Could it have been better? Sure – you only have to look as far as Sylvester Stallone‘s previous directorial effort/starring vehicle, “Rambo”, which was more satisfying in just about every way, not the least being the fact that it had Sly returning to one of his most iconic characters. Whereas this Barney Ross he plays here doesn’t hold a special place in the hearts of action fans, even after they’ve seen “The Expendables”. It’s an enjoyable enough Stallone performance, but hardly an unforgettable one.
As for the other mercenaries Barney teams up with, they’re even less memorable. Jet Li, Randy Couture and Terry Crews are practically glorified extras (even though the latter gets the coolest toys!), and while Jason Statham is given considerably more screen time, he didn’t do much for me either (he rarely really does, to be honest – can’t say I’m a big fan of the guy).
Faring better are Mickey Rourke as an eccentric tattoo artist who quit the merc life, Eric Roberts as a rogue CIA agent running a drug cartel in the fictional South American country of Vilena (it’s probably near Val Verde!), and especially Dolph Lundgren, who steals the film as a merc who ends up working for the bad guys, not unlike Bennett in “Commando”. While brief, the touted scene that brings together Stallone with the two other greatest action stars of the ’80s, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, is also kind of awesome.
The screenplay, co-written by Stallone with Dave Callaham, is filled with nothing but clichés, macho bullshit and “bad Shakespeare”, and the direction is marred by an over-reliance on close-ups and quick cutting. That being said, what truly matters is that the action scenes are as violent, ridiculous and over the top as you could hope for, with countless gunshots, thrown knives and explosions making for an insanely high bodycount. If this sounds good to you, do go see “The Expendables”, you shouldn’t be disappointed. If not, hey, you can always go see “Eat Pray Love”…