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Lots of explosions and an all-star cast couldn’t save The Expendables.


2010’s The Expendables was the first in the Expendables franchise of ensemble action comedy films. The film was written by David Callaham and Sylvester Stallone, who also directed and starred in the lead role, Barney Ross. The film co-stars Jason Statham as Lee Christmas, Jet Li as Yin Yang, Dolph Lundgren as Gunnar Jensen, Randy Couture as Toll Road, Terry Crews as Hale Caesar, and Steve Austin and Mickey Rourke.

A troop of a professional soldiers based in New Orleans, The Expendables, have been sent to rescue some hostages on a ship full of Somali pirates. When the pirates are offered the ransom, they demand more money. A firefight ensues, wiping out every last pirate. Gunner then tries to hang a pirate because “that is what you do with them.” He is stopped by Yang and eventually let go from the team by Ross for essentially being too crazy for this crazy bunch.

Once the team returns home, they are ready for a new job. Barney’s friend Tool, played by Mickey Rourke, has three jobs for them. Two are “walks in the park and one to hell and back” as he puts it. Barney has to choose the hell and back because he is Barney, so Tool sets him up with his friend Church (Bruce Willis).

Barney meets Church in a church and is soon joined by Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger). It is great to put the three action stars together in one film. Some of the funniest moments of the film, and there are many as the cast does send up after send up to each other, come from seeing Stallone and Schwarzenegger teasing each other. Willis asks Stallone “what’s his problem?” referencing Schwarzenegger. Stallone replies, “He wants to be President some day.” Schwarzenegger also goes after Stallone when he says, “Give this job to my friend here, he loves playing in the jungle.” Can you say Rambo?

Church offers Barney the mission and a $5 million payout, but Barney decides they need to go look things over before agreeing to take the job. Thus, Barney and Lee travel to South America for some reconnoitering. As they monitor the situation, they realize the mission is going to be more difficult than they thought. Church has tasked them with killing the dictator of a small island nation, General Garza (David Zayas). Garza is not the real problem- it is ex-CIA operative James Munroe (Eric Roberts) and his bodyguard Paine (Steve Austin) that control the island.

Lee and Barney make a narrow escape with the help of Sandra (Giselle Itie), the general’s daughter. They decide the mission is impossible so they head back home. Once home, Barney realizes they must go back to complete their mission and rescue Sandra, who is on Barney’s side and is totally opposed to what her father is doing.


Barney has to fire the crazy Gunner because he turns on the team and goes to work for James Munroe, the sleazy ex CIA agent. The team knows that this is a suicide mission but, after all, it’s what they live for: blowing up stuff and killing hundreds of bad guys. So they head to the island and the whole thing goes exactly the way you’d expect: Things get blown up, hundreds die, and the country is left in tatters.

They run around destroying everything in their wake, including the Presidential palace, all the while engaging in the smart-aleck chitchat that Shane Black made famous with the Lethal Weapon movies. The story is neither high drama nor terribly deep, but who needs that with this cast and this much firepower? It is straightforward and on point with this genre of movie, which is exactly what matters.

The dialogue is as crisp as an old pancake, and the barely-there female characters make little sense other than Barney seems to need to fall in love and Christmas needs to kick the crap out of the guy and five of his friends that took his girl away. The clichéd lines are as thick as the smoke from all the explosions, and less exciting. There are some painful monologues and enough cheesiness to cover a train full of crackers. You can’t help but wonder if Stallone and his co-writer Dave Callaham are just terrible writers, got carried away with the inside jokes or got drunk while writing. I would like to know.


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