The testosterone involved in this Sly-directed, pumped-up action best-of is simply overpowering. And yet, I would say, not quite overpowering enough.
By this I mean the lack of so many other worthy action stars such as Kurt Russell, Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal, Vin Diesel, JCVD, Dwayne Johnson (and yes even Hulk Hogan, Wesley Snipes and Jackie Chan would have been welcome!) makes this feel like HALF of the biggest, most badass action film ever, not the actual thing. Luckily, some of the aforementioned big names did appear in the sequels.
And yet all this isn’t even the film’s biggest problem. With awful dialogs, dire direction and terrible acting plaguing such a potentially awesome film, The Expendables just fails to impress on almost all accounts. Instead of showing off how cool these guys were, Sly manages to show up how bad, how unspeakably bad their acting really is. Rourke, Roberts and Statham just about get away with it but pretty much everyone else is painful to watch. Lundgren’s hammy traitor is admittedly a lot of fun but… yeah, hammy.
Jet Li’s monotone, confused delivery feels awkward and even Arnie’s much talked about cameo reminds us how hard it is to even understand the man! And the less said about Austin and Couture the better. Had Stallone gone for a less stock storyline and instead given everyone an iconic character to just go wild with like they did in The Magnificent Seven or The Dirty Dozen, The Expendables would have been epic but as it stands this is a flat, bloated, soulless mess with about as much charm as a waterboarding session.
Even the action sequences don’t shine. They have their entertaining Rambo-style gory moments, sure, but most of the time you can barely see what’s happening and, with Sly cutting every 2 seconds, this really feels like him trying to hide everyone’s shortcomings and making the stunts look as transparent as possible. This is the film’s main flaw. When Dolph Lundgren is fighting Jet Li, you really WANT to see what the hell’s going on! Every cliché in the book is thrown at us and that would be fine if it was all done in a tongue-in-cheek way but sometimes you just sense that Stallone was actually taking all of this somewhat seriously, and that’s alarming to say the least.
Overall, unfortunately The Expendables will be remembered as just another B movie instead of the A bomb of awesomeness it really should have been. A real shame because there was so much potential and so many opportunities to make this epic.
When you’re watching a film and you’re missing Michael Bay, you know something is very, very wrong…