When I first heard about The Expendables, I thought it was just some marketing ploy. You take enough old movie stars, put out the word that they're going to be in a flick together for the first time, and voila! The country starts buzzing. Don't get me wrong, in today's youth-centered economy, it was refreshing to hear Hollywood go with classic movie draws instead of the next young thing. However, there is a lot of potential for disaster here. So it was with a wary mind, that I walked in to see "The Expendables". And all I can say is, I loved it.
Stallone has had a great deal of experience with action movies. But the best thing is, he used that experience to his advantage and learned from that experience. Watching this movie, Stallone displays a rare quality in an action director: restraint. The expectation when watching an event picture like this one is that the story will just be a shoestring tying scenes of hand to hand combat, shootouts, and explosions. With The Expendables, Stallone presents action in the way it should be: as a motivation for the story as well as accenting key points in the plot. Don't get me wrong, the story is typical action fare, but the presentation (which is the core art of any movie) is not. And with keeping the action concise and restrained, Stallone manages to sidestep practically every action movie cliche to present a quality film.
Another key feature of the film is the visible lack of ego. This was a true ensemble piece, with everyone getting time on screen, not just a vehicle for one actor while the rest hold him up. This was done by handing treating each scene as a showcase and handing it to the right actors for that showcase. At the end of the day, The Expendables isn't a candidate for an Oscar, nor does it pretend to want to be. It's an action film, a fun ride with a bit more substance and a lot more style than most. I liked it and I recommend to those of you who are in the mood to have a good time.
I try to avoid spoilers in these reviews, but I do have to say this. My personal favorite action sequence in the movie was the second fight between Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren. The crispness of the combat moves, the excellent camera work, and the overall visceral nature of that battle really stuck with me. Even now, I want to watch it again, JUST for that fight. Check out The Expendables, dear readers, it's a good action flick.