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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » October 1, 2010
Film review
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The Expendables
October 1, 2010   
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No script? Who cares! Apparently, all it takes to make a blockbuster is $75 million (most of which is spent on wrecking buildings and other sets) and a bunch of action movie has-beens. No diehard fan of action films will want to miss an opportunity to see Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the same flick. After all, the three have never appeared on film together before, apart from showing up at the openings of Planet Hollywood restaurants around the world. Fans should not get their hopes up too high though—in The Expendables, the three macho megastars share a mere four minutes in a joint scene, one that is clearly intended as a spoof to boot.

The Expendables, written and directed by Stallone, and with Stallone in the main role, recouped half its budget on its opening weekend alone. A sequel is highly likely, even though compared to The Expendables, Rambo II starring Stallone and Commando starring Schwarzenegger look like masterpieces with a richly-textured plot.

Barney Ross (Stallone) is the commander of a group of mercenaries who will take any job anywhere in the world, providing it pays well. In charge of assembling the team is Tool (Mickey Rourke—9 1/2 Weeks, The Wrestler), once a mercenary himself, now the owner of a squalid tattoo parlor. Tool has the habit of spouting existential monologues in the least suitable moments.

In the opening scenes, the team audaciously rescue hostages who have been captured by Somali pirates. As the slaughter unfolds, the team loses one of its aces, Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren—Universal Soldier, Men of War). Having taken too much cocaine, Jensen becomes a threat not only to the pirates, but to his friends as well and tries to kill Yin Yang (Jet Li—Hero, The Warlords), an expert in martial arts and machine guns. Expelled from the team, Jensen plots revenge on his former buddies as they embark on a mission to overthrow a general who rules over a tiny island in the Gulf of Mexico. Th’ough a despot who dispatches his adversaries with bloodthirsty abandon, the general is merely a puppet in the hands of James Munroe (Eric Roberts—Star 80, The Specialist), a former CIA agent. Feeling underappreciated by his CIA superiors, Munroe decided he would make a better living shipping drugs wholesale out of the general’s little kingdom.

Ross and his second-in-command Lee Christmas (Jason Statham—The Bank Job, Transporter series), a former member of the British SAS with a thing for sharp blades, embark on a reconnaissance mission pretending to be ornithologists. Almost bare-handed, they take out a patrol the size of a platoon with admirable efficiency. They also take the time to destroy a marina and several police stations. This, however, is just a warm-up before the whole team strike again, this time with the presidential palace in their sights. They are motivated not by contractual obligations but, would you believe, acting on a point of principle. They are mercenaries after all...

Every now and then, this excuse for a movie resorts to self-mocking irony. The all-star cast manages to breathe at least some humor into their characters, some (Li, Statham) with a degree of success, others (Stallone, Rourke) less so. But these attempts fail to rescue a film whose chief attribute, if it can be called that, are combat scenes featuring Hollywood legends and a graphic depiction of techniques of massacring adversaries. Such adversaries include real-life wrestlers and Mixed Martial Arts musclemen who have taken to supplementing their income with occasional supporting roles on screen.
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