The Expendables Review

Published 5 years ago by , Updated August 13th, 2010 at 10:39 pm,

the expendables reviews The Expendables Review
Screen Rant’s Vic Holtreman reviews The Expendables

Well the Summer 2010 movie season is winding down. As usual we’ve had a couple of hits (Toy Story 3, Inception), misses (The Last Airbender, Jonah Hex), and a whole lot of in-between. This downhill side of summer now brings us to Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables – a promised testosterone fest that many have been looking forward to as a throw-back to the good old days (1980s) of macho, cigar-chewing tough guys (with a soft spot for women in danger) who have endless gun magazine clips and cheesy but funny throwaway lines of dialog.

The question of course, is whether Sly and the gang deliver just that.

The film opens with what’s come to be the standard, introduction-to-the-team action set piece. It’s a hostage rescue situation and the nice thing about it is that it’s very effective at establishing both who the characters are when it comes to dangerous situations and what we can expect from the rest of the film. The action and violence factor is made clear right up front in a satisfying sequence where the team takes down the bad guys without backing down even a fraction of an inch.

The team:

  • Ross (Sylvester Stallone), leader of the Expendables
  • Christmas (Jason Statham), Ross’ second-in-command
  • Yin Yang (Jet Li), Chinese martial arts master
  • Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), a borderline psychotic Swedish sniper
  • Hale Caeser (yeah, I know, played byTerry Crews), heavy weapons specialist
  • Toll Road (Randy Couture), demolitions expert

(For a complete history on the stars of The Expendables, check out our “Why They’re Expendable” series.)

Home base for the team is a warehouse that former Expendable, Tool (Mickey Rourke), calls home. Rourke is the philosophical anchor of if not the team, then Ross, who leads it. They’re good, long time friends and it’s Tool who Ross turns to when he’s struggling with a decision. Jensen seems to be enjoying killing now – he’s been in the game too long and can no longer be trusted, and Mickey warns Ross that will happen to everyone who stays in the business too long.

Ross is looking for one more job, and this is where Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger make their cameo appearances. Willis is effective as Church – apparently a CIA higher up who needs a job done in a foreign county, but needs it done off the books. Arnold comes in as an old rival to Ross, and while it was amusing to see the banter between the three characters, Arnold’s cameo felt completely superfluous and the film would have been had he been left out.

The mission is to overthrow a South American dictator, but once the team gets there they find things to be much more complicated than they had anticipated (or been told about). Ross meets their contact there, a lovely young woman named Sandra and played by Giselle Itié. She’s afraid but overcomes her fear for love her country and people. Things go wrong and the team has to escape – in a pretty awesome action scene involving their cargo plane and of course some really big explosions. icon smile The Expendables Review

Ross was forced to leave Sandra behind and it eats away at him – he has to decide whether to save himself or attempt a suicide mission to rescue her (one guess which he picks).

So enough about the story… is the movie any GOOD?

Well, that will depend on you. The Expendables is a movie that I already know is going to split people down the middle.

If you’re looking for anything more than a macho throwback to 80s action movies you’re going to be very disappointed. If you’ve been looking forward to blood, brutal hand to hand, thousands of bullets flying and tons of explosions then you’ll be one happy camper.

Me, I’m somewhere just north of the middle.

I get what Stallone was trying to accomplish here – I just don’t think he quite managed to do it as well as it could have been done. For one thing, while I’m not privy to early incarnations of the script, it seems evident that it was supposed to have more of the aging action stars thing happening than what ends up in the finished film. Among the actors that were approached to appear in some roles that ended up being filled by younger actors were Jean-Claude Van Damme, Wesley Snipes, Kurt Russell (Chuck Norris and Carl Weathers would have made fine additions as well). Instead younger (mostly non-) actors were chosen: Steve Austin (who plays bad guy Eric Roberts bodyguard), Randy Couture and Terry Crews.

The three younger actors mentioned don’t get a lot of dialog, and honestly that’s something I’m thankful for. They’re in the film to look and act tough, and at that, they are pretty damned good. There was one scene where Terry Crews waxed poetic about his uber-gun and it was a pale shadow of Jesse Ventura’s description of “Old Painless” in Predator. Was Ventura a great actor in that film? Of course not – but that leads me to another point…

One of the hallmarks of those bodybuilder-filled action movies from 25 years ago were the throwaway one-liners:

“I’ll be back.”

“Yippee Ki Ay Mother F****r.”

“Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.”

“Hasta la vista, baby.”

“I ain’t got time to bleed.”

“Stick around.”

You get the picture.

