Wednesday, 25 August 2010


"Heroes today. Legends forever"

It took over twenty years to finally happen but the big Hollywood trio of Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis have been grouped together alongside many other popular action movie stars to appear in this rollicking action thriller THE EXPENDABLES (2010). Directed by Stallone himself, he has managed to set-up a classic lads movie in the shape of The Expendables which is perhaps the most explosive film of the year and even from more recent years. With the help of Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts, this electrifying thriller adds to the classic cliches of all action movies with its awesome ensemble, as well as the typical violence and thrills of previous Hollywood blockbusters, and while flawed as per most Stallone films of recent years is still an entertaining roller coaster ride that leaves many fans wanting more. This as well keeps up Stallone's recent comeback in which his revival of franchises ROCKY BALBOA (2006) and RAMBO (2008) have proved successful and keeps his popularity as an ultimate action star/director going.

Stallone plays the role of Barney Ross, the leader of a group of hard-hitting assassins known as The Expendables whose aim is to stop terrorists and crime lords from causing harm and their intention of protecting people is to let their brutal ways do the talking as shown in the opening scene where Ross and his men blast their way through a group of Solemnise pirates (the first death in the film being the perfect, gory way to show THIS is classic violence) in order to rescue the crew of a ship. Assisting Ross in the group is cocky mercenary Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Asian maestro Ying Yang (Jet Li), weapon expert Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) and bald headed brute Toll Road (UFC fighter Randy Couture). Also part of the group is brutish warrior Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), whose obsession with execution proves too much to handle for Ross who reluctantly lets him go (a mistake that comes back to haunt him). Their hideout is in a tattoo parlour run by former mercenary Tool (Mickey Rourke) and clearly this is a group of mighty men who mean business. However Ross is given an objective by C.I.A agent Mr Church (Bruce Willis) during a meeting which also sees Arnold Schwarzenegger make his first film appearance in six years, to take out a corrupt South American dictator who is causing havoc for his people on an island through the help of sadistic agent James Munroe (Eric Roberts) and his main henchman Paine (Stone Cold Steve Austin).

When Ross and Christmas arrive at the location, they are assisted by the dictator's daughter Sandra (Giselle Itie) who wants to help the men with their mission and stop her father from becoming more swayed by Munroe's offer of more money. However after they avoid an ambush involving several soldiers, they escape via their airplane before unleashing a barricade of missiles and exploding bombs to wipe out a group of soldiers on a port. Unfortunately they fail to kill Munroe and Paine, who decide to exact their own vengeance by kidnapping Sandra (who chooses to stay on the island) and interrogating her about what the expendables plans were, whilst her father is unable to do anything about the situation. Back in the states, after he and Yang are confronted by Munroe's henchmen in a thrilling car chase, Ross decides to return to the island to rescue Sandra but ends up being joined by his crew who prepare themselves for a hefty challenge of trying to save the girl but also overcome the army of men who are protecting the castle leading to a classic action blockbuster ending of pure thrills, adrenaline and plenty of blood and guts. There is no denying that this is an awesome movie especially with all the action and violence going on and that clearly was Stallone's intention with it. The story is nothing major and is cliched to a certain extent; group of mercenaries show their metal by overpowering bad guys but find themselves rescuing the damsel in distress in an explosive climax. This would be considered a little disappointing for sentimental critics but audiences won't really care as they enjoy watching thrills and spills going on with the cast and weapons. Sure it is a bit too gory and over-the-top in some places (especially if you see Stallone run or Li fighting like a maniac) but that does add to the classic hints from the action films of the 80s e.g. THE TERMINATOR (1984), DIE HARD (1988).

Stallone also did well to unite a terrific cast of action stars together and he works well especially alongside Statham and Li as part of the various trio. The acting is nothing special aside from Rourke who is clearly playing himself in his first scene, entering it with a swagger about him and accompanied by a young, attractive lady, but his scene with Stallone in which he regrets his failure to save a woman is very subtle for an action film but aside from that, it doesn't take away the excitement of the film's main set-pieces. Statham plays his role as typical as you get with him as brutish but humane as shown by his scenes with his love interest (Charisma Carpenter) although the sub-plot is seemingly pointless apart from his revenge on her controlling boyfriend. Li's character is seen as the butt of jokes which adds to the cliche of how Asian actors are treated in Hollywood films though his role is fun nonetheless, Itie plays her role charmingly but just seems to play your typical damsel in distress whilst Lundgren, Couture and Crews are not given much to do apart from use their weapons to perfection, although Roberts plays his villainous role in very sneering fashion. Some hardcore action movie fans may be disappointed about the most talked about scene of the film where Stallone, Willis and Schwarzenegger are together but not in action mode but the jokes aimed between Stallone and Arnie are fun to listen to and it is clear the chemistry between the three men in real life is effective in the film. The Expendables though is a mad, action thriller spectacle that will earn its critics because of its cliched story and characters but it at least brings back the homage to the great action films of the past thirty years and the film signs off the intended statement of that with its use of Thin Lizzy's The Boys Are Back In Town in the end credits, proving that these guys may be old and samey but they're not finished yet!


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