Its comforting to know after experiencing THE EXPENDABLES that Sylvester Stallone will once again find himself on the list of Razzie nominees for 2010, and because he is the director, co-writer, and co-star, it will be in multiple categories. It doesnt get back the time spent watching this generic action flick, but it does provide something to look forward to. How bad is it? At one point Stallone and Jason Statham, as mercenaries working deep undercover on a dangerous mission in a small and generically third-world country are set to meet a contact in a generically seedy bar. A woman walks in and Stathams character, Lee Christmas, asks her out loud and in hearing of everyone else if she is their contact.
It rarely gets more coherent than that. The story is a disjointed series of scenes that are painfully predictable. An ugly American (Eric Roberts) has taken over a cocaine producing venture in the ci-mentioned generic third-world country, and in the process has made a puppet of the government while also oppressing the locals with an imperialism of a private venture nature. Stallone and his gang are recruited by the mysterious Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) to take him down. Its not that a macho action flick that is ridiculous cant also be fun. Alas, this glib, superficial, and cliché-ridden script, rife with unremarkable action sequences, and amateurish dialogue that confuses catch phrases with conversation, is not fun. Its a slog and not a pretty one, starting with a gang of helmeted guys on very long motorcycles pulling into a dark garage for no readily apparent reason, and continuing with a bloodbath on the other side of the planet and lots of really cool red laser dots taking the aim that causes the bloodbath. The putative reason for the bloodbath is for the eponymous ragtag group of mercenaries to save some hostages from the bloodthirsty people holding them. The real reason is to introduce the audience to the way Stallone and his co-stars, Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, and Terry Crews shoot very big guns that chop the bad guys to pieces while not putting a scratch on the hostages. When they get home, they hang out with Tool (Mickey Rourke) at his tattoo parlor where the pool table is always free, and the line of very long motorcycles seems to go on forever. Tool wears a very big two-tone hat, has a babe on the back of his hog, and waxes philosophical is tight close-up about why he has no soul anymore.
Big guns, big hats, big motorcycles, big trucks. There is obviously more being projected here than just a movie. The tough guys posture manfully, stare menacingly, brawl constantly, and shoot their weapons with wild abandon while tossing off quips that are anything but destined for the catch-phrase hall of fame. The vintage testosterone from Stallone and his fellow 80s action stars, Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger in a cameo with an obvious punch line, sloshes across the screen by the bucketful along with that of relative youngsters Statham, Li, and Stone Cold Steve Austin, but the motions the actors are going through are just too ridiculous to make it anything but dull. Li fares best as Yang, bringing in Corey Yuen to choreograph his martial arts fights, though Stallone fails to capture them effectively, and finding unexpected puckishness in Yangs constant complaining about money and his short stature.
The story never finds traction or any sort of logic. Stallone orders a building blown up >after< the dictator and the ugly American holding it have vacated the premises, though the pyrotechnics, and there are enough to send the generic, small third-world into low-altitude orbit, inject the sort of energy that has until there been sorely lacking.
The most interesting thing about THE EXPENDABLES is the ropy nature of the veins popping ebulliently in Stallones arms. Its hard to take your eyes off of them, or to stop thinking of the hours of work that went into creating them. Which, of course, brings to mind the hours that didnt go into writing a good script that would have made this a nostalgic romp instead of a lackluster attempt to reclaim past glory.