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In the last minutes of The Expendables, a casualty gets shot in the chest and knifed in the back, and an entire island is nearly blown to bits. But were you expecting moderation from Sylvester Stallone, who directed, wrote, and stars in the film along with a gaggle of other fading sorta-action heroes? I mean, come on, Steve Austin and Randy Couture? Eric Roberts? Dolph Lundgren?!? A more proper name for this ensemble would have been The Meathead Geriatrics. Jet Li and Jason Statham are the exceptions. (And on a side note, Mr. Transporter, it’s nice to see you smile.) There’s Mickey Rourke, too, who plays someone who’s good with blades but relegated to throwing them at dart boards in his tattoo shop and telling a sad, out-of-nowhere story about the old days and actions that have sucked out “what was left of his soul.”
Perhaps Rourke’s soulless character is metaphor for the big, loud, dumb film itself. As for the plot, co-typed by David Callaham, there’s a South American dictator (David Zayas), his daughter, Sandra (Giselle Itié), a non-specific villain (Roberts), and then the Expendables themselves (Stallone, Statham, Li, Couture, Terry Crews, and sometimes Lundgren), who are ostensibly the good guys.
But the details don’t matter. “Why are you here?” Sandra asks Stallone’s Barney Ross in the midst of some major Looney Tunes violence. (CGI helps blood splatter and body parts fly across the room.) “I just am,” he answers. Yep.
Instead, what’s important is that shit gets destroyed while these 40ish- to 64-year-olds (Statham’s the youngest at 37; Stallone’s the granddaddy) show off how ripped they are. It is, admittedly, fun at first: You don’t expect that first torso to get torpedoed into a wall, for instance, and an early pummelling of the no-good island is gleefully excessive. (Statham’s weirdly named Lee Christmas orchestrates the destruction sitting half-out of an airplane.) There’s even intentional and relatively well-written humor, especially in a scene featuring two cameos, both of which are ruined in the trailer but won’t be ruined here.
But after repeated taunts to “Bring it,” increasing evidence of the barely-there story, and a war’s worth of bullets and fireballs, The Expendables gets pretty tiresome. When it’s all reduced to Boom! Boom! Boom! Bang bang bang bang bang! “[One liner and/or heartfelt exchange],” you’ll still be laughing, but for the wrong reasons.