I saw The Expendables tonight and it was like being transported back to the mid 80s, only with Sylvester Stallone now having facial hair that doesn’t exactly suit a man of his age.
There were moments in the opening hour that dragged, mainly involving attempts at invoking an emotional response in the audience for the titular heroes, which didn’t quite work. Indeed, I wouldn’t actually be able to tell you what any of the characters’ names were, so anonymous were their personalities on the page. Instead, the real-life actors and their histories were vital in making the film work. Stallone, Statham, Li, Lundgren: there was a veritable roll-call of action stars throughout. The one scene featuring Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis (with Arnie and Bruce clearly not being there on the same day of filming, unfortunately) was all too brief but had the best one-liner of the movie – why wouldn’t Arnie take the mission that Sly signs up for? “He wants to be President” – and for any action-film fan, this was a glorious moment.
The plot was rubbish, and at times the movie reminded me of a straight-to-video (Eric Roberts was in it, for one thing) shoot-fest with a much bigger budget, but the sheer gleefulness with which shit was blown up and bad guys died in nasty ways, made it laugh-out-loud funny in places. In a good way, too.
The final series of extended set-pieces made Con Air look like an arthouse movie, and the “kills counter” scene in Hot Shots: Part Deux seem in serious need of an update. Overall, The Expendables is the kind of OTT escapist nonsense that’s rarely released in cinemas nowadays, and a breath of fresh air. Not that Hollywood should suddenly start making a stream of action movies like this, of course.
Did I mention that a crazy amount of stuff blew up?