The Expendables hit theaters in 2010 and I wasn’t all that impressed by the trailers, so I didn’t bother with it. Then earlier this year I saw the trailer to the sequel, The Expendables 2, which really got my attention. I decided if I was going to see this second movie, I should at least watch the first one.
Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) leads “The Expendables,” a band of highly skilled motorcycle-riding mercenaries stationed in New Orleans: knife enthusiast Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), martial arts expert Yin Yang (Jet Li), heavy weapons specialist Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), demolitionist Toll Road (Randy Couture), and loose-cannon sniper Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren). The group is commissioned by the mysterious Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) to assassinate the merciless dictator of a small South American island, General Garza (David Zayas). Barney and Lee head to the remote locale to scout out their opposition. Once there, they meet with the local rebel, Sandra (Giselle Itié), and discover the true nature of the conflict engulfing the city. When they escape from the island, Sandra stays behind. Ross must choose to either walk away, saving his own life, or attempt a suicidal rescue mission to save Sandra and keep his conscience clear of leaving innocent people behind.
The Expendables is everything I expected it to be. It was a ridiculous, over-the-top action movie that is a tribute to action blockbusters of the 80’s and early 90’s. It’s full of guns, action, explosions, more guns, muscles, violence, still more guns, and goofy dialogue. However, it’s not just a stupid, brainless action movie. It’s an absurd action movie that knows it’s being absurd.
The opening credits don’t shy away from the fact that The Expendables is a Sylvester Stallone film. He directed it, co-wrote the screenplay, and starred in it. It’s a lot like his other movies. In fact, if you’ve seen the 2008 Rambo, which was the last movie that he wrote, directed, and starred in, you’ll see a lot of similarities as far as plot, characters, and structure goes.
But if you’re going to see The Expendables for plot, characters, and structure there’s got to be something wrong with you. This is an 80’s style movie, complete with 80’s action movie clichés in all their endearing glory. It’s a fun movie that you are going to watch for the action; nothing else. In fact, there’s a rather odd scene where The Expendables’ mission coordinator, “Tool” (Mickey Rourke) delivers a rather convincing monologue about his time in Bosnia. It’s a pretty good scene, but is so well acted it just about seems out of place.
I think what makes The Expendables so much fun is the cast. It’s got a whole lot of 80’s action stars put together on screen as well as more recent stars such as Terry Crews, and Steve Austin. Terry Crews is well known for his crazy Old Spice commercials; it’s awesome seeing him in an action movie. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger also makes an uncredited cameo. There’s a bunch of little jabs at some characters in reference to the roles they are known for; we’re told Ross loves to play in the jungle, a reference to Rambo; and Schwarzenegger’s accused of wanting to be President.
Another thing that makes The Expendables good is its lack of computer animated effects. There are a lot of practical special effects that give it a much more grounded feel. Not only is this a more realistic method of doing explosions and similar effects, it heralds back to an era of action films before computer enhanced explosions became commonplace.
This movie knows it’s being ridiculous and over-the-top, that’s what it’s striving to do and it does this really well! This movie was custom tailored to a specific audience. Any man who grew up watching 80’s action movies and dreamed of seeing his favorite actors teaming up to blowing things up will fall head-over-heels in love with this movie. It’s rated R “for strong action and bloody violence throughout, and for some language.” That is exactly what the movie is in a nutshell. You’ll see heads explode, real pyrotechnics, henchmen blown in half, and an enormous arsenal of guns that will endear any fan of violent action movies.
Because this movie achieves so well what it sets out to do, I am forced to call it a good movie. I didn’t care a great deal for The Expendables, but that’s only because I’m not really in the target audience. I didn’t really grow up watching 80’s action movies; they aren’t nostalgic for me. I enjoyed it for what it was, and I still want to see the sequel, but The Expendables is not something I recommend seeing or buying unless you already are a fan of violent 80’s action movies.
What is your favorite 80's action movie? Comment below and tell me why!