The film is crammed with "names" (largely of the past) including
Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren just to name a few. Eric Roberts even makes an appearance as the big bad. There's also some professional wrestlers cast throughout - or so I surmise from the thick muscled bodies and vacant eyed "acting" that would make Keanu blush. Most of the names from the past are members of the "Expendables" - a group of somewhat long in the tooth mercenaries who for the right price will drop off your ransom to Somali pirates or assassinate the head of a banana republic. In between they will engage in what I'm sure they believe is charming banter and contests of skill involving throwing knives. When the wrong mission comes up Stallone suddenly develops a sense of ethics (and/or perhaps the hots for a local girl) and goes back in not for money, but to do the right thing. Which as we all know in this sort of situation means to go forth and engage in some justified ass kicking.
All the cheese would have been perfectly fine if I could have found it fun. I do have the capability within myself to thoroughly enjoy b-movie goings on. I'd almost certainly stop to watch Commando on TV, see as Roadhouse is required viewing and I'm seriously thinking to catch Blood Sport at Central Cinema later this month (for probably at least the 20th time). That said, for most of this film I just could not get into the spirit at all. There's almost nothing one hasn't seen before - and significant portions were actually hard to see. Either due to shooting in too little light (as in the opening sequence) or just odd camera angles (as in the fight between Dolph and Jet Li). It just felt like a lot of resources were squandered - or maybe as in other cases (see The Penitent Man) owning all portions of a production just isn't a good environment to get constructive criticism in.
There are some elements mixed in that just feel out of place. One is Statham's side love interest - largely there I suppose to setup some quick ass whooping to protect her honor. The other is a monologue delivered by Mickey Rourke. OK - I get it, Mickey Rourke can act serious. I loved The Wrestler. That doesn't mean that every script needs a place for him to give long soulful speeches set to SERIOUSLY HEAVY ACTING IS HAPPENING music in the background. Seems that would have been one of the first notes given by someone reviewing this before the final cut was made.
For all the experience in the room parts of the movie make so little sense that I started to wonder if Tommy Wiseau wasn't a silent production partner. Examples include Rourke doing a tattoo on Stallone for under 20 seconds and then basically saying "oh - it's done." Declarations that "we have 20 minutes!" as the team storms a castle (yes - literally) even though no such time constraint had been discussed previously. The General knowing who was there to kill whom regardless of what he'd previously heard, etc. I know this sort of B-movie thing isn't really supposed to need to stand up to the light of logic. And if it wasn't actually quite so boring I'd easily overlook all of this - but as it was I had a lot more time to ponder off dialog than one really shoot in a smash 'em up roller coaster.
It not as though there are no charms in the film. Perhaps the best scene was between Stallone, Bruce Willis, and the Governor of California. Wherein Willis has a cameo as a shadowy figure attempting to hire either Stallone or Arnold to do a job. Arnold turns him down flat - leading to one of the better one liners in the film after Willis asks "what's his problem?" And no - the response is not "he underestimated the complexity of governance in California especially during a recession."
Perhaps this will hold up better as a video rental of some sort. But as a $10 theater experience I think you can do better. For example any of the next several Monday nights at Central Cinema's 80's Action Heroes series. My advice - go see one of those. Have I mentioned that Gymkata screens this Monday?