A collaboration of action film stars from cinema past that resulted in a cast genre fans could only dream of and managed to make a highly entertaining and full throttle adventure in the process.
Action movies of the 80’s featured explosions, car chases, fighting, gun play and thin-plots with often glaring holes. These were all aspects of the genre we accepted and over time embraced as we watched our favorite actions stars beat the enemies and save the day.
Fans routinely mumbled their thoughts on what if this star and that, would team together for a movie and the combinations seemed to be endless. Yet despite the chatter, films continued to roll out with a predominately single star running the headline. Finally in 2010 came “The Expendables” a movie that would boast a collection of former action movie icons in one solo film outing.
“The Expendables” are a group of mercenaries hired by a covert CIA operative. Their mission is to take out a ruthless Latin dictator and his army that are being led by a rogue CIA agent. When the group travels to scout the location they learn there is much more going on than they had anticipated. Barney Ross (Stallone) must decide to go back and save the dictators daughter and even more so the people of the country, or save his own life and the lives of his team and simply walk away.
I must say the fan in me was highly anticipating the release of this film. The trailer boosted my already high excitement and to say my expectations were high would be an understatement. I rarely get overly excited about a movies release, mostly due to my fear of being disappointed but it was impossible to stop when this one was announced. In the end it more than delivered on my high hopes. It was a fun (brainless) action adventure with many elaborate stunts and action-sequences to feast your eyes on.
The older characters in the film did not try to act like their formal (youthful) selves and at times their age was used as comical punches to the story without being too out of place, or seeming forced. While the veterans of the action genre entertained, it was the skill of youth from Statham and Li that proved to be the highlight of the fight sequences. It was fast paced, violent and not (too) choreographed. Much of the action was well shot, there were some small moments of over-editing but for the most the action was captured perfectly with all its violent intentions.
“The Expendables” provides plenty of large explosions and massive scale action scenes utilizing much of the familiar cast. The gun-play was violent and unique and gone are the days of stuntmen triple-somersaulting in front of generic explosions like the 80’s and early 90’s. In its place was realistically visceral shootouts and grittier fight sequences. I liked the chemistry between the characters and despite the few-one-liners that gave the film an overly lighthearted feel at times, this was a well-crafted, serious action film.
On the downside, while Eric Roberts was good in his role, I would have like to have seen more of a formidable enemy in the film. Rather than quality of the opponent they went with quantity, and at times it was like watching them plow through a series of combat dummies in a video game. The enemies virtually showed no real threat other than there mere volume of men and the films heroes never once felt tested.
I also would have liked to see more man-to-man confrontations as well. The fight between Steve Austin/Sylvester Stallone was very well done and with more moments like this the result could have been much more memorable in terms of showdowns. But this lacking element was mostly due to all the headlining names being on the side of the protagonist rather than more of a mix.
Overall though I was surprised and definitely entertained by “The Expendables”. It was not a perfect action blockbuster but few are. For all the time that has passed however, with people wanting to see big names collaborate in one film, the final result was more than satisfying. There were many ways this project could go wrong but after the credits role (for me) this felt like a close representation of the action film version of “The Avengers” and finally seeing all the icons together on one screen was highly entertaining.