Directed by Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Giselle Itié, Eric Roberts, Mickey Rourke, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steve Austin, Bruce Willis
Written for InRO:
Written for InRO:
The presence of a feisty heroine notwithstanding, “The Expendables” is often turgid, and not as shrewd or easy to tolerate as it should be. One might say it’s more of a “Jewel of the Nile” than a “Romancing the Stone”, sacrificing narrative intricacy and thought for a familiar 101 depiction of corporate villainy (even if that depiction comes courtesy of a dynamite Eric Roberts). The rapid-fire encounters the group enjoy are interspersed with occasionally witty banter between bromance duo Ross and Christmas, welcomed largely because it requires the aural saturation to subside for a few seconds. Aside from an interesting-but-nowhere-to-go sub-plot involving Christmas and his would-be missus, Stallone is fairly stubborn in maintaining that this story is all about the men and their mission. The men are endearing and slick at a stretch, but the mission lacks composure and structure. As it is, I’m inclined to believe that barging your way through a castle with guns hardly constitutes a “mission” anyway.
With all their experience of wielding weapons from the filmic front-line the ensemble in “The Expendables” feel rather like a 21st-Century version of the jam-packed cast in the 1962 epic, “How the West Was Won”. Indeed, the film often reads an upgraded version of such erstwhile depictions of factional warfare, with its heady nostalgia and inherent sense of comradeship. While cultural overhaul was on the mind of John Ford, individualist tendencies and general disdain creep into “The Expendables”, and the film adopts a cynically-diminished attitude towards Nationalist ideals, blaming bureaucracy and the misdemeanours of Western philosophy for foreign instability, going so far as to reference the pain of the Vietnam War.
If rumours of a sequel are right, it doesn’t look as if “The Expendables” is the final hurrah that it appears to be. The tongue-in-cheek remarks of Stallone et al. only half-mask the remonstrations of “Look at us! We can still do it!”, and work in the sense that it binds the team. The film, however, is another matter, and “The Expendables” is a prime example of a picture coasting on star power. Even if the charm offensive isn’t wholly unsuccessful there’s a girth of quantity-over-quality, and I’d gladly expend of most of the former.