"What do we got? Four-and-a-half men."
Stallone is back, and he brought some friends. Written and directed by Sly himself, THE EXPENDABLES has muscles, guns, detonations, corpses, a few babes, and a helluva lot of sweat and sneering. The Expendables are a team of mercenaries that...well...they kill people. And they're good at it. I suppose these murderers are good guys, some sort of anti-heroes. They do save lives, but they snuff out many more than they rescue. Bullets are used--from pistols, rifles, even airplanes. Don't forget knives and napalm. Rounds of ammunition are spent as an alternative to dialogue.
This film oozes (or actually bleeds) machismo. Its cast is one of 80's and 90's testosterone laden lore. Jason Statham, Jet Li, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwartzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke; their resumés precede them. EXPENDABLES of course is a throwback to the action pictures of the past. The story is a familiar one:
Act One: The team is introduced through an initial mission in a foreign location--this time on a freighter. A hostage situation has arisen. After an assessment of the circumstances (and a few quips), the threat is shot/dismembered/decapitated. Crack open a beer and get a tattoo!
Act Two: A brief reprieve from the killing fields, while a shadowy organization begins to show its face. Lines are drawn, betrayal is a foot. The team is reestablished and risks life and limb to rescue what appears to be the life of a single (and beautiful!) woman.
Act Three: The siege begins. More shots/dismemberments/decapitations. Stallone fights the burly bodyguard. He suffers cuts and bruises but eventually triumphs. "What happened to you?" someone asks. "I got my ass kicked," is the undeniable reply. The Expendables are victorious; the indistinguishable bad guys in the red berets are defeated and the woman is saved.
Everything about this film screams reversion. Stallone and company battle a ruthless, political evil. The discourse is dumb, the explosions are immense; even the character names themselves shout retro. Barney Ross, Lee Christmas, Yin Yang, Toll Road, Gunnar Jensen, Hale Caesar, Tool, Trent Mauser, and Mr. Church. The women too are named appropriately. Christmas' girlfriend is alluring and vulnerable--her name is Lacy.
There is a redeeming quality in the mindless action flicks of yesteryears. They don't try to hide who they are. They aren't out to fool anyone. In the end, they offer what we want: to turn our brains off and enjoy the ride (and subsequent carnage). Perhaps in today's day and time--like the amount of villains our anti-heroes face--the odds are stacked against films of this nature. They say a little goes a long way. Well, THE EXPENDABLES has a lot more than that, and that's just fine by me.