With the exception of the aforementioned scene with Stallone, Arnold and Willis, most of the humor in the movie falls flat. You keep waiting and hoping for a witty or even cornball quip that might put a smile on your face – but it just doesn’t happen. Most of the dialog is just plain weak. There are a few decent moments that shine through – in particular a scene where Mickey Rourke is thinking back to the event that changed the course of his life… powerful stuff for a movie like this. There are also a couple of scenes between Statham and his girlfriend that manage to convey some depth of character for the man – and a fight scene on a basketball court related to that which manages to seal the emotional tie between him and his young lady (go figure). I would have liked to have seen a little more screen time from Jet Li, but at least he got more than the professional fighters in the cast.

But other than those and a few scattered moments (usually between Stallone and Statham) the conversations never really seem to click.

Due to that, a lot of the movie feels like waiting around for the next big action set piece or the next hand to hand combat sequence. With the exception of some jarring in-close camera work (which to my recollection is thankfully the exception and not the rule) those scene are most DEFINITELY worth waiting for – and are what this movie is all about.

The fight scenes are brutal, with lots of bone-breaking and blood shooting and splattering. They go on for a while and for the most part allow you to see what the heck is going on (although some of them are a bit to WWF-ish). The big action sequences are pretty amazing as well – the escape from the South American country, both the car chase scene but especially the flight out of there. Damn sweet for action fans. There’s also an over-the-top action sequence combining gun battles, hand to hand, massive explosions, collapsing buildings and a river of fire at the end. ‘Nuff said.

For me, it was great seeing a bunch of guys being guys. Especially the older actors, who were obviously raised before they started putting estrogen in the meat supply. No emo guys here, and even when being introspective they’re muy macho.

So if you’re looking for a guy’s movie that’s heavy on the action and you don’t mind if it’s missing a lot of everything else, The Expendables is for you. So now you’ve been warned: If you’re expecting more from this movie, don’t come crying to me because it lacks emotional depth and character development.


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The Expendables trailer:

If you’ve seen the film, visit our Expendables spoilers post if you’d like to discuss the film without worrying about ruining it for those who haven’t seen it yet.

Our Rating:

3 out of 5

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  1. @Kofi

    You know it is possible for a real man to be both intelligent and tough….

    You seem like the kind of guy who might have a high IQ. Yet it seems to me if society fell apart you would be one of the first to go. I am a doctor but I also participate in MMA. It seems to me that men today have no idea what it meant to be a a man back in the day. Just saying……grow a sack!
    If I was you I would stop looking for Oscar nominations from a film of this nature and go learn to be a man.

    • do you stitch your own wounds? set your own broken bones?

    • “You know it is possible for a real{lead in to lower sentence} man to be both intelligent and tough….

      You seem like the kind of guy who might have a high IQ. Yet it seems to me if society fell apart you would be one of the first to go. I am a doctor but I also participate in MMA. It seems to me that men today have no idea what it meant to be a a man back in the day. Just saying……grow a sack!
      If I was you I would stop looking for Oscar nominations from a film of this nature and go learn to be a man.”

      if you want to argue it proves an empathy beyond testosterone, no doubt low in dht. if you want to mirror me, that is you ellude you have not balls and are not a real man, go take 500 iu HCG for 10 days doc. As for the movie, its sucked, as for your, your wife wont fight back, or could have left you…either case you are here arguing to men to get a boding reaction from men, either come out of the closet or address your low testosterone/dht/leydig cells/fsh LH and stop thinking so much! Dr of mathmatics or Bill Cosby style, jello pudding or in your case tapioca…you sound to be aged…good day sir (jokingly fing with you, mostly)

      • Let’s all relax a little bit there, fellas.



    • Well, tell you what “Lance” (that’s a real tough guy name by the way), when society falls apart I’ll see you in the street and we’ll see which one of us goes first – m’kay?

      I knew what this movie was going to be – I’m the Screen Rant SR Editor, I’ve been covering this movie for almost 2 years now. I thought it was one of the most poorly written/filmed movies I’ve ever seen. Claiming that something has tough guy written all over it is not going to make me just accept poor quality. Kind of like somebody telling that they’re Dr. MMA isn’t going to just impress me.

      I’m glad you liked the film. I didn’t and never will. As stated, I’ll see you at the Apocalypse.


      Kofi Outlaw – That’s my real name, BTW – no “Lances” “Garys” or “Bruceys” in my family. :-)

  2. “Arnold’s cameo felt completely superfluous and the film would have been had he been left out.”

    I dont mean to sound simple minded, but what does this quote mean? That the film would have felt superfluous without arnold’s performance or that his cameo itself was superfluous? I haven’t seen the film yet myself, I was just curious what you actually meant by this quote, its just a little ambiguous.

