Review: The Expendables (2010)

Directed by: Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke

Normally, whenever I have exceedingly low expectations for anything I actually venture out to the theater to see, these expectations, or lack thereof, are generally met. Every once in a while though, something comes along that’s so blatantly awful that I’ll try my hardest to pinpoint any one thing that was even remotely favorable. Sylvester Stallone’s big-budget, testosterone-riddled mess The Expendables is just such an abomination, and while his intentions were made quite clear prior to opening day, to say that he missed the mark would be the kindest possible way to describe my feelings towards this heinous experiment.

The Expendables literally makes use of every action star, past, present and even previously nonexistent to provide audiences with a no holds barred, nearly 2-hour long throwback to the iconic fast-paced actioners of yesteryear and beyond. In giving credit where credit’s due, the action sequences are, quite literally, the film’s only redeeming quality. In an honest attempt to enrapture us as viewers, it seems as if Stallone purposefully let each actor reprise their earlier roles and even real-life combat expertise to give each hilariously over-the-top bloodbath that little something extra, inadvertently showing us just who still has a career ahead of them and whose was over before it even started. This minor detail functions well enough, and the aforementioned sequences remain appealingly gritty, louder than necessary and implausibly in the favor of our protagonists, even if some of the special effects are questionable.

Despite the appeal these fast-paced and exuberantly ultraviolent moments hold, the film as a whole takes itself way too seriously regardless of how textbook the central storyline is in relation to those it aims to pay homage to. Amid all its simplicity and for reasons unbeknown to me, the narrative still aims to put forth but a minuscule amount of character development in an effort to break free from their previously two-dimensional existences and turn The Expendables into something it was never meant to be. I wouldn’t necessarily say the film is overplotted, as all it boils down to is that one ballsy pyrotechnic eyesore to end them all, but those who don’t know any better will inevitably attempt to decipher just what the hell is going on, why Mickey Rourke is crying and what certain characters really have to do with anything at all until they try to explain it for themselves right before a knife the size of a human leg exits their chest.

As for the muscle buffet of action superstars, I can safely say that not one of their performances is noteworthy. Stallone and Statham do come close but, thanks to a ridiculous script plagued by cheesy lowbrow humor and uninteresting dialogue, soon get reduced to that of their onscreen counterparts. Bringing Lundgren and Schwarzenegger back from the dead was only half effective, considering the latter’s brief appearance is actually quite funny. Rourke and Willis, as small as their parts may be, shine brighter than any of the central characters, which goes to show that employing former professional wrestlers and MMA fighters isn’t always the best choice, even if your goal is to stuff enough testosterone into one film to fill the Atlantic Ocean.

If you haven’t already guessed, The Expendables is a resounding failure and a complete waste of time. Even though the mind-numbing action remains at the forefront of Sylvester Stallone’s throwback to the forefathers that were infinitely more enjoyable than this, it remains a bit too self-serious throughout and puts forth a whole lot of nonsense that didn’t need to be there in the first place. As much as it pains me to say it, the film does function well enough to recommend to those looking for a deafening, brainless mess riddled with everything from invincible protagonists to nostalgic yet ultimately uninteresting plot elements. This in mind, it’s assuredly found its fan base by now, but I’m sure as hell not a part of it.

Rating: 2/10

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