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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Mickey Rourke
Jason Statham
Forest Whitaker
Jet Li
Dolph Lundgren
Eric Roberts
Steve Austin
Sylvester Stallone.
Directors
Sylvester Stallone.
Screenwriters
Sylvester Stallone.
Running Time
108 minutes

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The Expendables
The A-ged Team


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Plot
On a tiny island in the Gulf Of Mexico, a team of grizzled mercenaries, led by Barney Ross (Stallone), take on a rogue CIA agent-turned-ruthless drug lord (Roberts) and his puppet general’s army — with, naturally, a vengeance.


Review
The Expendables
Browse more images »
In 2030, the indomitable Sly Stallone, along with the surviving members of the eight-strong action ensemble which make up his titular team, will unite with the common goal of wiping out, once and for all, the dreaded Meatloaf Night at their nursing home. Until then, there’s The Expendables, the action movie equivalent of a Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame ‘super group’, or one of those Doctor Who episodes where all the old Doctors turn up in the same show. (With Eric Roberts, late of the unloved Doctor Who movie, as the villain, the illusion is almost complete.)

If The Expendables had been made a decade ago — and if Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme had answered Stallone’s casting call, as the likes of Dolph Lundgren and Arnold Schwarzenegger did — the film could have been a poignant, life-imitates-art examination of a group of once-great action heroes, finding themselves washed up, out of step with the touchy-feely times — like Space Cowboys, but for meatheads. After all, we live in a world in which the movies’ biggest action heroes are played by pantywaists like Robert Downey Jr. and Christian Bale, proper ac-tors whose biggest muscles are inside their heads. If nothing else, such a film would have given much-needed employment to its dole-drawing stars.

As it turns out, things haven’t quite worked out that way: although the title of Arnie’s 1993 flop, Last Action Hero, seemed unintentionally prescient, the past decade has been good to the ’80s action stars. The careers of The Expendables, you might say, have proved anything but. Stallone has gone the distance, largely thanks to Rocky Balboa, a critical and commercial hit; Rourke parlayed an Oscar-nominated comeback (The Wrestler) into a meaty villain role in a hit franchise (Iron Man 2); Steven Seagal sent himself up — at least, we think he was in on the ‘joke’ — in an Orange ad; even Jean-Claude Van Damme, the once-proud “Muscles From Brussels” pulled off an exercise in postmodern existentialism in the film that bore his initials, and — Gott im Himmel! — Ah-nuld was elected, and then re-elected, Governor of Kah-lifornia, and is a constitutional amendment away from a tilt at the White House.They are, however, “getting too old for this shit”. Clive James once described Arnie as looking like “a condom filled with walnuts” — now it’s the other way round. Perhaps that’s why Stallone (64) has recruited young upstarts like Jason Statham (38) and Jet Li (47) to accompany fellow fossils-with-muscles Lundgren (52), Bruce Willis (55), Rourke (57) and Arnie (63) to take down the bad guys (and possibly the insurance premiums). If only Sly had spent less time on the phone to his mates, and more on the script.

Instead it seems that, having assembled his dream cast — and thrown in wrestler ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and Ultimate Fighting Champion Randy Couture for the ‘kids’ — Stallone clearly felt that such fuddy-duddy film staples as story, characterisation and dialogue that makes sense were, well, expendable. Sure, there’s some direct-to-video-level plotting (see above), and an attempt at creating motivation for Stallone and his fellow cigar-chompers to care — in a nutshell, “The general’s daughter is a hottie” — but that’s really as far as it goes. As the film lurches from scene to scene, one becomes increasingly convinced that not only is everyone making it up as they go along (director Stallone shares a screenwriting credit, so it’s entirely plausible), but that Sly could only convince his cast to jump on board if he agreed to very specific, and often very strange, demands: ‘I want a scene where I kick Jet Li’s ass.’ ‘I want to blow up a dock from the open-air gun turret of a giant seaplane.’ ‘I want to meet Charisma Carpenter, can you fix us up?’ (And apparently, in the case of the much-ballyhooed on-screen team-up between Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis, ‘I want a scene with all the verbal and visual fireworks of a Planet Hollywood annual general meeting circa 1993.’)

That said, The Expendables does what it says on the tin: it delivers a super-size portion of bone-cracking, bullet-spraying, muscle-flexing, head-exploding action, thankfully with the kind of tongue-in-cheek ironic distance which was fatally absent from Stallone’s last directorial outing, the ill-advised, ill-fated Rambo. Although the set-pieces are hardly on a par with the man-fires-tank-falling-out-of-plane antics of the all-new A-Team, the fight scenes prove that the almost-all-old ‘E’-Team can still cut it when push comes literally to shove.

