Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, David Zayas, Giselle Itié, Charisma Carpenter, Gary Daniels, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Hank Amos, Amin Joseph, Senyo Amoaku, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis
Written by: Sylvester Stallone
Directed by: Sylvester Stallone
MPAA Rating: R for strong action and bloody violence throughout, and for some language
Running Time: 103
Date: 08/03/2010

The Expendables (2010)

2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The advertising materials for The Expendables carry just the right kind of gleeful, confident attitude, but sadly, Sylvester Stallone's actual movie is a giant mess and a wasted opportunity. There are too many characters for any of them to develop any kind of depth: Lee Christmas (Statham) is upset about his girlfriend; Ying Yang (Jet Li) has a complex about his size; Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) is on drugs and out of control, etc. The writer/director (whose last two movies were the iconic sequels Rocky Balboa and Rambo) misses his chance to be playful, or -- better still -- to deliver a commentary on action movies in general.

Barney Ross (Stallone) and his team of "Expendables" (Jason Statham, Jet Li, etc.) are hired for a nearly impossible job. A rogue CIA agent (Eric Roberts) has taken over the drug trade on a small island and has converted the local general into his puppet. Barney initially decides the job isn't worth the money, but then the general's daughter (Giselle ItiƩ) changes his mind; she truly believes in fighting for a cause, the way Barney used to, before he became a mercenary for hire. So the team storms the island with full force and brutal firepower, this time for all the right reasons. Can they survive the impossible odds that await?

Other expendables include mixed martial artist Randy Couture, and Terry Crews (a big, scary-looking guy who is actually a very talented comic actor). Former wrestler "Stone Cold" Steve Austin is a henchman for the bad guys. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis appear in tiny cameos, though they are featured very prominently in the trailer and ads. Finally, gorgeous Charisma Carpenter has a small role as Christmas' long-suffering girlfriend.

It seems as if action filmmaking just gets worse and worse by the second, and even though the veteran Stallone should know better, The Expendables contains some of the worst fight footage ever filmed. It's shaky and hacked-up to the point of inducing headaches, and it's often difficult to tell which player is which. A fight between Jet Li and Lundgren should have been an enticing draw, but instead it's ridiculous and mushy. Fortunately, Mickey Rourke is absolutely superb in his few scenes as a burned-out former team member, ruminating about his lost path in life. His presence almost brings the movie back up to "worth seeing" status.

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