Sylvester Stallone’s throwback actioner gathers as many genre stars as can fit on the poster and casts them as soldiers of fortune who take out baddies on a made-up Latin American isle where ugly American Eric Roberts has erected a puppet dictator in the interests of squeezing as much dope from cheap labour as possible. Somewhere in all this the mercenaries talk about feelings and ostensibly gain some social conscience. Obviously, the whole thing’s absurd and wildly bloodthirsty. Amongst the more astonishing sequences has Stallone and Jason Statham just barely escape from the island only to double back for no other reason than to slaughter dozens of underpaid local military. Yes, these are the good guys. And if their journey gradually bears vague traces of a Wild Bunch type of suicidal, go-for-broke, final act shoot-up, you can rest assured that the list of casualties will manage to stay extremely one-sided.
The Expendables is not without bizarre points of interest. Plenty of shit blows up for those requiring that sort of thing, but merely beholding this motley assemblage of hulks, he-men and has-beens can be kind of fascinating in its own right. Mickey Rourke especially seems present for no other reason than to present Mickey Rourke. He enters on a Harley, sports his favoured Predator hairdo, does tattoos, smokes a pipe, and gets a teary monologue soaked in regret and despair—is it me or did Rourke invent this character on his own? Jet Li is the butt of many short jokes and that’s about it. Dolph Lundgren gets the nuttiest bit as the loose cannon who turns on his own crew, with lines like “Life’s a joke, shitbird!” and “Bring it, Happy Feet!” (That one’s for Li.) Stallone for his part underplays every scene, his face clay-like and largely immobile, his bulging veins resembling a topographical map of the Himalayas, which might be the place on earth where The Expendables isn’t opening this weekend. It’ll be bigger than Westlemania.
See Wednesday's post for a wide-ranging rooftop interview with Dolph Lundgren