If nothing else, it gives the audience a chance to answer the perennial question, who would win a no-holds-barred fight between Dolph Lundgren and Jet Li?


Verdict
More The Wild Geese than The Wild Bunch, The Expendables is not a wasted opportunity, but more one not fully exploited. For action fans raised on Commando and Cobra, the ensemble cast and ’80s-style violence will be pure wish-fulfilment — but even they could have wished for something better.


Reviewed by Genevieve Harrison


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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Expendables
Empire Star Rating

RE: It's no Picasso?

The Expendables does pretty much what it says on the tin. You know it’s going to be a throwback to the 80s action movie and for the most part it doesn’t disappoint. Testosterone to the max as tough guys slaughter tons of extras and blow lots of shit up while throwing amusing banter around as they do it. When I say tough guys, I mean probably the greatest cast in action movie history, and Sylvestre Stallone deserves great credit for getting so many action stars together and pulling off what prob... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 21:03, 25 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: It's no Picasso?

L: Piles No images allowed in these threads? Damn! i1014.photobucket.com/albums/af270/Weertangel/double-fa cepalm.jpg/quote] Just try img] bookending the link. That usually works for me ... More

Posted by pete_traynor at 15:47, 25 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: It's no Picasso?

No images allowed in these threads? Damn! http://i1014.photobucket.com/albums/af270/Weertangel/do uble-facepalm.jpg ... More

Posted by Piles at 15:27, 25 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: This isn't Shakesspeare ladz....

PA was clearly expecting Dostoevsky out of Robin Hood. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 15:13, 25 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: This isn't Shakesspeare ladz....

L: Piles L: clownfoot L: Pigeon Army L: Piles I like a bunch of films that were made over the past ten years that aren't meant to be Shakespeare; ood/quote] Just want to take a break from saying 'you're right, Piles', to say - you're an idiot, and I hope you burn in fiscal conservative hell for liking ood I second this for the inclusion of Dodgeball. A poor man's version of BASEketball does not a funny film make... ote] WHAT WERE YOU GUYS EXPECTING WITH OO... More

Posted by clownfoot at 14:53, 25 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Expendables

ditto, The Losers definitely wins it for me too! Especially for the during-credits 'Petunias' scene :D ... More

Posted by Guinevere at 14:36, 25 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: This isn't Shakesspeare ladz....

L: clownfoot L: Pigeon Army L: Piles I like a bunch of films that were made over the past ten years that aren't meant to be Shakespeare; ood/quote] Just want to take a break from saying 'you're right, Piles', to say - you're an idiot, and I hope you burn in fiscal conservative hell for liking ood I second this for the inclusion of Dodgeball. A poor man's version of BASEketball does not a funny film make... ote] WHAT WERE YOU GUYS EXPECTING WITH OOD DODGEBALL..... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Piles at 14:17, 25 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: This isn't Shakesspeare ladz....

L: Pigeon Army L: Piles I like a bunch of films that were made over the past ten years that aren't meant to be Shakespeare; ood/quote] Just want to take a break from saying 'you're right, Piles', to say - you're an idiot, and I hope you burn in fiscal conservative hell for liking ood sp; I second this for the inclusion of Dodgeball. A poor man's version of BASEketball does not a funny film make... ... More

Posted by clownfoot at 13:44, 25 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: This isn't Shakesspeare ladz....

L: Piles  I like a bunch of films that were made over the past ten years that aren't meant to be Shakespeare; ood/quote] Just want to take a break from saying 'you're right, Piles', to say - you're an idiot, and I hope you burn in fiscal conservative hell for liking ood ... More

Posted by Pigeon Army at 13:38, 25 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Expendables

A fun film with some cracking moments, Terry Crews shotgun/basketball court brawl. But from what it was hyped and touted as being, it's a massive disappointment. They could have done so much more with the cast. For a film that professes to be a 'men on a mission' film we barely get to see any of the team until the end. The much vaunted scene in the church was painful with some horrible wooden dialogue. Plus for a supposed 80's action movie homage, where are they quotable one-liners in the ... More

Posted by fletch666 at 12:45, 25 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: This isn't Shakesspeare ladz....

L: Barneyross1 It's a few meatheads running about looking tough, jumping, exploding and shooting the bad guys...that's why people are watching it....just dumb-ass acting fun...Stallone didn't make this under any illusions ...it's just action hokum..it's no Die Hard, Rambo II, or Predator...it's just Expendables? hy on earth are you posting your review in single sentences over about fifty posts? Listen, I know it's not /i]to be Shakespeare, and that's fair enough. I like a bunch of ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Piles at 12:35, 25 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: This isn't Shakesspeare ladz....

