The Expendables (2010)

the expendibles

“Everything is harder for me. When I’m hurt, wound is bigger, ’cause I’m smaller. When I travel I need to go farther.”

The Scoop: 2010 R, directed by Sylvester Stallone and starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Jet Li

Tagline: Every movie has a hero. This one has them all.

Summary Capsule: Fairly nice mercenary gang helps to liberate an oppressed island country.

Justin’s rating: A tall cool glass of Dolph

Justin’s review: I think I can safely speak for most of male civilization when I say that our first impression of the concept of The Expendables was, “That’s… bizarre… and yet… it looks so dang cool!”  After all, rounding up some of the biggest action stars from the ’80s, ’90s and the WWE had potential, especially since antiques returning as action heroes has become en vogue.  Never, ever underestimate the power of nostalgia, especially since we’re living in an era where it seems like no new great action stars are being made.  Might as well borrow from my childhood, I guess!

So The Expendables is essentially a deliberate throwback to 80’s action flicks — you know, over-the-top explosions, machismo flowing in rivers, invincible muscley hunks taking out small armies with unlimited ammo and corny quips.  If you’ve seen Commando or Rambo or Predator or anything from Steven Seagal’s oeuvre, you know what to expect.  In this film, a group of mercenaries find themselves embroiled in a struggle to overthrow a banana republic dictator and his eeeeevil American backers just to save one single girl.  Really, the whole movie hinges on this girl as motivation, and her entire character profile is summed up as: (1) Daughter of the dictator, (2) paints art.  I guess that’s all the motivation anyone needs.  Good thing she didn’t have a cousin in Russia, or Sylvester Stallone would’ve overthrown Putin and installed himself as Chief Comrade.

As far as all this goes, The Expendables is up front and honest with its intent: dumb, loud, bloody action.  And, yes, we get this.  It never really thrilled me, per se, but it was watchable in the sense that you were viewing a friend playing a shooter video game with God Mode turned on.  When none of the good guys are in danger of dying, attention falls dramatically.

However, The Expendables certainly fudged the truth with its marketing of the star power behind the movie.  I’m not sure how Sly Stallone roped in so many action has-beens, but I got the feeling that about half of them showed up for the free booze and refused to get dirty with fight sequences.  So while you may have heard that Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger are in this movie, they only appear in a single brief scene that — story-wise — could’ve been handled via telephone call.  Mickey Rourke just tattoos people and tells stories instead of fighting, which makes his role essentially pointless, and the movie doesn’t really know what to do with Dolph Lundgren other than to make his character crazy, nice, evil, nice and then shove him aside for all of the good stuff.

Reportedly, Jean-Claude Van Damme turned down a part due to the characters being flimsy and without substance, which tells me that the man is much more shrewd than I’d originally thought.

I also just didn’t feel the rest of the cast connect on any point.  The bad guys didn’t sell the “bad” as much as they needed too (anyone remember Gary Busey torching his arm in Lethal Weapon to prove what a crazy lunatic he was?), and the Expendables themselves lacked any authentic-feeling friendships between them.

Ultimately, this is one of those movies where you have to shrug and say, “It is what it is.”  Or perhaps, “You get what you pay for.”  Or, um, “Why didn’t any of those guys break their hips doing those jumps?”

Always good to bunch tightly together to make an easy target.


  • West Coast Customs Street Customs have built 3 customized 1955 Ford F100s for the film. One was built for a crash scene, the second for green-screen, and the third for Stallone to keep.
  • Producer Avi Lerner decided to cut the film down to two versions, a PG-13-rated version and an R-rated version, both of which will be screen tested to see which one will be officially released. Lerner had considered cutting down the violence because of the success of recent PG-13 action films like Live Free or Die Hard. Lerner has claimed that Stallone’s previous film Rambo could have been even more successful, had it not contained such extreme violence and gore.
  • Sylvester Stallone was joined on screen for the first time ever with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. The scene, which took six hours to film, sets up the plot of the film.
  • This film marks Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first film in six years. He last appeared in Disney’s Around the World in 80 Days. Schwarzenegger did his cameo for free.
  • Had she been in the final cut, this would have been Brittany Murphy’s final film. However Sylvester Stallone cut her scenes from the film before her passing due to script rewrites making the scenes obsolete.

Groovy Quotes

Gunnar Jensen: [about to fight Ying Yang] What do you wear, size 3? Bring it, “happy feet”!

Trench: Well, I’m busy right now. So give this job to my friend here. He loves playing in the jungle, right?

If You Liked This Movie, Try These:

  • The Transporter
  • Rambo
  • Rocky IV


  1. Reportedly, Jean-Claude Van Damme turned down a part due to the characters being flimsy and without substance, which tells me that the man is much more shrewd than I’d originally thought.

    Either that or the part he was offered was really lame.

  2. Sounds like the whole thing was really lame. That’s too bad, really. I guess I’ll just wait and rent this one from Netflix.

  3. Great review as usual. You should do a crappy review for once, just to cleanse the palate.

    Anyway, in regards to the Van Damme issue, here’s how I heard it (in text form, with my eyes), verbatim: Jean-Claude Van Damme was offered a role in The Expendables, but turned it down because he “didn’t want his career going in that direction”.

    To which the appropriate response is, “And what career would that be?”

    Still plan on seeing it, even though the love-macguffin sports the precise accent that I have a severe soul-allergy to.

  4. If a Rat Pack movie (where you get a bunch of your buddies together and make a movie because, hey you can) and a fighting game movie (where every character gets shoehorned in) had an actioner baby it would be The Expendables.

    Personally, I’d say it depends on your expectations going in how entertaining it will be. Put your settings on “low” and you should be fine. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. It’s a cream puff type action flick: consume and then forget you ate it.

    Poor Dolph, first Universal Soldier: Regeneration and now this.

  5. I really wanted to like this movie…I really did. By the time credits rolled, I realized that all the ingredients were there to have made this an awesome movie. Sadly the story was nonexistant. What really drove me nuts was the fact that in some scenes it was hard to tell Actor B from C. Maybe they all needed color coded shirts? A splash of Power Rangers may have helped this wasted attempt forward into the realms of awesome.

  6. my problem with the whole thing is the style of directing the action scenes. it’s always either too close to the action, or it moves too quickly, has weird angles, cuts too quickly, and it all really just gave me the impression that something awesome was happening, but I couldn’t tell for the life of me what it was.

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