The Expendables (2010)

Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone - Barney Ross
Jason Statham - Lee Christmas
Jet Li - Yin Yang
Dolph Lundgren - Gunnar Jensen
Randy Couture - Toll Road
Terry Crews - Hale Caesar
Mickey Rourke - Tool
Eric Roberts - James Munroe
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin - Dan Paine
David Zayas - General Garza
Giselle Itie - Sandra Garza
Gary Daniels - The Brit
Charisma Carpenter - Lacy
Bruce Willis - Mr. Church
Arnold Schwarzenegger - Trench

Genre - Action/Adventure

Running Time - 143 Minutes

Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) is the idealistic leader of a band of mercenaries called The Expendables. His best friend and right-hand man, Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), is the group's co-pilot and knife expert. Yin Yang (Jet Li) is the martial arts expert, yet has issues concerning his short height. Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) is the muscle of the group, master of using really big guns to match his big personality. Toll Road (Randy Couture) is the brawler, worried about his cauliflower ears from his days as a wrestler. And Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) is the giant of the group, who is also a loose cannon in battle.

The Expendables are soon hired by a mysterious man only known as Church (
Bruce Willis), who wants the group to go to Central America and kill a dictator named General Garza (David Zayas) and his American benefactor, James Munroe (Eric Roberts) - who also happens to be a former CIA drug agent [Church doesn't want the blood on his hands]. Munroe is a tough target to kill due to his CIA training and having intelligent and mean henchmen (Steve Austin and Gary Daniels) helping him in every way. Church offers the group $5 million to complete the mission.

The mission starts out professionally, but gets a bit more personal when Barney begins to admire the group's contact, Sandra (
Giselle Itie) - who also happens to be the General's daughter. When she would rather stay in her country, risking death to save her people, Barney and the group do whatever they can to stop Garza and Munroe to make right by her.



The action.
- If there's anything THE EXPENDABLES excels at, it's the action pieces and the gore effects. We get car chases. We get fights between Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin against both Sylvester Stallone and then Randy Couture, and Jason Statham against Gary Daniels. We also get a ton of violence. A lot of people get shot to hell. We get a ton of knife stabbings through various body parts, including torsos, throats, and limbs. We get decapitations. We get explosions. We get fire. My favorite action piece, besides the final act, was when Stallone and Statham are in their plane. They dump gasoline onto a bridge, shoot it, and it explodes. Just an awesome, yet violent, visual. I also loved Jason Statham beating the crap out of his ex-girlfriend's boyfriend and his friends on the basketball court. Just brutal. This earns the film's R rating by a mile. A definite highlight.

The cast. If THE EXPENDABLES had a selling point to its audience, it was the various action stars from past and present that appear in this movie. It's like the OCEAN'S ELEVEN of action movies, with action stars that had never appeared in a movie in their hey-day finally appearing together, raising the nostalgia level very high. You got Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Eric Roberts, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Steve Austin, Gary Daniels, Terry Crews, and Randy Couture all in one film. That's insane! Add in Dexter's David Zayas and the still smokin' Charisma Carpenter, and you got a pretty cool cast here.

The acting isn't a highlight, as action films were never really about the acting [
although it does help to have it], but nobody here is really bad and all play their roles well. There are standouts though. Sylvester Stallone plays the idealistic Barney Ross well, bringing some dry humor and even a bit of emotion to the role. Jason Statham is even better as Lee Christmas. He's a total bad ass, but he also has some great comedic timing that we rarely see from him these days. I'm sucker for anything Statham, so I really enjoyed him here. However, the best actor was definitely Mickey Rourke as tattoo artist and former associate, Tool. His monologue about witnessing a woman committing suicide while he was in Bosnia is just fantastic due to his serious delivery and the emotion beats he gives the speech. It probably read silly on paper, but Rourke really makes you feel for him. It's sad he wasn't in THE EXPENDABLES 2, as he really raised the level of acting in this one. Just a great cast overall who all had a place in the film, even if not everyone had the best material to work with overall.

The final act. The last act of THE EXPENDABLES is an all-out, over-the-top violent set piece that will please the action gods. Just all around badassery at its finest, with the good guys and the bad guys just beating and the shooting the shit out of each other. It's everything you want to see during the conclusion of an action film, as the story just descends into beautiful chaos. Most of the action stuff happens here, and it's worth getting there just to witness it.

The soundtrack.
- I loved the music used here in THE EXPENDABLES. We get George Satellites' "Keep Your Hands to Yourself", Mountain's "Mississippi Queen", Clearance Clearwater Revival's "Born on the Bayou", and Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back In Town". As a huge fan of classic rock, the music here was right up my alley.


- The direction and editing. This was a mixed bag for me because I usually dig Sylvester Stallone's directorial work. He directed four of the ROCKY films [II, III, IV, and ROCKY BALBOA - his comeback film], STAYING ALIVE, PARADISE ALLEY, and RAMBO. While the quality of the films vary, his direction work has been pretty much solid.

Unfortunately, I have no idea what happened with
THE EXPENDABLES. I will say that the quieter, more dramatic moments are shot well and the film has a grittiness to it that I liked. However, this is an action film and the direction during these sequences are very flawed. During many of the one-on-one fights and during a car chase scene, the camera would shake so much, I almost got dizzy. Not only that, but the editing is so choppy during these scenes that you barely get to enjoy the fights. Also during random portions of the film, the editing was just odd and very noticeable.

