With 2008’s Rambo, Sylvester Stallone, delivered something action fans had been yearning for, a high intensity macho fest filled with brutal action sequences and explosions. It also gave a glimpse of where Stallone may be headed when his days of being the king of macho are over because Rambo was very much a well directed action film. However Stallone was not quite ready to let his acting career walk into the sunset and thus he has delivered what he may vary well consider his magnum opus, The Expendables.
Simply put The Expendables is a tribute to the type of films that made Stallone into the star he is today. It is hands down the greatest assembly of action stars in one project ever and the names alone (Stallone, Statham, Li, Schwarzenegger, Willis, Lundgren, Austin, Crews, Couture) will make action film fans break out in cold sweats and have heart palpitations. But great casts have been assembled in the past, sometimes with disastrous results, thus The Expendables has a lot of expectations riding on it.
When compared to a film like Inception, The Expendables is playing in the shallow end of the pool. There is no depth to what is presented in Stallone’s film. The story is simple, The Expendables are a mercenary team and need to take out a warlord and his evil American handler. The acting straddles the line between being surprisingly good to being awfully bad, Steve Austin in particular is atrocious. And there is no doubt how the film is going to end being as the plot is about as straight forward as drawing a line with a ruler. But you know what? It doesn’t matter because The Expendables is a dose of pure testosterone, machismo turned up to 11 and a plethora of explosions to top it all off.
Speaking scientifically, The Expendables is bloody brilliant good time. It is fun and it does not take itself seriously, which is something not many movies can say about themselves. But the reason it succeeds is because Stallone as an actor, a writer and a director, knows what works in a film like this and he was not afraid to pull out all the stops to deliver something that action fans can latch on to and enjoy.
One thing about Stallone’s direction that really stood out to me though was his use of the camera. One of my personal biggest pet peeves in recent action films is the use of quick cuts and shaky cam to artificially enhance the action. To me it doesn’t enhance anything except my confusion during the scene. Stallone takes the old school approach and it pays off quite well. He allows action scenes to develop and progress on camera which in my opinion makes for a more enjoyable sequence.
Only Stallone can answer if this is his swan song as an action star but with The Expendables he certainly has something to be proud of. Not only does The Expendables assemble a great cast of pure machismo, it actually succeeds in being an entertaining film. And sometimes, being entertaining is all that really matters.
4 out of 5.