The Expendables Review

A review for such a film as this is really quite pointless. If the idea of leathery men blowing up a small army doesn’t appeal, it never will, and no amount of superlatives will convince.

The people who’ve made it to this second paragraph are already interested enough to see the film, and so instead this review will show you how to turn The Expendables into a whole day experience. This is how I spent ManDay 2010.

After a fairly testosterone-free morning, I had a chilli-filled lunch, before going to Lobethal Brewery, where I bought a two-litre growler of beer and drank many high-quality ales. On the way my friends and I cleared a tree from the road; Adelaide Hills residents, you’re welcome. The Rolling Stones were on high volume.

We then met up with a friend who needed a couch carried to his new house about a kilometre away. This was reasonably easy between three people, although more joined us, mainly to stand around and say “twist, no the other way”. The car ride back was Creedence-filled, and dinner was steak.

Our growlers (term for a large jug of beer) were slowly drained, before we eventually ended up at the cinema. The Expendables was showing on an Xtremescreen (correct spelling is for pansies), which features 10,000 watts, which is apparently worth $1.50 extra. It must be really cheap for a silent film.

The words “Written and Directed by Sylvester Stallone” do not inspire confidence, but from the moment a pirate (modern, not eyepatch & parrot) was cut in half by a shotgun blast, we knew exactly what we were getting. What people forget is that Stallone was Oscar-nominated for his Rocky script, and those expecting a so-bad-it’s-good film will be sort of disappointed. The script is solid enough, and services what plot and development there needs to be. What is surprising is the amount of talking, with most of the first hour containing banter between The Expendables.

It ramps up a notch when the team arrives on the tiny South American island they’re liberating/destroying, and the first explosion may be much longer into the film than expected, but it’s worth the wait. From here it seems like Stallone is making it up as he goes along, with a scene where he hangs from the outside of a plane making no real sense within the plot. The action is realistic and pretty brutal – It’s MA15 for a reason – although I have one gripe about this, which I’ll direct to our readers in the movie business.

Dear filmmakers, frenetically-cut shakeycam action scenes worked well in the Bourne films, but it’s time to let it go. In many of the fights it’s hard to know which mound of black-clad muscle you’re supposed to be rooting for, with Stallone only easy to spot because of his likeness to a square potato. Moving on.

Stallone stars as the boringly-named Barney Ross, with Jason Statham as Lee Christmas, his number two. Jet Li is Ying Yang – with his character becoming a little pointless when everyone starts using bullets instead of high kicks – and the rest of the cast get silly names, but very little to do. Dolph Lundgren, as seen on a late night TV near you, plays a sort-of traitor, Mickey Rourke turns up as a friend of the team, and Terry Crews’ entire stage direction in the script is Talk about giant gun. Fire giant gun. Wrestler Steve Austin is on bad guy duties, and Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger have one scene with Stallone in a church.

What comes through during the film is the bravery. Not of the characters, but of the actors. Almost all of these people are past their prime, with even relative youngster Jet Li looking tired, and Jason Statham not fooling anyone with a receding hairline so far back it’s almost reaching the man behind him. Despite this there are many extreme close-ups, showing us the reality of people, both on-screen and off, who’ve been fighting for far too long.

The Expendables was the perfect end to ManDay 2010. I went in expecting explosions at the expense of plot, but the film was actually made well enough to be enjoyed as a film, not an ironic joke. If you are sorely lacking in the external genitals department, you may not like this as much as I did, for those blessed with a Y chromosome this will be something you haven’t seen in a long time.