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.


[poll id="63"]

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

Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:


Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.

If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it. Keep in mind that we do not allow external links in the comments.

  1. Im just glad it’s Rated R and not PG-13. Will be watching this weekend.

  2. Thanks for putting this up V dog. Been wiring for it for days since you mentioned it like two days ago.

  3. Waiting i meant. Stupid droid x predictive text…

  4. vic, you surprised me in your review, i half expected you to tear it down lol

  5. like i said earlier randy and crews weren’t in the movie long enough to be considered ‘team members’ and Li’s martial arts skills where really underused. the camera and editing was really bad, the camera was either really up close on peoples faces or not close enough and the editing made the hand to hand fights end quickly (also camera work made me miss half the punches being thrown).

    if sly fixes those things up the 2nd one will be alot better.

    • we thank you for your review….

      • are you being sarcastic ?

  6. Well i just finished watching the movie I give it 4 1/2 out of five stars, everyone has a right to their oppinion, but i think your being a bit too harsh on the film. the action was great, the funny scenes were funny, and didn’t fell forced. even dough, the scene with Arnold could off us a bit of work, but it was still ok. maybe for the next one they’ll bring the other actors you mentioned. Mr. church did mentioned that he had a team of his own.

    • vic just called it like he saw it, same as you did dont fault him for that

      • didn’t mean any harm, he did say he liked it, but that it could of used a little more work in some areas. but i fell the movie acomplished what it was aming for, hard core action which is what Vic said.

        • i agree wth Luis_PR

  7. Vic, great review. Being a young dumb male who had a few too many before watching, I loved the film.

    • LOL dude seriously? nice

  8. Might still go see it for the action- but the one-liners fell through? Hmm…. buzz kill. xD

  9. Nice review Vic, pretty much what I gathered from the trailer,,, :-)

    And I think I called the 3 out of 5 review, just from the trailer,,,,
    That’s a pretty predictable film my peeps,,, 8-)

    “Exp.” will prb take the No 1 spot but it won’t break any records,,, :-)

  10. One question: is there shaky-cam? Can you actually follow what’s going on in the fights or is a Paul Greengrass/Nolan’s Batman kinda thing?

    • xigbar,

      There is some, yes, especially in the opening action sequence. There’s more in other scenes, but it was mixed with more pulled back shots as well.


      • i didnt think the camera work was that bad. some of the slow parts of the movie really had some too close for comfort close ups but the action scenes were shot pretty well.

        this movie wasnt trying to be smart or artisting, it’s a pure action movie and you gotta respect that it delivers without a story line that was terrible

        • Are you kidding? What storyline? And the camerawork is all close up! The blood is CGI, and almost every action scene is shaky cam!

          If you complained about action in TDK and Ninja Assassin then I claim hypocrisy if you thumb up the Expendables.

          If you tore Avatar a new one over script and dialogue then again, I call hypocrisy.

          This movie should be at the very dusty bottom of a Walmart bargain bin.

          • That is one thing Im really sad to hear.. I hate that CGI blood.

            Kick Ass had it and I think that is one of the reasons I didnt like the fighting as much as I should have….

      • Hmm, ok. Lots of shakey cam can and has ruined movies for me, but it can be tolerable in small doses.
        I guess I’ll have to see for myself

  11. nice movie:
    Sylvester Stallone: the real hero

  12. I take it Stallone left room for a sequel or would one more be one too many? You know when I saw the first story on this I immediately thought of 1986′s “Heroes Shed no Tears,” or perhaps 1987′s “Extreme Prejudice.” Maybe even as recent as 2003′s “Tears of The Sun,” but it sounds like the story doesn’t quite measure up to these, though perhaps the action does. If that’s true that’s too bad I was looking forward to something like those movies. Anyway I’ll most likely see it over the Pilgrim next week…

    • extreme predjudice was an AWESOME shoot em up film, one of Hills best.

      • Hill really impressed with that film juggling 3 storylines, I think it’s one of the most complicated yet comprehensible stories I ever saw. Stallone should have sat down and watched this and “Heroes Shed no Tears” for inspiration. Perhaps it would’ve led to an even better movie…

        • i think they need a second just bc there arnt that many good action movies any more, not with crap like scott pilgrim being made. that kid was good in super bad, now i think he should stop acting the same character over and over again.

  13. I absolutely loved this film. I’m a huge Stallone fan so this was somewhat to be expected but the action scenes and sequences are second to none from any movie that I’ve seen the past 2 decades. Maybe there isn’t quite enough character development but I would think people going to see a movie about a band of five mercenaries would kind of understand what these group of guy are about based on who they are as actors. I really hope there is a sequel and perhaps we can learn a little bit more about some of the individual Expendables and perhaps include a few more old school heroes like Chuck Norris and involve Willis and Arnold more. Who knows? Sly definitely wants to have a sequel and if people go see this movie they can get a little more from a second movie because Sly can get the green light to go ahead.

  14. Might go and see this. Looks like fun.

  15. Worst film I’ve seen in years.

    I went with an entire man squad after a bar run. To quote one guy (the only ex-military guy in our bunch):

    “I feel like Stallone kicked me in the nuts and took my money.”

    I couldn’t stop laughing the whole time – OUT LOUD. It was so bad.

    • Say Kofi did anything stand out for you as being done right? Action set up perhaps or character balance, anything?

      • There is one scene in a basement where LI and Statham kick some serious ass.

        All in all – Statham comes out of this proving he is the baddest man in action right now. IMHO.

