A brutishly torpid actioner is a "mangasm" of a movie.
Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables might seem like a hard-hitting nostalgic take on something really supreme like The Great Escape. It just seems to celebrate some of the most notable stars of the last generation or so. But, most of the frequent cineastes aren't probably that familiar with the stars, though it may not matter as they revel in its explosive, frenetic, and bloodshed. Perhaps those who've enjoyed his attempt in resuscitating the Rambo franchise.
At the outset, a hostage rescue mission aboard a pirate craft leads to some intense night vision laser tag with carnal-slicing ramifications as the filmmakers ready the audience for a B-movie bonanza, although one not really that big-budgeted.
The primary narrative (cobbled together from a graphic novel) with a little macho bonding/angst drollness has Stallone's mercenary honcho Barney "The Schizo" Ross taking his team to overthrow a dictator on the fictional remote isle of Vilena off of South America. His weapons and combat specialists include Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), karate expert Yin Yang (Jet Li), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), and Toll Road (Randy Couture). David Zayas is the murderous ducat in Gen. Garza while Giselle Itia spices things up (at least for Barney) as Garza's open-minded daughter Sandra who happens to be a pretty spunky freedom fighter.
Coming on the heels of similar tales (read rogue CIA agents) in The Losers and The A-Team, there is the corrupt and greedy James Monroe (Eric Roberts) and his main minion Paine (Steve Austin) to make the mission more dire after things go rather awry. Roberts and Stallone had a better adversarial thing going in The Specialist.
Blazing set pieces hold together this relentless lethal cinema with a high body count with decapitations and dismemberment even up through the torso.
Statham's nasty knife-wielding Lee Christmas says he wants "to die next to a woman, not for one" and introduces himself and Ross as "Buda and Pest". Their recon mission on the island has them camoflaged riding on something named "Global Wildlife Conservancy." So, Stallone does try to occasionally lighten it up a bit when necessary.
Also, in this brand of mercenary justice is the imposing Dolph Lundgren as the imposing, if slippery Gunner Jensen while Mickey Rourke (Iron Man 2) fits the physical presence of Tool, a wistful womanizing tatoo artist. Tool's in need of his lost soul haunted by his tour of duty in Bosnia. And, welcome cameos come from Bruce Willis as the mysterious Church who offers Ross five million dollars for the mission and more unexpectedly from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who pokes fun at Stallone's "jungle" image and his own political aspirations. A running gag on Li's short physical stature has Lin asking for a raise.
The Expendables is a blazing, uninspired over-the-top barrage with very fit actors to remind us of what made them larger-than-life. The entropy extends to some chases in tight quarters and numerous, constant combat scenes with enough ammunition and piercings to make gritty graphic aficianados happy especially in the final reel. When there is no more dialogue as the weapons are used as words but "The Boys Are Back In Town" rockin on the soundtrack.