L: Barneyross1 It's a few meatheads running about looking tough, jumping, exploding and shooting the bad guys...that's why people are watching it....just dumb-ass acting fun...Stallone didn't make this under any illusions ...it's just action hokum..it's no Die Hard, Rambo II, or Predator...it's just Expendables? hy do you keep double posting? It's unnecessary. ... More

Posted by Pigeon Army at 12:01, 25 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: It is what it is....nothing more...nothing less

L: Marwood Rubbish. I was up for an 80s homage but either Sly didn't quite know how to handle it in the end or his original vision just degenerated into a DTV style action fest. The action was mostly great although I'm now officially fed up with shaky cam action scenes and spastic editing, too often it makes the scenes bloody difficult to follow and imo so far only Paul Greengrass and his DP on the Bourne films have been able to make it work on extended action scenes. However in... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 11:26, 25 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: It is what it is....nothing more...nothing less

Rubbish. I was up for an 80s homage but either Sly didn't quite know how to handle it in the end or his original vision just degenerated into a DTV style action fest. The action was mostly great although I'm now officially fed up with shaky cam action scenes and spastic editing, too often it makes the scenes bloody difficult to follow and imo so far only Paul Greengrass and his DP on the Bourne films have been able to make it work on extended action scenes. However in this the third a... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Marwood at 09:35, 25 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: It is what it is....nothing more...nothing less

Mmmm,a few points... Rourke was a bit embarassing-think he thought he was in a serious movie-from the guy who did Iron Man 2. DH4 better than this-maybe,they're a bit different to be fair,and the action here is far more realistic.A bit more of Bruce Willis would have swung it maybe. You did it again Barney ... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 09:26, 25 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Great Idea; wrong director: Here's Why

DH4 was a way better movie than Expendables, by a very long shot! 10 years ago, John Woo might've done this, but guess he's lost his mojo too. ... More

Posted by jace007 at 07:21, 25 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Great Idea; wrong director: Here's Why

Lol, Mickey R re-enacting "emotional depth" from The Wrestler was a tad embarrassing! I mean, would you have seen The Dirty Dozen's Lee Marvin do that shit? (RIP Lee) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jace007 at 07:18, 25 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Great Idea; wrong director: Here's Why

The cgi at the end of the film is some of the worst ever ... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 01:21, 25 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Great Idea; wrong director: Here's Why

Come on! The action in DH4 is epic! car vs. 'copter = awesomeness ... More

Posted by Guinevere at 01:18, 25 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Great Idea; wrong director: Here's Why

I was fairly in agreement until you said Diehard 4 ... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 01:07, 25 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Best of the Best

And if you're interested in the opinion of another Genevieve, I loved it! A little dull in parts: particularly when Sly attempted to give the film more emotional depth. It definitely didn't need that as an enjoyable action romp and the lighting was at times pretty cheesy i.e. when Mickey Rourke was regaling us with the suicide girl story, the blue mood lighting was kinda Cinematography 101. Overall though it was really fun! Action was great, Stath was awesome, loved seeing more of Charisma Carp... More

Posted by Guinevere at 22:40, 24 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: RE :PILES

L: Deviation L: BOHEMIANBOB f you don't like it,cool.To assert that people who do like it have no taste is unfair.e in film isn't polarised by just this film. And i'm glad from your last line you seem to have convinced Dev to see thisote] It was a facetious comment. Similar to how I call Piles a hater of fun and joy when it comes to some films. It is all lighthearted banter. Also, watching a Stallone film over Chomet? Nothing in heaven, Earth or Hell would make me do... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 17:59, 24 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Expendables

woah, woah, woah, FYI my name is Genevieve! And I love ridiculous explosions, violence and definitely the Stath! And personally I think Genevieve is a pretty much a kick-ass espionage-chic name ... More

Posted by Guinevere at 17:58, 24 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: RE :PILES

Damn, that was a fun movie tarted off a little slow, Stallone was occasionally hard to understand, and a few things seemed a trifle pointless, but when it kicked off, I didn't stop grinning. It also has the first action sequence for quite a while that has made my physically wince. Woohoo! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by DaveTheStampede at 17:29, 24 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: RE :PILES

L: BOHEMIANBOB f you don't like it,cool.To assert that people who do like it have no taste is unfair.e in film isn't polarised by just this film. And i'm glad from your last line you seem to have convinced Dev to see thisote] It was a facetious comment. Similar to how I call Piles a hater of fun and joy when it comes to some films. It is all lighthearted banter. Also, watching a Stallone film over Chomet? Nothing in heaven, Earth or Hell would make me do such a thing. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 17:25, 24 August 2010 | Report This Post


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