Film review: The Expendables | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Film review: The Expendables

The Expendables sees Slyvester Stallone attempting to revive the eighties action movie.

Typically, these were low on plot, high on explosions and populated by steroid-popping, cigar-chewing grunts with big guns and bigger guns. Some of them were even quite good. Many a film fan around the world has a soft spot for Die Hard, Predator or The Running Man.

The Expendables, however, is unlikely to achieve such status.  Following The Losers and The A-Team, two colourful and exciting summer movies, Stallone’s flick fails to compete. The story is uninspiring: a bunch of mercenaries are paid to overthrow a foreign dictatorship.  The direction is lazy. The script is empty and even the action looks dated. There’is no humour, no originality - arguably the point, but still not good enough - and no colour. It is grey, grey and grey.

The heroes do nothing but flex and fire. Posters go on and on about the big names that have been assembled, but they are criminally underused.  And without Mickey Rourke, there wouldn’t be a single piece of acting in the entire film.

The villains present even bigger problems. The Losers showed that an action film can have an enigmatic, scene-stealing baddie. However, The Expendables marks a return to the cardboard cut-out villain: a rogue CIA agent, scowling goons and the obligatory abusive boyfriend. It even has the stereotypical ending: a villain flees with a hostage and a gun, desperately searching for a helicopter.

All of this would have been fine if Stallone was offering us a parody or a spoof or even a box-ticking homage. Unfortunately, the impression is given that he’s actually taking himself seriously.  What results is a film that would have been forgettable and run-of-the-mill even if it had appeared in the eighties themselves.

The Expendables also disappoints in its whole promise of a full-scale reunion of eighties action heroes. Big dogs Schwarzenegger and Willis appear for two minutes only, and those that do make the reunion have bafflingly little to do with it. We have wrestlers and American football players, kick-boxers and ultimate fighting champions: none of which starred in eighties action films.

What The Expendables demonstrates is that the world of action movies has moved on. We now have the CGI-assisted action flicks of Messrs Cameron, Bay and Snyder. We have smart action such as the Wachowski’s bullet-time and the wirework of Inception. And the Bourne films have shown that action can be achieved on a budget.

There are ways this could have worked, but instead, The Expendables is a two-star disappointment and the biggest anti-climax of 2010. Evidently, some things are best left in the eighties.


20th August 2010 at 12:08 pm