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The Expendables

Utterly Expendable

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars.

Sylvester Stallone is back with a motley crew of action heroes from the past and present in the testosterone drenched action blockbuster, The Expendables. In this film, you’re treated to Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, and even an appearance by the Governator himself. Bodies will fly, blood will gush, and terrible dialogue will fill your ears.

The plot, which is largely irrelevant, involves Stallone and his gang of “expendables” heading off to some island to take out a tyrant who rules the people of said island with an iron hand. Naturally, there’s a damsel in distress thrown into the mix, which is the real reason Stallone takes on this impossible mission. All of this is an excuse to blow stuff up and eviscerate countless island cronies.

What you’ve really got with The Expendables is one of the funniest action film parodies ever made. The opening of the film includes a gruesome shot of Dolph Lundgren literally blowing a terrorist in half with his gun. It should be appalling and disturbing, but it is actually absurd and hilarious (like almost everything else in the film).

The tone of the film is set early and if you’re expecting anything other than the most ridiculous explosions or the most implausible fight sequences, you’ve got another thing coming. The Expendables rivals the bloodiest first-person shooters ever made and serves as homage to the worst action films of the 80s.

But, The Expendables boasts more than gratuitous gore and obscene ass kickings. Stallone’s homage to action films from the 80s (and presumably The Dirty Dozen) is rife with some of the worst dialogue uttered in years. This is saying something given that there aren’t a lot of opportunities for talking in this one.

There are laughs aplenty to be had just by listening to these beefcakes utter gems like, “It will take a miracle to get out of this one alive!” Agreed. Ninety minutes of this nonsense is not for the faint of heart.

Virtually every line uttered is a cliché or feels like something that has been recycled from a mélange of bad action films. Stallone isn’t solely the fall guy for the feeble dialogue as he had help from Dave Callaham (who penned Doom). But, this film has Stallone’s fingerprints all over it, and was clearly borne of a wet dream he had during his heyday.

Stallone does deserve some credit for assembling a heavyweight cast. Unfortunately, it’s largely wasted. The reality is that even the actual “actors” in The Expendables are one-trick ponies, and not terribly good ones at that.

Dolph Lundgren has been relegated to straight to DVD action schlock for good reason — he’s a terrible actor. Jet Li is marginally better, but he’s at his best when his mouth is shut. Bruce Willis has an all-too-brief cameo in a church (his name is Church, naturally). The performances of Randy Couture and Steve Austin are completely forgettable.

The remarkable thing is that despite all of these criticisms, The Expendables actually does manage to entertain, provided you accept the fact that the film is actually a comedy. The cast, the violence, the dialogue, and everything in between were designed (inadvertently) for laughs. Once you accept this, you can tolerate The Expendables. But, it’s still an awful film any way you slice it, and if Stallone wasn’t involved, this film would have gone straight to DVD.