'The Expendables' (dir: Sylvester Stallone, 2010), Cert: 15
Sylvester Stallone has been providing cinema-goers with white-knuckle entertainment for the best part of 4 decades, and he shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. The actor come director and writer has had his name plastered everywhere again for his new film, ‘The Expendables’; a high-octane Action picture with an ensemble cast of Hollywood greats of Action cinema including Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Wills to name a few, but can this herd of actors create a truly great film, or will ‘The Expendables’ be another Action film to end up in a DVD bargain bin?
Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) is the leader of the “Expendables”; a group of mercenaries who sport mountains of tattoos and cruise the streets of Los Angeles on their chrome covered motorbikes. Each member has their own specialty; Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) is a knives enthusiast, Yin Yang (Jet Li) is a martial arts wiz, Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) is a heavy arms specialist and Toll Road (Randy Couture) is a demolition expert. Together the group are summoned by a “Mr. Church” (Bruce Willis) who asks them to complete a mission. The group have to overthrow an evil Latin American dictator named Garza (David Zayas) who’s stationed in an island on the Gulf of Mexico. Later it becomes apparent that Garza is supported and controlled by the CIA consequently leaving the group a much more complex and dangerous task at hand.
Now I knew perfectly well before seeing the movie that it wasn’t going to have a particularly great narrative, but that’s not why anybody would go see ‘The Expendables’, however, one reason that may tempt people into buying a ticket is the stars, which is a slight problem. If you’re going to see the movie for Willis and Schwarzenegger, then prepare for disappointment. They are only cameos and have about 2 minutes of screen time. However, you do get plenty of Stallone, Statham, Li, Crews, Couture, Rourke and Steve Austin for your money. Most people however will be seeing the film for its Action, and if you fall into that category, then go get a ticket right now.
The film starts off a little slow and the first 20 minutes are pretty boring, but that’s only because the action hasn’t begun yet. Once the bullets start flying and the bodies start falling, ‘The Expendables’ becomes brilliant entertainment. The action is utterly relentless; with beheadings, kung-fu fights and more ammunition than an army training centre. Stallone knows Action so well and a fundamental part of making a good picture is knowing the difference between realistic and ridiculous. This movie holds its tongue firmly in its cheek and it’s a total pleasure to watch. Audiences will be howling with laughter at the sheer stupid brutality of the film, especially the scenes with Caesar’s huge Gatling-type gun which just blows enemies away in their hundreds, and Christmas’ knife-throwing skills which echo the violence of classic B-Movies.
Stallone’s last picture, ‘Rambo’ (2008) was an absolute riot because of all of its hilariously graphic violence and it was slapped with an 18 certificate from the BBFC because of it. However, ‘The Expendables’ is easily as violent as ‘Rambo’ but because it’s not as bloody, it was granted a 15 certificate. But don’t worry; this film is just as mad as his last picture.
The performances are what you would really expect from a Hollywood Action, Stallone is great at what he knows best. Li is very funny surprisingly and provides some great entertainment without spraying bullets everywhere. Lundgren is brilliant as the psychopathic sniper Gunner and Rourke has a strange emotional moment as his character Tool but he performs it wonderfully with all the power and excellence he is capable of, but the star of the show is Statham. He is side-splittingly funny, his knife skills are fantastic and he gives the old dogs of Action a new bone to chew on.
‘The Expendables’ is a white-knuckle, pyrotechnic-soaked and over-the-top Action film that has its heart in the right place. It’s a brilliant popcorn film that can be enjoyed again and again.
Verdict: 4 out of 5 – Stallone and his boys serve up a dish best served cold. A total riot that will wipe a huge silly smile across your face.
By Chris Haydon