Somehow it’s been 10 years (10 years!) since 2010’s The Expendables, which was, comic book movies aside, an event film for people of my ilk (and I’m sure those who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s). Man, 10 years. Anyway, it’s a bittersweet film because I don’t think it was ever going to live up to the hype of having all of these action stars in one film and it certainly wasn’t going to live up to the hype of the marketing. That is, I think the marketing did a disservice to the film by leaning so heavily into the Action Holy Trinity of Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, which it turned out, was only a cameo scene, and a rather ham-fisted one at that with the “comedic” jabs between Stallone and Schwarzenegger.
Also, it’s just hard to pull all those pieces together seamlessly on the first go-around. The dialogue and the banter is a bit disjointed throughout, and some of the action is rather typical explosions, gun fighting and such that didn’t seem all that inspired. It seemed more running on nostalgia than trying to bring something fresh to the table. The premise itself is rather flimsy and typical, too: a group of elite mercenaries who try to overthrow a Latin American dictator, who is actually a “puppet” for a former CIA agent. Naturally, there’s a girl, who is the general’s daughter, to be saved as well.
In other words, I’m underwhelmed. I remember being underwhelmed 10 years ago, and watching it back today, some of the action scenes are better than I thought (some of the shoot ’em-up scenes are viscous as heck, and the show-stealing scene is Jason Statham beating up a bunch of bullies on the basketball court, lol), but overall, for an action film, especially with this many elite action stars involved, including one of my favorite pro wrestlers, Stone Cold Steve Austin, the film commits one of the most unpardonable of all sins in action cinema: It’s kind of boring? Like, it’s just not that exciting to watch? It was something I had on the background in a lot of instances.
One gripe I have, too, is that Jet Li’s character gets a lot of crap from the others for being tiny, and so, by the logic of that, when his character takes on the giant Dolph Lundgren, he should have won the fight to avenge being taken lightly. Instead, Stallone’s character had to bail Li’s character out. Mickey Rourke was also in this, but didn’t do much in the way of action, and was sort of the vehicle for a more serious tone, as he gives a heavy monologue in the middle of the movie. But it was also just boring? I hate to say anything in a film is boring because that’s not a descriptor I like to give, but it really was.
I think the best thing you can say about the movie is that it’s not taking itself too seriously. It’s having fun. It’s nostalgic and it know it’s nostalgic. And it’s sure coasting on it. I wouldn’t say it’s unwatchable or anything, but I suppose I would say it’s … expendable. cue credits
To my point earlier about the best scene being Statham’s basketball court scene, the other positive and interesting note here is that out of all the old action stars, it’s the one of the 2000s, Statham, who unsurprisingly kicks the most butt. And if I’m biased, the person who delivers in second place is Austin. He even gets Stallone’s character to admit he got his butt kicked.