A team of mercenaries head to South America on a mission to overthrow a dictator. The strategist Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) leads his team comprising Lee Christmas (Jason Statham); Yin Yang (Jet Li), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Toll Road (Randy Couture) each a weapons ands combat specialist. Then there's rogue Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) who isn't invited on trust issues. Ross has accepted a mission from the mysterious Mr Church (Bruce Willis) to overthrow General Gaza (David Zayas) the murderous dictator of a small South American island country. During the reccie mission, Barney and Lee meet local freedom fighter Sandra (Giselle Itia) who is more than she seems. But it's rogue CIA agent James Monroe (Eric Roberts) and his henchman Paine (Steve Austin) who turn out to be their deadliest enemies when things go badly wrong.
Review by Louise Keller:
It's raining bullets and knives in this macho action thriller in which brute force rules supreme. The sky ablaze with explosions, entire buildings disintegrate as Sylvester Stallone and his team of tough guys do it their way. Stallone knows the genre back to front and directs the film with the required frenetic pace, using extreme tight close ups of his characters, as if to remind us, these guys are larger than life. Aged 64, he cuts an impressively fit figure, leaping onto planes, running for his life and even the curl of his lip seems to have become more pronounced. It's basically big budget, B-film bonanza time, where excess is revered and the bangs don't get much bigger. Nor do we get a chance to take a breath in this relentless, often exhilarating film in which actions do the talking and humour is used effectively in the cracks.
Based on a graphic novel, you don't need to worry too much about the plot: mercenaries with their own code for living and killing are on a mission to kill a dictator on a remote island off South America. There's a girl, too and Giselle Itiť is excellent as gutsy Sandra, who stands for something. The cast is all good: they're all heavyweights in the genre. Jason Statham is a standout as the knife-throwing, memorably named Lee Christmas who doesn't want to die for a woman, but next to one. (I love the scene when he introduces himself and Stallone's Barney 'The Schizo' Ross as Buda and Pest, on arrival on the Island of Vilena, where most of the action takes place.) There's a running joke about height when it comes to Jet Li's karate expert Yin Yang, standing at 1.68 metres (he gets less money because there is less of him) and Dolph Lundgren is imposing as Gunnar Jensen, who is not adverse to changing sides if it suits. Mickey Rourke wears his Oscar-winning Wrestler look as Tool, the melancholy knife-loving Tattooist, who is searching for his lost soul.
There are chaotic car chases through narrow streets and big scale fight scenes with heavy gunpower and knife throwing. The violence is constant and graphic: in the end we are almost immune. Superb editing splices all the action together and Brian Tyler's score keeps on keeping on, perpetuating the excitement and tension. But despite the gritty action that never abates, and the wryly funny lines, the scene that everybody will be talking about is the one in which Arnold Schwarzenegger makes a welcome cameo and faces off with Stallone in memorable fashion - using words, not weapons as ammunition. Boom boom.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The Expendables is a boy's film . . . well, a big boy's film, with big guns, big action, big explosions and a few big laughs. Sly Stallone has corralled the meanest, toughest action actors he could find and pooled them into a turbo-charged Dirty Dozen movie. With laughs.
It's surprisingly easy to let the film take over and render our critical faculties ooze into a pool of escapist gung ho. They are not only on a mission to rescue a poor nation from exploitation, there is also a damsel in distress. (Please don't start with the analysis of her role - this is an exploitation movie. Besides, she holds up a moral light amongst the brawn.) And speaking of morals, there is a powerful scene between Mickey Rourke and Sly in which Rourke (a riveting and exotic screen presence) confesses his innermost secret to Sly, a moment of introspection that attempts to balance the violence with some sort of insight into the kind of men we are travelling with.
Another aside is sheer guilty pleasure, as Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) returns to his girlfriend after the reccie mission, to find she's not alone. This plays out into a kind of tough guy romantic piece which is also an audience pleaser.
In short, Stallone continues to deliver what his fans want - both as actor and as director. Based on a graphic novel, he could hardly make it more graphic; blood splattered scenes abound as bullets, knives and short swords make mince meat (!) of the bad guys. There is an abundance of firepower and plenty of car wrecking, but one of the highlights (well, two, really) involve the seaplane that the Expendable team uses, in which they attack and also escape, using a new kind of firepower that makes the best use of being airborne. You have to see it ...
As for the acting, it's everything that actors are taught: everything they do must be an action.
Published first in the Sun-Herald
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EXPENDABLES, THE (MA)
CAST: Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, David Zayas, Giselle Itie, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Arnold Schwarzenegger
PRODUCER: Kevin King, Avi Lerner, John Thompson
DIRECTOR: Sylvester Stallone
SCRIPT: David Callaham, Sylvester Stallone
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jeffrey L. Kimball
EDITOR: Ken Blackwell, Paul Harb
MUSIC: Brian Tyler
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Franco-Giacomo Carbone
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 12, 2010