“The Expendables” may be the only movie in lucid memory where the opening credits received laughter and applause based solely on the cast list. SYLVESTER STALLONE! Claps and cheers. DOLPH LUNDGREN! Little snickers, here and there. MICKEY ROURKE! And the crowd goes wild.
The cast list doesn’t even mention the ephemeral scene where Stallone meets with Bruce Willis to discuss a mission and the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger joins in on the fun (the trailer unfortunately spoils this surprise moment, so I won’t feel guilty for sharing).
The cast list of “The Expendables” is the majority of its allure; aging action heroes like Stallone, Lundgren, and even Jet Li, joining the new, fresh faces of the genre (Jason Statham, Terry Crews), and going on a complete rampage of destruction and violence. The movie’s first kill is one of those glorious, over-the-top moments that literally had me lurch forward in my seat with shock and laughter; some kind of sick satisfaction of watching a bad guy get his due with explosive results.
Stallone and the gang play mercenaries, the perfect role that allows them to kill and destroy yet always remain the heroes because their goal is to eliminate the terrorists and the scum. We root for them as they recklessly toss grenades, throw knives, and blast gunfire at their enemies, and the movie never feels real enough to take seriously, so the anarchy is more about the ride than the repercussions.
“The Expendables” is a mixed bag, for sure. I had a blast, but I still can’t deny the awful dialogue, deadpan performances, and gratuitous nature of the violence and explosions. “The Expendables” is not a good movie, but it may just be a great bad movie.
The pleasure of watching Stallone and crew romp around for this reunion of everything that reigns in the superfluous action genre is fun, to say the least, yet even the roller coaster grows weary after awhile. It’s kind of like watching your grandparents get drunk at a family reunion and rant about the good ol’ days; amusing at first, but after a while you just want to pack up and go home.
Then I figured it out. “The Expendables” is exactly to meathead, action-starved males as “The Twilight Saga” is to delusional, romance-crazed females. For every shirtless werewolf, sparkly vampire, and high-pitched squeal, “The Expendables” weighs its worth through explosions, kills, and cheers from the male-dominated crowd.
It’s not to say that either sex can’t enjoy the other, but each film is specifically geared toward one or the other. And both rely solely on these aspects to drive the film, ignoring basic elements such as screenplay and performances along the way.
My brain may have exploded somewhere within “The Expendables,” yet I probably should have left it at the door to begin with. Stallone is having an undeniable good time, and every costar seems to love the experience as well. The only thing rivaling the combined ages of the cast is the movie’s ultimate body count. Either way, “The Expendables” is enough to feed any appetite for destruction.
Greg Vellante is a film critic for The Eagle Tribune.