(Dir. Sylvester Stallone, 2010)
It often happens that a scroll of end credits begins its earthward reel and I know I’ll never see that movie again. In The Expendables, an island and some islanders get blown up; ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin is bald and wrestles for a while, and the veiny ventriloquist, Sylvester Stallone, mumbles his way through another silly flick. Stallone directs and acts. Neither effort is commendable. He might look like a gruesome elderly porn star but he is actually playing a noble protagonist - the leader of a veteran, baddy-bashing syndicate.
Much like in The A Team, its rival swab of action, the rag-and-bone mercenaries are kitted out with devastating arms and catchphrase brains. They include Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Randy Couture and Terry Crews. In the other corner, on a fictional island in the Gulf of Mexico, a tyrant known as General Garza is backed by tycoon Eric Roberts and thugs, Gary Daniels and Steve Austin. The Expendables must put a stop to this American-sponsored totalitarianism at once. A sub plot develops and Stallone, pitying the General's comely daughter, becomes desperate to rescue her. In hardly the most unusual role for a black actor in Hollywood, Crews - a former NFL athlete - has fun with a gun. He basks, after mutilating a single-file queue of enemy soldiers with a futuristic toy: “You betta remember this at Christmas!” Sad but entertaining.
I don’t remember much from the script (how can you?) but I laughed a few times. With John McClane, 'Rocky' and 'Stone Cold' essentially making appearances, this movie - much like Travolta's From Paris With Love earlier this year - is leftover fast-food for the starving. Schwarzenegger, Willis and Stallone meeting in a Church to talk with their balls is nostalgic, if not exactly cool. One hopes there is an honest hopelessness in the making of the aforementioned scenes; that The Expendables revels in irony and rebels against severity.
The fight scenes are a let down. Stallone should be disappointed for not making the most of the martial experience of Daniels, Lundgren, Li, Austin and Mickey Rourke among others. The only significant cut belongs to Rourke, and to no person's surprise. His professional duties are to counsel and tattoo Stallone. Sitting in his dim parlour, his giant features trembling and filling the screen, Rourke remembers a war in a monologue that gives us a glimpse of a better film.