Two years ago Stallone showed the world how fun it is if you put all of yesterdays action heroes into a movie and have them duke it out together. The movie’s campaign revolved mostly around all the names in the cast but the end product was more than just a parade of names, it was a highly enjoyable action movie which used the history of its cast members well. It might not have been a perfect movie, but just seeing some of these names actually appearing in something that isn’t direct to video made up for that. One of the names missing from that cast was Jean-Claude van Damme who turned down an offered role because he didn’t like the character. Well his name is on the cast list now as he’s the villain in this movie, a guy named Vilain. Yes, you read that right: Vilain… but did you expect something else from a movie that has characters like “Lee Christmas”, “Yin Yang”, “Hale Caesar” and “Toll Road”?
After an opening sequence consisting of at least ten minutes of non-stop action the team of Expendables, lead by Stallone, are commissioned by Church (Willis) to retrieve an object from a plane wreck. He sends a woman named Maggie (Nan Yu) with them much to their dislike. After retrieving the object Vilain comes in and takes it from them killing one of his men. Of course this makes it personal and the rest of the movie will be about the Expendables getting their revenge and saving the world from a nuclear threat along the way.
Throughout the movie I had a grin on my face, basically going from ear to ear. Even when it was just dumb mindless action on screen. The sight of all these legendary actors/fighters still is a joy to behold, even when they’re just emptying guns on armies of baddies. The movie is a real throwback to the 80s as all the good guys seem to have some force field around them reflecting enemy bullets. These guys destroy entire armies without breaking a sweat just like Arnie did in Commando or Stallone did in Rambo.
Also funny were all the references to the history of characters. Schwarzenegger is “back” a couple of times, there is a Chuck Norris fact recited and they even have the character of Gunner (Lundgren) have a master’s degree in chemical engineering, just as he has in real life. Little touches that just make it all the more fun to watch.
Sadly because of all the characters put into the movie the story plays second fiddle and the script felt somewhat uneven. At some points I wondered where characters actually came from or went to. I was confused about how the character of Hemsworth got on the plane in the opening scene as they clearly stated they were going to get him later, and where that plane even came from as a scene earlier they were in the middle of the woods. I also wondered how desperately Van Damme needed the object he stole because it contains a location, yet as soon as he has it the movie shows he was already busy mining for the Plutonium he’s after at the location the object contains. And of this location isn’t as secret as it turns out to be, why did the Expendables have to find out for themselves instead of having Willis point it out to them? Apparently Willis is aware of the location because at the end he and Arnie also pop up there.
Of course the majority of the movie focuses on Stallone and his men, yet I did find that Van Damme, clearly having the time of his life here, could have gotten some more screen time as his Vilain is an imposing Villain, more imposing than Eric Roberts. Van Damme’s latest buddy Scott Adkins, with whom he did a couple of films, has a nice fight scene with Statham but is mainly reduced to the uber-evil henchmen. Willis, Schwarzenegger, Norris and Li all have extended cameos, basically owning one or two scenes but nothing more. But they all make every punchline of dialogue count.
So as you can see the plot is a bit messy, but the movie was just so much damn fun to really get bothered by it. I can’t wait for a completed trilogy with another couple of classic action heroes. Maybe with Snipes and Seagal as villains, who knows?