The Expendables

Monday, 16 August, 2010

3 stars

The premise

Directed by Sylvester Stallone, who co-wrote the screenplay with Dave Callaham, and also plays the central character of Barney Ross, The Expendables is the name given to a US based platoon of half a dozen elite mercenary soldiers, headed up by Ross.

Little is revealed of their back-story, or how they met or banded together, but we do know fighting and war are their lives. In this world they are at the top of their game and their services are sought out across the globe. As the old maxim goes, when you’re doing something you love, it’s not work at all.

The play

Proceedings open with the hopelessly outnumbered platoon taking on a gang of Somali pirates in the middle of the ocean somewhere. How do they fare? Well put it this way, if these guys were given free reign over international waters, piracy would be eradicated in very short order.

On returning home Ross meets a mysterious CIA go-between calling himself Mr Church (Bruce Willis), who has work for him. If he is up to the task that is. Also competing for the job is another super-commando, Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Little love is lost between Ross and Trench (inside joke?), but “The Expendables” end up with the job.

Their assignment is take out a rogue CIA agent, James Munroe (Eric Roberts) who has installed himself as the ruthless dictator of the small island country of Vilena, located off the South American coast. While Munroe managed to usurp the previous leader, General Garza (David Zayas), he now has the both the general, and his army, at his disposal.

As if six against a small army isn’t bad enough, the platoon also has to deal with former comrade turned enemy, Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), who is out for a very violent retribution, after being turfed out of the group.

The wrap

“The Expendables” is made up of a large ensemble cast, so large in fact you feel that Stallone struggled to find roles for everyone. Mickey Rourke, for instance who plays a chap called Tool, does little more than act as personal tattoo artist for the group, and tell sad stories about former girlfriends.

This deep and meaningful storytelling (one of Tool’s stories even brings a tear to his own eye…) does infuse proceedings with a little sensitivity though, and the men dutifully, like it or lump it, discuss their relationship problems with each other. It all goes to show these guys aren’t just killing machines.

Guns and roses indeed. Some films have to be approached with a certain attitude, and “The Expendables” is one. Don’t go expecting David Lynch or Jane Campion here, this is the stuff of Saturday night escapism, take it, and then leave it. And if you do like it, you’ll be pleased to know a sequel is already in the works.

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