The gun show is in full effect in The Expendables, an old school action ensemble tailor made for our nostalgic times.
Leading the charge is action icon Sylvester Stallone, who takes on writing/acting/directing duties to create a consistently entertaining and unapologetically violent action magnum opus, where men are given free rein to blow shit up and beat each other down with extreme prejudice.
Joining Sly is a league of action heroes sure to make the most ardent of action fans squeal like a tween girl at a Justin Bieber concert. Brit Jason Statham and martial arts superstar Jet Li share the frontline with Stallone, while the likes of Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Steve Austin and Mickey Rourke offer strong support, as only they know how.
Adding to the star wattage are cameos from Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who for the first time share the frame with Stallone in an inspired scene which features plenty of inside baseball dialogue for fans of their movies, yet unintentionally dregs up a sense of regret, that if only they could have done the same during their glory days.
The crux of the film focuses on a group known as the Expendables, mercenaries who are willing to take on the jobs everyone else turns down.
Much like Stallone’s Rambo, his Expendables have become soulless men of war looking for deeper meaning in other quarters, but can only find redemption in battle. A somewhat out of place, yet touching monologue delivered by Rourke (written by Stallone, something of a specialty) taps into the void felt by these soldiers of fortune whose lives have become meaningless.
The righteousness of a female freedom fighter (Giselle Itie) invigorates Sly and his crew of warriors to take out the dictator of a small island (David Zayas), and his ex-CIA agent backer (Eric Roberts, perfectly slimy) who is literally making a killing from the drug trade.
Cue much bloodshed and one-on- one machismo, with Stallone playing Robert Altman as every member in his handpicked action ensemble is given their chance to shine in some brutally violent sequences, played by men who understand action choreography and execute their movements with precision.
Shepherding their performances is Stallone, who has become an action visionary behind the lens, favouring yester year techniques to bring a grit and physicality needed in these CGI heavy times. Impressive too is Stallone’s ability to add a spiritual and moral context to his work, the notion of “Just War” a common theme in not only The Expendables but throughout his action career.
There are flaws: dialogue is not a strong suit, what little CGI used is not of the highest quality, and Stallone’s insistence to shoot tight and shaky can prove a distraction from the hard work displayed on screen.
Yet much like its soundtrack, The Expendables is pure vintage hard rock, void of class, best played loud, and dripping with testosterone.