Sylvester Stallone's cameo-filled action film about a team of mercenaries heading to South America on a mission to overthrow a dictator. Opens September 2 nationwide. Click here for session info
Like a too-hearty slap on the back from someone you haven't seen for ages and don’t really like, Stallone's latest retro folly is unironic, uncalled for and loaded with false bonhomie – but it still hits home at the very last minute.
Don't believe the hype though. Rather than the all-star bonanza promised, most of The Expendables are just that – Rourke (acting everyone else off the screen), Lundgren and Li are bit-parters, Willis and Schwarzenegger make hasty cameos, and the lion's share of the movie is a quip-trading, dick-swinging contest between Stallone (looking like a pig chewing a nettle) and Statham – think Tango And (Petty) Cash.
Despite the casting agents' sterling efforts, the script could have been written by John Rambo himself ("We’re both the same," says Eric Roberts as if reading from the 'Rogue CIA' Agent handbook, "we're both mercenaries and we're both dead inside."), the plot's insultingly facile (there are 'two' unconvincing romantic subplots and a waterboarding scene that plays out like a wet T-shirt contest) and Stallone's direction is as unconvincing as his face. Where's John McTiernan when you need him?
In compensation for this mess of chances missed, the entertaining action scenes – one of which lasts the entire last half hour – are as weighty and gnarly as the actors' grizzled mugs. As heads and vehicles explode against the strobing lights of semi-automatic muzzle flare, it's just possible to squint your eyes and pretend the 1980s never ended, something most of these guys have been doing for decades. Of course, whether this is a grudging recommendation or a dire warning depends on your tolerance for lobotomised Friday night fight flicks.