        • Thanks for the comeback Koffi, I appreciate that. I’m going to have to rethink this, perhaps It’s just rent worthy after all. All star cast and one scene just doesn’t cut it for me. After all, I passed on “Surrogates” and “Edge of Darkness” at the theater.

          • dont comepare this to suggates

            • Surrogates*

  16. Vic,

    Would you say this is comparable, bloody violence wise with Stalones last outoing, RAMBO?


    • BlueCollarCritic,

      The violence in Rambo was more striking because it had less of an over the top action movie feel – it felt more like a war movie, if that makes sense.


      • Well then it sound slikee its EXPENDABLES today for the Friday Long Lunch break. The best way to see a movie (if you can get a long lunch) because you can get into an AMC theatre for just $5 before noon.


  17. Saw it last night and I thought it was awesome! The fight scenes just put a smile on my face and the biggest “OH ****” moment was probably Jet Li and Jason Statham’s combo. Like some have said the CGI was kind of bad in some parts, but I’m pretty sure this is Stallone’s first film using a lot of it. Rourke was able to show off his incredible acting skills with a great monologue. It’s a fun movie and if you are one of the people that was pumped for it you will not be disappointed. If you weren’t then don’t see it. (P.S. Since someone brought up military guys in their review my buddy and I are both O.I.F. vets and loved it).

  18. my wife and I are going to see it this afternoon, we planed on taking her parents too , but, they are the types who, if they see or hear a bad review they won’t go , i say who gives a sh*t , i love these types of movies so does my wife, it’s just going to save me about $30, so it’s a win-win for me.

    till next time

    • her parents cant make up thier own minds so they rely on the film critics?

  19. @Vic

    Well I’m back from the extended lunch time showing and you called it; a movie about guys being guys and lots of bullets and in this case, knives.

    I was suprised by how strong Rourke was especially at the turning point portion of teh film, the sceene between just he and Stalone; very moving for this kind of film.

    Its starnge to to see Rourke now and remeber him back in his non-tough guy days, before he beefed up like a lifer in prison. He sure has made a strong comeback.

    • he’ll always be Marv to me :)

  20. Good review Vic. Its good to see some perspective different than mine, because i walked out thinking the movie was pretty disappointing. but now that i think about it, the movie was okay. but imho it wasnt the best action film of the summer

  21. I saw this movie and it was GREAT!!! Great action stars great action. Just GREAT, bloody entertainment!!!

  22. It was a very solid actioner. There were both times where it excelled and was lacking. No one can deny the spectacular set pieces particlary at the end where it was pure hardcore action of some momentum, the tone of violence gave it an extra edge too. The combat sequences were also well staged, though this shouldn’t be too suprising as Stallone has proven to be well skilled in fight choreography (see Rocky II and IV especially) As to be expected characterization was limited but the performances were by no means terrible. Statham probaly made the most impact even if the girlfriend subplot didnt really add any layers to his character. The real suprise was Lundgren who provided both moments of menace and humour. The Rourke scene really caught you off guard, as it wasnt in keeping with the film’s tone but it gave an emotional punch and was a high point. Stallone’s character motivation didnt hold – why would be risk saving a girl he’s barely known for twenty minutes? For most parts the whole unit/team ethic just wasn’t there as Stallone and Statham dominated too much first part of the film. I feel this is why it didn’t truly deliver on it’s orignal premise of a ‘band’ of action stars. Screentime needed to be evened out a bit more. The Arnie – Bruce scene despite a few one liners (‘what’s his problem’ – ‘ he wants to be president!’) just felt insignificant. It would’ve been better had Stallone and Arnie met up near the end one on one a la Pacino and De Niro. Li had little to do though his linking up with Staham at the end taking on all comers was a special moment as was Crews literally blowing every one away – (bang, bang bang!!) There is suprisingly enough there for a sequel which on a bigger budget would hopefully loosen up on the seriousness with more banter and come up with a story of more substance. Overall then it was a good fun friday night at the cinema.

  23. Well I’m going to see it tomorrow afternoon. Thr majority of the guys wanting to see this flick have to be between 30-45. That’s when Stallone was in his hay day as a major action star. If you keep it simple the film should be quite good. Not gonna win an Oscar or anything. The avg guy seeing this just wants to see things blow up and people being killed etc. Should be good enough for $8 for a matinee. Some if us liked 80′s action movies Stallone, Willis and Arnold used to make and that’s why we are all going to see it.

  24. I’m going to see it just for the all time cast from my favorite 80′s action flicks and all the great action heroes from my generation. I’m not expecting an academy award winning movie just a great action film with cheesy one liners and impossible gun fights. Can’t wait should be a good film and will add it to my collection for sure.

    • anthony,

      I didn’t try to remember every single action movie line, just give a representative sample to make my point.


  25. M. In regards to your comment your tight on. If people have that attitude they will enjoy it. People expect too much from it and then they trash it bc it didn’t have a great plot. Neither did Commando with Arnold but we all like a good 80′s throwback action flick.

    • how is it the same? The Losers was PG-13, this one is not. the losers held back on all out violence, this one does not.

  26. The movie was really bad. It was boring except for Steve Austin beating Stallone to a pulp. I heard he broke his neck, and I can believe it. The Mickey Rourke character was schmultzy. I really liked the fire sewer though. Anyways I just wasted my Friday watching this garbage. I gave it 2 Stars because it lived up to my low expectations. Sorry.

  27. WWF-ish? I didn’t know there was panda action in it.