daniels). Forced to flee in a hail of bullets and explosions, leaving Sandra behind to face torture and death. Barney plans to return with The Expendables to rescue the girl and destroy the murdering regime against all the odds……
Stallone is truly awesome and he still looks pretty good considering he’s 64. He carries the movie with his presence and energy for the role and you just can’t not enjoy him in the movie. Stallone however is outshone by Jason Statham who, for me, steals the show with some excellent fights, moves, one-liners and a highly enjoyable performance that may well propel him into the next big action movie star.
The rest of the cast all offer decent performances with no one being particularly out of place or abysmal despite their lack of screen time or acting credits. Jet Li and Lundgren put on a good rivalry although both are underused. Eric Roberts is just a wonderfully textbook evil-in-a-suit bad guy with Steve Austin providing a formidable opponent in his fights towards the end of the film. Mickey Rourke puts in the one solid performance with and was easily the standout in terms of acting, particularly in the key turning point in the film where he spills out his heart to Barney, he has such a cool presence in the movie and it’s a shame he doesn’t feature more.
The action scenes as expected are exhilarating viewing and took me back to some classic action movies of the 80’s and 90’s with some really OTT moments which all got a well deserved applause after they lit up the screen. It was so enjoyable watching such bombastic action play out like it does in The Expendables, from such iconic actors. There were some awesome one on one fights towards the end with head snaps, arm breaks, decapitations and plenty of huge guns literally ripping enemy soldiers to pieces if everything else failed; it’s outrageously riotous and so damn, bloody fun.
Then comes the action movie money shot that everyone had been waiting for, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone together for the first time in a movie. Yeah it’s a completely pointless scene and it’s sole use is to give us an action movie orgasm but it was very funny as they played off each other and I doubt there was a single person in the cinema who didn’t love every second of it, I know I did.
What’s Not So Good
The script is really cheesy at times, the story is crazy/laughable, some of the dialogue from Jet Li, Stallone and Lundgren was slightly inaudible due to their mumbled broken English. There is also some disappointing shoddy fake CGI blood and effects thrown into the action to add some gore which looked terrible and it makes you wonder why they bother when real prosthetic limbs and squirting plasma looks so much better, but I can easily forgive all of these issues as they pass quickly so not to dwell on the weaknesses of the film and let us sit back and enjoy the ride.
Some of the characters are really underused with Jet Li only given a few scenes to show off his martial arts. The pairing of Randy Couture and Terry Crews get their moments at the beginning and the end of the film. However, they are just there for the muscle but due to their acting ability it’s probably a wise move not to extend their screen time but it does just make their characters there to make up the numbers. Dolph Lundgren has a smaller part than I expected but his contribution was none the less brutal.
Actors that I wish had appeared: Steven Seagal, Jean Claude Van Damme, Carl Weathers, Roddy Piper, Kurt Russel and Chuck Norris – but maybe Stallone is saving them for a sequel…
The ensemble cast is why people will flock to see The Expendables and the cheers as each actor’s name appeared in the opening credits was evidence to how excited people are for the film and I really believe you won’t be disappointed with it.
The hype for The Expendables is just about met, no one really expected a solid story with intelligent character dialogue. What people want is proper action and that’s what you get, by the tonne, from the greatest action stars of our generation. Easily the best action movie you’re going to see all year.
The Expendables is out 19th August. Check out our extensive Expendables coverage here.