There are people, okay there are men, who are now of a certain age (mid thirties to mid forties being the prime range) who surely wet themselves with anticipatory pleasure when they heard about The Expendables. I know that I did.
It’s not so much a movie as an action event. Sylvester Stallone stars (he also directed the movie and co-wrote the screenplay) but there are room for most of the big names of 80s/90s action cinema. Arnie and Bruce Willis appear in cameo roles, Mickey Rourke gets a decent amount of screen time, Dolph Lundgren is here and so is Eric Roberts (let’s not forget that Best Of The Best provided him with an early starring role). The newer stars are ably represented by the likes of Jason Statham, Jet Li (although fans know he’s been around a long time he didn’t break into the mainstream until the late 90s), Steve Austin, Randy Couture and Terry Crews. There are a couple of women on screen, Charisma Carpenter and Giselle Itie, but this is a guy’s film and makes no bones about it.
The plot? Stallone, Statham, Crews, Couture and Li (and Lundgren, to some degree) are “The Expendables”, a small army capable of taking out actual small armies. They take the jobs that nobody else wants and this time around that involves tangling with a small island full of bad guys. Which means plenty of chase sequences, loads of gunfire, knives thrown around with gay abandon (or should that be homo-erotic abandon??) and fist-fights galore.
You’re not going to get any major character developments here, no big surprises and no tear-inducing monologues. You’re going to get Stallone flying a big beast of a plane while Statham pops out of the nose and starts firing a massive gun at a load of henchmen. You’re going to get Jet Li launching himself at men twice his size but with none of his agility. You’re going to get a movie that provides more testosterone than a laboratory named “testes R us”.
People complaining about anything else are missing the point. This movie IS an event. It’s a celebration of the dumb action fun we all thought we’d never see do big business again in much the same way that a few horror movies nowadays have managed to faithfully recreate that grimy, lo-fi 80s horror vibe. This is a movie with the lead names coming at you in the shape of carved granite slabs.
And I, for one, loved it. Go in expecting some twist on the genre or some subversion of the rules and clichés and you will be sorely disappointed. Go in expecting a full-on, macho ride chock full of nonsense and bluster and you will get exactly what you paid for. It’s The Dirty Dozen except there are only five guys (four and a half?) and there’s a lot more of the red stuff splashed around. It may well be the pinnacle of the 2010 action movie pile.
Having already given this a mention in my potential Christmas wish list I must say that the DVD, while not being quite as “explosive” as it claims, is a decent enough package for fans of the movie who want to find out a little bit more about the action behind all the action. There’s a commentary track from Stallone that doesn’t pain the ears but makes you yearn for the additional input a few of the other stars could have made. A 15 minute featurette entitled “Before The Battle” focuses on the gruelling punishment that Stallone put himself through and actually made me wince in places. There’s one deleted scene, featuring a joke from Lundgren’s character just before the opening shootout, that was deleted with good reason and a gag reel that isn’t all that funny but has that great atmosphere borne from a bunch of action stars having a good time while making a movie, which is no surprise. Throw in a couple of trailers and unspectacular poster design and that’s your lot. But that’s good enough for the fan who loves the film and may not want swamped by extras that try to give every single brawling figure onscreen a past history and psychological profile. Like the movie itself, it does what it has to do with a shorthand and a knowledge of what the action fans want to see and hear.
Before the movie itself, there were also trailers for Blitz (looks interesting and I really liked some of the lines featured, not to mention that I’m a fan of both Statham and the brilliant Paddy Considine), Drive Angry (I think I am going to like that one, I hope to like it a lot), The Next Three Days (reviewed here by Olly) and Jack Falls (meh!).
The Expendables is released on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday 13th December and is well worth gunning for at your local movie retail store.
DIRECTOR: SYLVESTER STALLONE
CAST: SYLVESTER STALLONE, JASON STATHAM, JET LI, MICKEY ROURKE, DOLPH LUNGDREN, ERIC ROBERTS
RUNTIME: 103 MINS APPROX