I suppose for an action flick that includes Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger (very briefly), Bruce Willis (also briefly), Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke AND Steve Austin, the volume has to be turned WAY up. Blame the local cinemagoogleplex if you want, but the mix seemed even louder than usual.
Maybe director Stallone wanted the volume up in hopes that we wouldn’t notice that much of the cast of The Expendables is starting to look pretty creaky. Even Jet Li is looking middle-aged. But they were convincing enough, a motley bunch of grizzled mercenaries riding their chopped-up Harleys to the inevitable Hangout for Tough Guys. Stallone, now in his 60s, still looks like he could take out your average tough guy.
The best one-liner came early in the movie.
Bruce Willis character, nodding toward Schwarzenegger character leaving scene: “What’s with him?”
Stallone character: “He wants to be president.” Big laughs.
(Another Stallone movie character, in “Demolition Man,” also referenced Ahnold becoming president, also for laughs.)
There was plenty of action: spectacular explosions, gunfights, martial arts, Ultimate Fighter-style combat, knives, an airplane with really kick-ass guns, a beautiful woman or two and a nifty bit of acting by Rourke in one of the movie’s few quiet moments.
In that scene, Stallone’s tough guy is contemplating a return to the hostile banana republic they just barely escaped to rescue the previously mentioned beautiful woman, Sandra (Giselle Itie`). He’s puzzled that he might actually care about her. About anything.
In that moment, Rourke’s character, Tool, reflects on a time when he and Stallone’s character, Barney Ross, were fighting the Serbs in the former Yugoslavia, mired in mud and blood. He sees a woman standing on a bridge and he knows what she’s about to do. Their eyes meet and hold each other’s gaze. He thinks for a moment of trying to stop her. But he turns away and hears the splash he knew was coming. And he says, Maybe if I had saved her, maybe, maybe I’d have saved what was left of my soul. And you might get the impression that Rourke has really been there.
It was an unexpected moment, one that rewarded you for paying attention to the dialogue.
But before long it returned to form, with plenty of Blam! Blam! Kabloee! and all manner of ass-kicking.
Second funniest line in the movie:
“What happened to you?”
Ross (Stallone): “I just got my ass kicked!” (By Steve Austin’s Paine character)
SPOILER ALERT: Skip the next paragraph if you hate spoilers.
Preposterously, the crew survives this unwinnable war with a small banana republic’s army and its corrupt American ex-CIA puppeteer (Eric Roberts in top dirtball form), which provides the opportunity for a feel-good happy ending. Even Lundgren’s strung-out mad dog man-mountain character, Gunner, whom we are led to believe has died at Stallone’s trigger finger, turns out OK.
END SPOILER ALERT
The movie generally moves along at a fast pace, pausing (briefly) to reload and start blasting some more. Heads explode, blood gushes, limbs are broken and mangled, but the Expendables bunch rarely suffer more than a few bloody noses and scuffs, save for the ass-kicking administered on Barney Ross.
No sex to speak of, except a scene of torture (Wait, is waterboarding torture?) that probably was leading toward rape – thankfully, we return to the safety of flying bullets and exploding ordnance.
There are at least a half-dozen utterly unbelievable plot turns and action scenes, if you choose not to believe them, but let’s not quibble about why the general’s men don’t just shoot Munroe (which would have ended the movie at least a half-hour sooner. Duh!) and return the little banana republic island to its mildly corrupt former self.
The Expendables is a big, loud, bombastic summer shoot-em-up romp with all the goods and a cast that capably runs with it.
I believe Joe Bob Briggs would approve.