It’s not that I just now decided to watch the Expendables; I saw it once before back in the day but that was either on Netflix or On Demand and the soundtrack was way off; all the explosions were super loud and the dialogue was inaudible. I quit about a third of the way in. This year, though, Blu-Ray discs are getting really cheap, so I picked this one up for a song (they regretted that; I can’t carry a tune in a bucket) and watched it with the subtitles on.
The basic concept is that they got together as many of the great male action stars from the 80s on and jammed them into one movie. This film stars Sylvester Stallone as the aging, tired leader of a small band of mercenaries, Jason Statham as the guy with the girlfriend, Jet Li as the short asian guy who complains about needing more money, Dolph Lundgren as the guy who has taken a few too many shots to the head, two guys I didn’t recognise as the supporting good guys, Charisma Carpenter as the girl who is smart enough to dump Statham before he hurts her, and Steve Austin as the guy who contributes nothing to the movie. There are guest appearances by Bruce Willis as the guy who hires the team, Arnold Schwarzenegger as the competing mercenary leader who’s too busy to take on this job, and Mickey Rourke as the former-merc-turned-tattoo-artist who’s covering Stallone’s torso in imagery and offers to put a spider-web on Statham’s head.
Plotwise, Willis hires the team to go to a fictional hispanic country and overthrow/kill its generalissimo. However, it turns out that he really wants them to take out the American behind the general. He employs Austin to do . . . something. Our heroes are helped out by a young woman who is, it turns out, the daughter of the general; due to tension between the general and the real bad guy, this gets her explicitly waterboarded. She is eventually rescued by Sly, who feels guilty about having left her behind after their first reconnaissance mission. The bad guys get shot, the heroes(?) get paid, the end. The only real side-plot is the thing with Statham and Carpenter, which is resolved when he takes her on a motorcycle ride to watch him beat up and threaten her current boyfriend and his basketball buddies. Yeah, Statham’s character, you’re totally not a likely abuser and she’s totally not better off without you.
He totally is, and she totally is.
So basically, what we end up with is a typical 80s action flick, with a better than average cast. Statham and Li are the best actors in the cast, but Li isn’t given enough to do. Schwarzenegger and Willis are more like easter eggs than characters, but Stallone really does well as the aging tough guy who’s seen too much carnage. And I readily believed that Lundgren was permanently concussed. Austin, on the other hand, could have been replaced by a crash-test dummy. Actually, that might have improved the movie.
So, recommended? Not recommended? Odds are that if you wanted to see it you already have. And if you don’t, there’s no point in watching it. But . . . brutal violence, implied domestic abuse, on-screen torture . . . not really recommended.