There's only one reason you'd be going to see The Expendables: high octane action. If you're looking for brilliant character study, a sappy love story, or a cutting edge and boldly intelligent plot, well, you're bound to be disappointed. But the lack of those things should be no reason to give Stallone's latest testosterone-fest a low rating. It's a hell of a lot of fun.
Stallone set out to do one thing: revive (or rather relive) the 1980's action genre that put him on top of the world, and The Expendables definitely succeeds as an homage to those films. This popcorn muncher carries all of the positive aspects of those classic meat-headed romps, as well as many of their negatives.
The plot is rather straightforward, a group of salty, aging mercenaries get hired by the CIA to take out a despotic South American general. Sounds like a pretty standard suicide mission, right? Okay, so what's the plan? The plan is apparently, storm the general's island fortress and fuck shit up with as many fists, guns and explosives that you can fit into 100 minutes. What else did you expect from a movie called The Expendables?
Stallone is back in Rambo mode again, only this time date coaching and having macho contests with Jason Statham, who almost knifes a dude while playing basketball because he's having girl trouble. Jet Li, Terry Crews and Randy Couture round out the team, but have surprisingly little to do when they're not ripping throats or blowing bad guys up. Bruce Willis and the Governator make brief but memorable appearances, but you'll end up being unsatisfied at their brief turns.
Dolph Lundgren is surprisingly captivating (take that term with a grain of salt) as a junkie sharpshooter who Stallone has to ban from the team, who immediately goes over to the dark side, led by a delightfully snaky Eric Roberts. When you want a sharply dressed, smirky and smarmy bad guy, Roberts is the go-to man. Mickey Rourke also makes a brief appearance as a former mercenary who now works as Stallone's tattoo artist and waxes poetic about his former life and the moment he realized his soul was dead.
But let's be honest, the real star of The Expendables is the wanton cartoon violence and over-the-top pyrotechnics. If Rambo is any indication on how Stallone treats the "realism" of gunshot wounds, The Expendables is way more "realistic". At least this time we don't have to sit through real atrocity footage to get to the exploding heads and blood fountains. But hey, that's why you're paying to see this and not Eat, Pray, Love, right?
If an unashamed display of steroid-incubated testosterone is still as socially acceptable as it was in 1985, then The Expendables could very well steal the top spot at the box office. If Julia Roberts' estrogen or Michael Cera's wimpiness wins out, well, then Red Blooded America as we once knew it may very well be dead forever. Of course, that might mean we're all a little bit smarter too. But if 2012 and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen turned a profit, maybe there is no hope for us anyway.