What do Officer John McClane, Ivan Drago and Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer have in common? These characters represent an era of action movies where impressive physiques, catchy one-liners and invincible one-man fighting forces ruled the big screen, not multi-million dollar special effects.
The Expendables is directed, co-written and co-starring action legend Sylvester Stallone, who performs alongside some of the most prominent action heroes both past and present. There has never been such an abundance of skull bashing mixed with testosterone-infused nostalgia.
The film opens on a band of pirates violently taking over a cargo ship off the coast of Somalia. As the crew’s lives are threatened, the mercenary force known as the Expendables shows up, blasts the pirates to shreds and manages to save the crew. Nothing is too difficult for the “super group” of action stars.
The members of the elite team include Stallone, playing the group leader Barney Ross, Jason Statham as Lee Christmas, Jet Li as Ying Yang, Dolph Lundgren as Gunner Jenson, and Randy Couture as Toll Road.
Mickey Rourke plays Tool, a non-active member of the team who provides the Expendables with work. The team’s mission comes from a man who calls himself Mr. Church (Bruce Willis). Church hires them to overthrow a dictatorship on a small South American island-country called Vilena by means of assassinating the corrupt General Garza, played by David Zayas. As Ross and Christmas infiltrate the island, they run into Sandra (Giselle Itié). It is later discovered that General Garza is not acting alone, but is being influenced by the mysterious James Munroe (Eric Roberts).
Later, the team comes together to complete their mission, but complications lead to an added rescue objective. Fighting for the bad guys is the traitorous Gunner Jenson, Paine (Steve Austin), and The Brit played by Gary Daniels.
There are many memorable one-liners in The Expendables, but the most entertaining involves a cameo appearance by Arnold Schwarzenegger and his political ambitions. The action scenes in the movie are choreographed well, particularly the one-on-one fights that nearly always end in a gruesome death. There are brief flashes of depth in the film with the characters of Ross, Christmas and especially Tool providing a bit of introspection, indicating the pitfalls and the soul-wrenching nature of the mercenary profession.
The Expendables is the type of film for anyone who enjoys non-stop action – but it’s especially rewarding for those who grew up in the 80s and 90s, who wrestled in their backyard or for those have the attention span of a goldfish.