    • I’m guessing it’s a typo and a word or phrase is missing after “would have been.” I’ve done that. Typed a sentence, not been sure how to finish it, forgotten to go back and do so.

  3. hmm…another high estrogen male….it smells more like meatloaf more than ever in here (fight club ml that is)

  4. I don’t think I have ever seen a movie that made me so eager for a sequel. I knew what this was going into it, and it didn’t disapoint. Bad story, lots of action, cheesy one-liners and one scene to try to make it a cinematic production(thank you Mr. Rourke). So now all I want is more action stars to come together to shoot and punch each other. Hopefully it does well enough to make that happen.

    Psst Mr Van Damme….don’t be a moron and say no this time!!!

    • please mr jcvd say no…IF stallone offers you a part, for the sequel if there is one

  5. Why no anthony?
    Not a fan of Van Damme?

  6. I just saw this with my gf the other day. I actually really liked it, especially Terry Crews and his USAS-12, lol “You better remember this for Christmas!” LMAO!!

    But what I absolutely HATED was all of that HORRIBLY fake looking lasers they obviously added in post-production and the really fake looking blood splatter effects. I understand it’s probably a bit too much to do with nothing but gags and other practical effects, but they just looked soooo bad…

    But otherwise, I enjoyed the senseless 80′s style action in the movie…

  7. Man this movie rocks like nobody’s business I hope they do a sequel this time with Arnold’s team that will ROCK!!

  8. The Expendables is an edge of your seat thrill ride, bring us a sequel stallone this is what action films should be like

  9. I couldn’t agree with you more, Vic. 100% right on from every comment. About 20 minutes into the film, i leaned over to my wife and said “they’d better pick this up, cause i’m getting bored”. And rightfully enough, they do. The action sequences easily make up for the “chatter” and quieter moments. So much so, that they could have easily ended the fight scenes earlier than they did and I’d be completely happy. I found myself thinking “wow, these fight scenes just keep going”, especially at the end. And i loved it.

    I’ve also decided that i MUST have Stalone’s truck. Completely bad ass!

    • Thanks, strich. :)


  10. I love the experiment that went into teaming up the big guns in this, but I did not agree with the foul language that was used by bruce willis in the church. The Church is a sacred place, and its not a place where you use that tone i was offended by this it really put me off a bit. I know they are big guns and action and all that and i am all for good action flicks with big stars like this turning up and challenging each other.

    But i felt the words used in the church could have been dropped, it was amazing to see these actors together in the one scene but then when bruce let it rip that was the low of the low to say such things in a Sacred Holy place, i can tell you he would’int say it in mosq as quick i ask you. The wording would be changed to respect where you filming, but were not all perfect and that goes for me too. this is a review page and not a moral page and i respect that,, i don’t mind if i get critics you all have a right to make a comment, sure there is probably more things to be worried about than my view,, as i am not perfect,, I want to say i look forward to a sequel and wish the best to all i really do ,, God bless

    • Blame it on the suits, they cut the scene where the muscle bound church leaders threw them out. But I think they might have that in the extras on the DVD…

      • I allways find it funny that it’s to no concern to most people that many many people are killed in this movie. But cursing in a church is sooo bad. But well have to have our priorities.

    • ur really upset about bruce being BA in a church. 3 words, grow a pair.

  11. I actually felt pleasantly surprised in some areas of the movies. The action/fight scenes were incredible and gratifying. You get the payoff of a Jet Li/Dolph showdown, you get Jesse the Body reincarnated via Terry Crews, a kick-ass beat down Good Fellas style thanks to Handsome Rob.

    I guess some of the picture quality and color contrast were disappointing, along with some annoying too quick camera angle cutting in the fight scenes. There’s a fairly distinct range of acting in the film. Sly is OK, Arnold is still bad, Jet Li is alright but not great, Rourke is great, Statham is great, Dolph is good, Bruce Willis and Eric Roberts are solid…

  12. Nostalgia-gasm. This movie was pure testosterone, adrenalin pumping cheesy 80′s action. Brutal, funny and really over the top.

  13. This was an absolutely excellent movie so far as I’m concerned. I’ve gotten so tired of how effeminate modern cinema has become. This is what an action movie should be, ten out of ten times.

    In my opinion, the first thing that needs to be done with action movies is to completely remove romance plots. They drag a good action movie down like a pair of concrete shoes. They made the right move with this one. Hell, Stallone didn’t even get the girl in the end. That and the relationship Statham had in the movie boiled down to (you guessed it) another bad ass fight scene instead of some romance drama.