For everyone growing up in the 80s and 90s The Expendables is a dream come true. A dream that might be a little too late for it to be completely satisfying but a dream come true nevertheless. In the past some of the famous action names in the cast had some one on ones (Li and Statham have performed together in a couple of movies as well as Lundgren and Stallone), but never have we seen so many big names together. Too bad that not only Seagal and Van Damme are missing, but also that the amount of characters leaves most of them being on the sideline for most of the time. This is mostly a Stallone and Statham movie, who together with Eric Roberts as the villain get most of the screen time.
The plot is a typical throwback to the 80s; A bit of Commando mixed up with Above The Law. Barney Ross (Stallone) and his group of mercenaries have to take down the leader (and his army) of a small island country which is being run behind the scenes by ex-CIA James Munroe (Roberts). What brings the movie to present day is that this isn’t a one-man job. If this movie was made twenty years ago just one of the mercenaries would do the job, now they operate as a team, each with their own specialty. Though each of the Expendables get their moment of glory, most of the movie belongs to Stallone and Statham. Statham even gets to have his own story line about him and his (ex-)girlfriend which serves nothing to the plot or the character other than to give him a cool scene on a basketball field where he beats up an women abusing man and his home boys. Sometimes it feels a little forced the way people are set up against one and another while the others take a step back. The fight between Lundgren and Li for instance.
Lundgren, by the way, is constantly referred to as being an addict and a junkie. The substance he’s addicted to is never mentioned but steroids would be a good guess.
To me, being a child in the 80s, the movie is a fun nostalgic ride. It has got a good pacing and has some really great moments. Whether it’s the sight of Lundgren blowing a Somali pirate literally in two or a shipping dock being blow sky high, this is where The Expendables hits the mark and gives the target audience exactly what they want. At one point I was sure I smelt testosterone dripping from the screen in the theater. The only downfall of the actions scenes is how they were shot. Stallone incorporates the shaky cam a lot for a real gritty feeling but this makes it hard to see what’s going on and really hurts a man like Jet Li whose stunts and fights would have benefited from a steady cam or even some slow motion shots.
The Expendables left me hungry for more, but if a sequel is going to be made I hope Stallone will give everybody some more screen time, instead of just the two biggest names in the cast. Of course it would be cool to see Van Damme and Seagal facing off as they have some history together which involves a party at Stallone’s house back in the day.