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August 19, 2010

Movie Review: 'The Expendables'

'The Expendables' opens up with a scene that should've set the tone for the rest of the film: an over-the-top firefight during a hostage rescue mission. In it, we're shown the fire and fury the film's heroes are capable of unleashing and, in the process, we also get a quick glimpse of their individual personalities.

After this, we expect the film to keep riding that wave until the very end. We expect this because, when presented with the idea of an action film where Rambo, The Transporter, Danny the Dog, T Money, Randy Couture and one of the Universal Soldiers join forces, the last thing we want in it is a plot -- much less extensive dialogue. But, unexpectedly enough, we get these things.

After firing-off all cylinders with its opening scene, Stallone and his co-writer (Dave Callaham) decide it's time for the audience to become intimately familiar with the film's plot and characters. This is their biggest mistake. When an action film has an all-star cast of action heroes that the audience knows from their countless other films, introductions are not necessary. These are characters made to get by on nothing but pure attitude and one-liners. Still, Stallone feels it's necessary for us to spend some time watching them chat incoherently.

Next in line is the films attempt at an emotional core. The film could've done just fine as the story of a group of mercenaries on one last suicide mission, but instead of taking this route and skipping right into more gunfights and mixed martial arts showdowns, even more time is wasted. Now, we get to follow Stallone's character through the process of realizing all he's looking for in his life is redemption -- this, however, isn't too intolerable thanks to some action scenes that are placed in between all of these "heartfelt" moments.

When the film finally remembers what it's supposed to be doing, though, the audience gets exactly what they wanted: a final showdown between the Expendables and a small army. One that might just be the mother of all gunfights this summer, and that will remind you of Charlie Sheen taking out an entire guerrilla squad by himself in 'Hot Shots 2' -- in a good way.

There are two types of highly enjoyable action films: the one's that are so over-the-top and conscious about it that they become great spectacles, and the one's that provide us with a great story and execution. 'The Expendables' should've been one of the formers, but it refuses to roll with it and tries to be taken seriously. This leaves it floating around in the middle as an average throwback action film. Still, if you're feeling nostalgic, and are looking to have a fun with your childhood friends, consider giving it a try.

Score: 3 out of 5
Confused about our scoring system? Read this explanation.


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