“Breathtakingly sleazy in its lack of imagination.” “The brain-dead male equivalent of ‘Sex and the City 2.’” “…Forgets to include non-spazzy direction, a coherent plot, dialogue that actors can speak without cringing, stunts that don’t fizzle, blood that isn’t digital and an animating spirit that might convince us to give a damn.” These are some of the reviews that whetted our appetites for seeing The Expendables.
It all began when word spread about a film like no other. A film which featured John Rambo, the Terminator, Ivan Drago, John McClain, Randy “The Ram” Robinson, Chev Chelios, the Old Spice guy, an Ultimate Fighting Championship Hall-of-Famer, and a WWF/E World Champion, all interacting in one place. A film whose trailers do not even allege the pretense of a plot.
The film begins with vaguely justified violence, but that violence becomes amplified to make up for anything else that could possibly occur on-screen. Every potentially relevant plotline in the film is either shot in the face with a gun that inexplicably causes explosions or stabbed in the throat with a knife (that, for all we know, inexplicably causes explosions). Every opportunity for back-story is blocked, including that of Li’s character Ying Yang’s (…that’s right— Ying Yang) insistence that he has a family, since he later admit that he does not, yet there are no repercussions from the other characters. It is as if the dialogue was all improvised by people who wanted everyone else to look bad.
The movie gives the viewer no sense of repercussion—from Stallone (Barney Ross, the only sensibly-named character in the film) and Statham’s (Lee Christmas) unpunished FUI as co-pilots to Dolph Lundgren’s (Gunner Jensen) shrugged-off bullet-to-the-chest, to Mickey Rourke (Tool) giving Stallone the world’s quickest tattoo as he turns around, jerks his body back and forth, and chats with others. Barely containing a tangential sequence of events, the film left us unable to identify any sort of plot devices, from climax to object to, hell, cogency. These devices are so absent that the English major amongst us had to check Wikipedia for examples; The Expendables erased any memory of them. The absence of these film standards also left us without any concept of how long the film was. One might disbelieve how a single film could achieve this much, but the effects are true. We think.
The only real discernible happening in the movie is that at one point evil general character X says “[The Americans] are trying to kill our country.” At first blush, this makes no sense whatsoever. Viewers later discover that the statement is prophetic, however, as the Expendables apparently commit genocide on the island in a series of mostly unexplained explosions. For starters, they run through the general’s mansion, slapping explosives onto pillars that are mere feet from each other. They did not want to simply blow up his headquarters; they wanted to preemptively destroy the other explosives before they had a chance to blow themselves up. There then follows a montage of the Expendables throwing grenades that explode, shooting weapons whose ammo explodes, and throwing an explode-able object to then shoot with a weapon that causes it to explode. Additionally, some explosions happen seemingly without any provocation beyond the mere presence of that much badass.
We cannot say whether or not this review is positive. We cannot convey what happened. We definitely can state it is not as bad as you think it is. We can say you should see it. But we will not say that. It just has to happen. Go allow The Expendables to blow your face off.