I expected more out of Stallone. He's a huge action star and he's a good director.
RAMBO was an awesome action film where this style worked. But it hurt THE EXPENDABLES for me. The visuals should have been tighter and better.

The CGI. I'm not against CGI effects and modern action films use them to enhance the scenes visually. But they looked pretty tacky here, especially during the final act. Watching buildings crumble after exploding looked really fake. It was like watching real human beings run away from a cartoon. I guess budget reasons stopped the filmmakers from constructing real set pieces that would have been brought down, so I get that. But during a really awesome final act, these effects stuck out like a sore thumb when everything else looked realistic.

Not the most interesting plot. I'm not expecting an action film like THE EXPENDABLES to have the greatest script or even the best narrative. People watch these films for the stars and the visual violence they're eager to enjoy. But action films should still have a bit of depth to them. The narrative here is pretty straightforward and it works on paper. The Expendables are hired by a mysterious benefactor who wants them to murder an evil general dictator and a former government agent so it doesn't come back to haunt the benefactor. It's simple enough and it's easy to follow. But that can only go so far without interesting characters and intriguing situations.

The problem with is that we have this large cast of actors who are best known for their action roles, yet only a certain few get the "star treatment". Honestly, this film is mainly about Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham. They are the only two characters with sort of arcs that are a bit outside the main narrative. Statham, in particular, gets more material to work with due to a romance subplot with Charisma Carpenter. I really like the subplot, as it makes Statham's Lee Christmas a human character who has feelings for this woman, but feels betrayed when she's with another man due to his reluctance to tell her what he really does. It's believable and makes sense. When Carpenter's new boyfriend beats her up, Statham's Christmas finds him and beats the crap out of them. And then that's it! We never really see them reconcile [although it's apparent that they do in THE EXPENDABLES 2] and Carpenter's character is never seen or mentioned after that. And this arc ends HALFWAY through the film. It ends before it can really begin.

But at least it's better than Stallone's arc involving the General's rebellious daughter. I'm not sure if he likes her, or he just respects her pride and toughness during a terrible situation, but I wish more was done with it. Mickey Rourke's Bosnia speech motivates Stallone's Barney to go back and save her from the villains, but I was never sure what his true motivation was. I guess I should just be glad he seems like a good guy who cares about this girl and sees something in her that he sees in himself. But he didn't really owe her anything, so it feels a bit odd. But at least he has a separate storyline.

I can't say the same about the other characters. They are all interesting as stereotypes, but they aren't given much to do other than that. Sure, they add comic relief and a sense of fun to the film. But the film could have been just about Stallone and Statham battling Eric Roberts [
who plays the most stereotypical villain ever] and not much would have been lost besides having all these other actors involved in the film for marketing purposes. I'm not expecting David Mamet or anything, but with a large cast like this, something was obviously going to be sacrificed. I guess it was the script.

By the way, I felt the script took itself way too seriously as well, not making
THE EXPENDABLES as fun as it should have been. It mostly played straight, which is fine during certain moments, but not through the entire thing. Yes, it's entertaining. But it was a bit too serious for me and wish it was more self-aware than it was [although the Stallone/Schwarzenegger/Willis scene was great in that it was self-aware].


I really wish I hadn't rewatched THE EXPENDABLES prior to its sequel. I liked it a lot more the first time I watched it, but seeing it again made me realize it wasn't as great as I thought it was. The story, while having its moments, isn't all that strong and the visual presentation can be really distracting during the crucial scenes. But the cast is impressive and every one of them perform their parts well. Plus the action is top-notch, the soundtrack is awesome, and a solid final act make this one worth watching. A good start to what's supposed to be a trilogy, but not an action film that will blow you away or anything. Luckily, many of the wrongs were corrected in THE EXPENDABLES 2. But I'll save my thoughts for the next review.

3 Howls Outta 4


  1. I spent the whole movie wondering if they were playing it straight or not. As long as Stallone INTENTIONALLY wrote the dialogue to be as bad as it was, and purposefully wrote in plotholes, then I think the movie was a stroke of brilliance and a perfect homage to 80s trash like Action Jackson etc...

    Can't wait to see 2...

    1. I'm not sure if that was Stallone's intention or not. Honestly, I think he was taking what he wrote and directed seriously. I thought 2 was a lot better in terms of tone and flow.

  2. I think if you really loved the old 80′s and 90′s action films that I grew up on, you would see that even though the story is a bit weak, which Stallone doesn’t help much with, you can look at the action in a good way. I don’t know why I liked it as much as I did, but I had fun for the most part. Good review Fred.

    1. I grew up with those movies so I get what you're saying. But that's no excuse for a weaker than necessary narrative. And if the action was shot better, which it wasn't for the most part due to the shaky cam and the choppy editing, I could probably look past it. It's a fun film for sure due to nostalgia. But it should have been a lot more fun than it was. I thought the second film actually got it mostly right in terms of a better narrative and better action. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Definitely agree with your review, hated the shaky cam, but it was great to see all those action stars on the screen.


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