Ever wondered what would happen if you assembled every action star of the 80’s and made a super-team of elite fighters? Well wonder no more as with The Expendables Sylvester Stallone manages to (almost) do just that by teaming up with Dolph Lundgren, Jet-Li, Jason Statham, Steve Austin, Randy Couture, Mickey Rourke and two special guest stars to give the silver screen its first real dose of testosterone this year. Sit back and enjoy the fireworks…

Stallone plays Barney Ross, the leader of a rag-tag bunch of elite warriors, who are guns for hire and are always willing to take on impossible odds. After a successful hostage rescue from a pirate ship off Somalia the team is given a new job via Mickey Rourke’s man-in-the-know Toll Road. (All of these names get increasingly more silly, but serve to keep the men disguised from enemies and each other) The new job? Overthrow a corrupt General on a Central American island called Vilena. The problem? This General is backed by a dodgy American businessman and has his own private army. So Sly and Stat pop down to take a look and judge that the reward just isn’t worth the risk. But upon return to the US Sly just can’t get the girl he met down there out of his mind, and so the whole team return to help her out and finish the job.

This is Stallone’s show, he commands the stage and others are left in his wake. Sly gives a strong, physical performance that mostly sees him taking a kicking rather than dishing one out. He plays on his character’s world-weary, ageing warrior persona quite well. The only other stars that can compete with Stallone in both screen-time and screen presence are Statham and Rourke. Statham is given some time to flesh out his wing-man character and offers the movie most of its comic relief. Rourke on the other hand is its emotional core, the battle scarred retired, look at the future for all of these fighters. He has the one true emotional moment and he delivers it with aplomb. As for the rest: Austin and Couture get to show off their wrestling skills, but aren’t actors; Li gets some good physical comedy moments but is mostly resigned to the shadows; Lundgren is Lundgren, nothing has changed in 20 years, for better or worse; Terry Crews has no impact but he does have a neat gun; Eric Roberts chews scenery but is never more than a characture of a real bad guy; and David Zayas looks like his Dexter character playing general, at no time to you believe that this man could command an army. To combat all the testerone we are given two female characters, Charisma Carpenter’s Lacy, who is just there to give depth to Statham, and Giselle Itié’s Sandra who adds a touch of elegance to the preceding and is subjected to the worst punishment of all the combatants. Itié does very well with a limited role. The trailer may have spoiled the cameos of Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, but still their appearances manage to bring instant satisfaction and loud cheers.

There is a story behind all the action, but honestly it is only there to provide exposition between one bombastic battle and the next. Still that’s exactly what everyone going in to this movie expects so that’s okay. The action scenes are great, sure the dialogue is ropey and the jump-cuts grate at times, but there is a fluidity and forward momentum that drives the movie onwards. These guys, many in their mid to late 50s, can still lay the smack down. There’s also a few car chases thrown in for good measure and these work too, in the context of the movie. Particularly the initial car chase/escape from the island which, just when you think it’s over, pulls out the more explosions card and goes all-in. As the movie descends into chaos at the climatic battle there’s a feeling of been there seen that but there’s still something comfortable about the familiar. The action movies of the ’80s will last longer in the cultural conscious than any Micahel Bay movie and these guys know it. What they accomplish here is not so much to make a homage or an update but simply a 2010 ’80s actioner. And that’s no mean feat.

If just the idea of this movie gets you giddy you are in for a treat, as this is Rambo, Commando and Running Man all rolled into one. Well maybe not as good as that combo might be but it’s still very enjoyable. If men fighting, shooting and blowing stuff up isn’t for you then you just won’t like it. For me as a child of the ’80s I couldn’t help but grin through-out. Brain says 3 but heart says…

About The Author

Managing Editor

Founder and Managing Editor of Scannain. Head of Business Affairs at Treasure Entertainment. If found please return to a cinema. Always willing to lend a hand to an Irish film, actor or director in need.

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2 Responses

  1. Ronan

    Four stars? I’m shocked. Thought it’d get 2, but halfway through the review it seemed like you’d settle on 3. So I may have to see this film after all.

    Reply

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