Movie Review: The Expendables (2010)

THE EXPENDABLES is an action masterpiece. It’s up there with the big boys. It’s an instant classic. Really. It has all the ingredients for such a film, including the macho moralities of camaraderie, loyalty, betrayal, and unflinching badassness in the face of danger. I was expecting to have fun with the movie, but it thoroughly impressed me a lot more than I thought it would. It features its well-known cast of action stars, but it’s not content simply with that. This is a movie with something to prove. This is a movie that doesn’t take the audience for saps. It’s wise enough to know that the novelty of having such a cast could only get it so far, and the characters are well fleshed out. At least, as well fleshed out as a film of this kind can allow. There’s a sense that these characters have a real history and truly occupy the world of this film. This isn’t some weekend fun pet project for these actors. This is serious business.

I really appreciated how The Expendables wasn’t some silly 80’s throwback. It’s very much a modern action film, but it’s on Stallone’s own terms. There’s the shaky cam and snappy editing, but you won’t find an overabundance of CGI, or slow motion, or bullet-time, or any crap like that. The action scenes are fairly practical, aside from some digital blood splatter and green screen, and you can actually believe that the action really is taking place, with real stunts and real explosions. It’s not wall-to-wall scenes with underwhelming visual effects. It’s refreshingly coherent action, and it really is awesome. The plot is fairly simple as well. It doesn’t throw an overly complicated story at you, with ridiculous twist and ridiculous twist; most of the time when you see a movie like that, it’s really just covering up for the fact that it’s shit. The Expendables has enough confidence in its story and its characters to not pull the rug from underneath you with any contrived gimmicks. What you see is what you get. You might just say that this movie is the answer to everything that’s wrong with action these days. Stallone is a fun action actor, but I’ll be damned if he doesn’t have a certain understated gifted eye for filmmaking to boot.

The cast is great and everyone has their own little moments, but the two actors who occupy the screen most are Stallone and Jason Statham. They make for a pretty great team. They have the kind of buddy stuff that you’d expect like the clever banter back and forth, and some good-natured rivalry. Eric Roberts plays the villain, and he is deliciously slimy in the role. And, yes, they were even able to fit in one of those little “we’re not so different” speeches. There’s also some fun, not-kept-so-secret-seeing-as-how-they’re-in-every-fucking-advertisement-for-the-movie cameos by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. That was great to see, and provided the biggest laughs of the movie.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot: Mickey Rourke is in it, as well. He really makes the most out of a small role, and nearly steals the show halfway through the movie when he delivers a surprisingly moving monologue about being haunted by a young woman’s suicide. It was one of the stand-out moments of the film. Now, just stop and think to yourself: how many action movies would bother to completely stop dead in its tracks amidst the action to provide a scene like that, with a genuine, sincere purpose, too?

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