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Movie Review: The Expendables

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The plot is an excuse. The explosions are needlessly gargantuan. A guy gets shot clean in half by a massive gun, but as you’re watching Sylvester Stallone’s latest movie you don’t care about the violations of practicality and physics. It’s basically an excuse to get together the action movie stars of the eighties, nineties, and noughties, and it works really well.

The Expendables of the title are a gang of mercenaries who rescue hostages and take on risky jobs for money. They do have names but they’re not really important, considering that you will just come to think of them by their actors’ names (for example “Look what Stallone just did to that guy!”). The gang of mercenaries take on a mission to free a fictional island from the influence of an ex-CIA man, who is using the island to keep up a high-profit drugs operation. Turns out the leader of the island is aiding him, and his daughter desires to stop this.

One of the better aspects of the film is concerned with this; namely the fact that they don’t try and shoehorn in a love story where it’s so very unnecessary, and the two different relationships end more like real relationships would, as opposed to “guy gets girl then shags her brains out offscreen.”

The dialogue is funny (surprisingly so) and the cast (which includes Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, and Jason Statham) give off a real sense of chemistry and of being a team through their performances. What this movie is really noteworthy for is showing just how much star power you can have in your movie without the universe imploding. Other big names in this film include Eric Roberts, Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Jet Li, and the big man, The Governator himself. Yes, Arnold Schwarzenegger is in this movie, and not just as a CGI reconstruction (see Terminator Salvation for more on this). I felt that they could’ve done more with him (although you can understand why they didn’t), but his brief cameo was one of the best scenes of the entire movie.

One of the areas where this film succeeds when so many other action films don’t is the comedy. For once, the moments that The Expendables takes to play up the comedy are actually funny rather than cringe inducing. Sometimes this mixes with the aforementioned violence and sometimes it just shows through in the dialogue.

This movie, like most action movies, is incredibly violent. Explosions go off left right and centre, bullets rip through human flesh, and knives end up in necks in a manner guaranteed to make the audience wince. The music really helps to set the right tone as well – the pieces make the tension build in the right areas of the film, and the two times where they use songs that I recognised in the film (“Mississippi Queen” by Mountain and “The Boys Are Back In Town” by Thin Lizzy) feel right and make the scenes better for their inclusion. Although I did want to turn to the people I was with and say “Don’t the lyrics feel like they break the rhythm of the song?” It’s a gripe I’ve had with “The Boys Are Back In Town” for a while.

This is possibly the best action film that I have ever seen. It features all that you could possibly want from an action film and more. This is the one that all those cheap flicks aspire to be. Good work, Mr Stallone.


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About Scott Varnham

  • Ah, thank you. Bit of praise is always nice.
    I never even saw the trailer (don’t like them anyway), I didn’t even know I was going to see the film until about 2 hours before.

  • I ‘heard’ that this movie was enjoyable to watch, as I am not a fan of action movies. After reading your review, I am glad the movie paid off for you–I might consider to at least, watch the trailer. I enjoyed reading your take on the Expendables.