The Expendables

For those of us concerned at the near total absence of sequels or big budget action films this summer, and outraged that Hollywood serves up heartwarming stories of the lesbian family and weepy excuses for comic book adaptations during a period once reserved for movies with a three-figure plus body count, along comes Stallone with The Expendables. Sure it’s stupid and incoherent, and most of the action stars are over 60, but it fits the bill handsomely. The Expendables are a group of mercenaries who, while they work for hire, seem to only take on cases in which they are on the side of the angels (the opening scene has them rescuing sailors from Somali pirates at the behest of the ship owners). We have Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lungren, Mickey Rourke and assorted refugees from the WWE and ultimate fighting.

  • They are given a task to remove the military regime of some fictional island by a shady-looking CIA operative played by Bruce Willis. One of the best lines comes when Arnold Schwartzenegger (and unlike Terminator Salvation, he filmed this while governor) turns down the job. Blah, blah, blah… beautiful daughter of military leader helps them then gets captured by evil ex-CIA agent Eric Roberts. So our motley band have to return to rescue the daughter and take down the regime. Cue 20 minutes of gunfire and explosions. It is interesting that while most of the gunplay in Expendables is of the usual kind — no blood, no lingering on the part of the camera, no consequences — Stallone (who is also the director) does frequently compose shots in which someone is literally sliced in half by gunfire, or a limb is severed right off. He did the same thing in the fourth Rambo movie and it introduces a new and disconcerting level of bloodiness to the action movie. This was on my mind since we are currently having an on-again, off-again family discussion about my younger son’s desire to play the video game “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” and whether said game is too violent for a thirteen-year old.
  • Anyway, good saves the day. Rourke has a speech halfway through the movie about how he wished he had saved a young woman in Bosnia because it would have saved a small part of his soul. We are left to believe that a small part of these men’s souls have been saved.  But we don’t care because we have seen hundreds and hundreds of anonymous dark-skinned soldiers mowed down in operatic fashion for the pervious 95 minutes, and that is what we paid the $5 to see.