There was a time, long before metrosexuals, mankinis and masculine moisturisers, when men were allowed to be men. A time when grunting was an acceptable response to almost any question posed. And instead of films about cowboys having a cuddle under the stars, you could enjoy the simple pleasure of watching men use guns, fists, knives and explosives, safe in the knowledge that there would be a kill count higher than your own IQ.
The main poster boy for this lost generation was ‘Nam Vet and former Green Beret John Rambo, as played by Sylvester Stallone. It’s only fitting then that Stallone himself should beat down on the chest of the fading action genre with his latest, the testosterone-fuelled The Expendables.
Barney Ross (Stallone) is the head of a group of mercenaries collectively known as the Expendables. They’re guns for hire, prepared to put it all on the line if the price is right. They’re approached by a Mr Church (Bruce Willis) to go to a small island in the Gulf, where a General Garza (,i>Dexter’s David Zayas) is ably putting the ‘dick’ in dictator.
When the gang get down there however, they discover that Garza comes from the Thunderbirds school of dictators i.e. he’s a puppet. Before they can do anything about it, they’re not only chased off the island, but forced to leave their contact Sandra (Giselle Itie) behind. Riddled with guilt, Ross decides that he must return to save the girl. Thankfully for him, the other members of the team are prepared to also go back, but with the odds heavily stacked against them, it looks more and more likely that this could be the Expendables swansong mission – one way or another. But one thing you can bet on is this – they’re not going anywhere without a fight.
Much has been made of this film’s ‘stellar’ cast of action heroes. In truth, it’s by no means as impressive as it makes itself out to be. Joining Stallone as Expendables are Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture and Mickey Rourke. In fact there are two names on there you probably won’t even recognise unless you’re familiar with US sport: Crews is an ex NFL player and Couture is a UFC fighter. Rourke is/was undoubtedly a great acting talent, but action films were never his forte.
No JCVD, Seagal, Norris or even Snipes. Whatever the reasons for these tough guys to be no-shows, The Expendables falls far short from being the action world’s equivalent of The Magnificent Seven. To Statham’s credit however, he does manage to throw his weight around like an old timer and hold his own against the likes of Li, Lundgren and Stallone. And the fact that both Arnie and Bruce are in the film is a nice touch, but their cameos are truly the briefest of the brief appearances.
It’s clear as day too that not much attention was given to the script. The obvious plot was definitely an afterthought to the casting, with the kind of dialogue that must have been reanimated after being cryogenically frozen during the eighties.
None of its cast will be up for Oscars either. The Expendables is a delicatessen’s dream, offering as it does the finest ham and cheese that Hollywood has to offer.
Despite all these niggles, Stallone – who also wrote and directed – has produced possibly the best balls ‘n’ muscles flick in years. It pays a loving homage to the action genre of old with the subtlety of a grenade, which is the way it’s supposed to be.
The acting is dire, the script woeful and yet it explodes onto the screen with such bravado, audiences won’t be able to stop themselves from cheering the good old guys on.
After putting up with luvvy duvvy vampires and wishy washy wizards, The Expendables puts back a proper ‘pop’ into your popcorn. It shoots on sight and asks questions later. It lets rip one almighty fart after the next, without feeling the need to apologise afterwards. It hasn’t washed for days. And it won’t call you back after a date, even if you thought it went well. That’s right, it’s a bastard of a film, and you’ll love it all the more for being so.
In short, if you like big guns on display, of both the metal and flesh variety, The Expendables is your one-stop armoury shop.