If you were a fan of action movies during the 1980s, then you would have been very happy indeed. Whether it was Rambo, Cobra or Die Hard there were plenty of big screen explosions and ultra-violence for you to enjoy. But, thanks to the likes of sci-fi films such as Avatar and Inception dominating the screens, the action film fell from its previous heights to land on the low shelves of the direct to DVD film.
“The Expendables” is Sylvester Stallone’s attempt to revive the fortunes of the genre and – in directing, co-writing and starring in the film – he holds nothing back. Gathering together a host of famous action stars – amongst them Dolph Lungdren, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke (somewhere Jean Claude Van-Damme is kicking himself for not getting involved with the project) – the film is a loving tribute to the non-stop slices of mayhem beloved by (usually male) audiences. Its loving recreation of the genre is perhaps the film’s greatest strength. It is also its greatest weakness.
Stallone plays Barney Ross, the leader of a motley band of mercenaries who call themselves The Expendables. On a mysterious mission to the small South American island of Vilena, they find themselves embroiled in a plot concerning a military dictator, a rogue CIA agent and a beautiful girl who wants to see normality returned to her homeland. They decide to solve the problem by killing lots and lots of people. And blowing things up.
Yes, as always in these types of films, the plot is a mere backdrop to numerous set-pieces that allow the stars to show off what they can do whilst kicking, punching and shooting things. The action scenes are well-staged (though sometimes so crowded you can’t tell who is fighting who) whilst the actors, none of whom are going to be in line for an Oscar anytime soon, at least look like there are having fun.
The trouble is that cinema has moved on from the genre: audiences generally like their films with a little more wit and invention than on display here, and the entire film feels somewhat dull and throwaway.
This has been clearly aimed at – pardon the pun – diehard action film fans. Anyone else, who might expect a vague sense of irony, will be sorely disappointed.
Now showing in all three countries.