Dropout UK @ The Expendables Private Press Screening, Leicester Square

Sly Stallone Gives His Old Buddies A Well Deserved Crack At The New Holywood

There are those for whom ‘The Expendables’ was always going to be a significant event. With cultural commentators intent on predicting trends pertaining to Hollywood masculinity, it is possible that with ‘The Expendables’, Sylvester Stallone has begun and concluded the resurrection of 80s brawn within the space of 103 minutes.

Whether this is to be considered a successful adieu, or an unnecessary rehashing of a bygone era, will be largely dependent upon your approach to the picture’s premise. Any preconceptions you have will almost certainly not be confounded. Whereas some films are promoted with an image that is not relatable to the actual experience, ‘The Expendables’ is everything you will have imagined it to be. Those hoping for a work of escapism that exhibits countless explosive set-pieces will not be deterred.

Introducing our troop, Stallone (directing as well as starring) chooses to begin his story of experienced and deeply vicious combatants with the concluding of a brief assignment; for reasons that do not appear to relate to anything other than financial prosperity, Stallone, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren et al. are aboard a pirate ship where they are responsible for the liberation of a group of hostages. In a very precarious situation, our heroes nonchalantly employ visceral violence to successfully navigate the mission. And this brutality sets the tone for a film that seldom sustains ten minutes without a violent episode occurring – although comical and self-aware, it is not advisable for a person of a sensitive disposition to enter this film without certain expectations of gratuitous gore.

‘The Expendables’ has no delusions as to its identity. Stallone, choosing to homage roles like Rambo that have come to characterise his acting persona, has taken the genre that one would most freely associate with the ensemble, and condensed their legacies into one single narrative. Criticisms will likely be evaded due to its unashamedly transparent concept.

The majority of the plot revolves around the mercenaries and their attempt to dismantle a South American totalitarian regime on the island of Vilena, things complicated by the financial interests of American James Monroe (Eric Roberts, chaperoned here by bodyguard Stone Cold Steve Austin). It is necessary for him that this dictatorship is preserved so as to ensure his investment is in no way threatened.

Naturally, this predicament allows for a tally of accomplished combat to be demonstrated, not to mention a couple of obligatory love stories to be woven into the plot. Despite the unfathomable combined age of these actors, the active sequences are generally handled well – it is the close-ups and bursts of indecipherable dialogue that expose Stallone and Lundgren’s rugged weathering – and the choice to shoot much of the exterior action in Brazil allows for some beautiful scenic moments.

This film could succeed quite handsomely at the box office, but it should not be confused as anything other than a potent work of nostalgia. With cameos from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, and a nice turn from Mickey Rourke, fans of archaic action and B-movies will not be disappointed by Stallone’s revisiting of past glories.

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