The Expendables (2010)

Rating: ***
Release Date: 8/13/10
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Music: Brian Tyler
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Steve Austin, Gary Daniels, Mickey Rourke, Eric Roberts, Giselle Itié cameos by Charisma Carpenter, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger

A delightful homage to testosterone fueled 80's action movies, with a huge cast of action veterans. It's loud, stupid, and full of disappointments and missed opportunities, but I couldn't help but be entertained by its gleefully kinetic and unapologetic mayhem. Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) heads up a group of mercenary soldiers who excel in the art of killing. The CIA hires the team to take out a South American dictator, but Ross turns down the job after doing some research on the target. However, the dictator's defiant daughter (enchanting Giselle Itié) manages to convince him to liberate her country of its vile American oppressors, and his friends decide to tag along since they have nothing better to do. It seems like everyone in the film has a desperate longing for death. Maybe that's a result of the lifestyle. Anyway, the last twenty minutes are an all-out assault on the bad guy's fortress against impossible odds, and lots of things blow up real good. The unexpectedly happy ending is a disappointment, and the epilogue is even worse.

The film stays true to its 80's action formula roots, and falls victim to its pitfalls as well. The dialog is, as you would expect, pretty bad, but nothing compared to the cringe worthy lines that both Stallone and Schwarzenegger belted out in their heyday. The acting is serviceable, with Jason Statham giving a consistently strong and sensitive performance. The real surprise comes from Mickey Rourke, whose intensely emotional flashback both elevates the film and slaps it in the face. Jet Li is the biggest disappointment, and much like his character, he's simply collecting a paycheck. It looked like he was doubled for all of his fight scenes, which makes you wonder why he was in the film at all. While the action is fast, frantic, loud, and violent, the fight scenes are woefully inadequate. I probably wouldn't have complained twenty-five years ago, but as an action connoisseur snob, I was seriously disappointed. Especially with so many talented people involved. The choreography is good, but the cinematography and editing obscure the performances so you can't see what's going on. Very frustrating, and Stallone should have known better. The production values are superb and the film looks great. Apart from the fight scenes, the chases, explosions, and gun fights are all fun to watch, even if they're hard to follow sometimes. I could nit-pick the film to death, but that wouldn't diminish the fact that I enjoyed it quite a bit and left the theater smiling, which doesn't happen very often these days.