THE EXPENDABLES. Starring Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Directed by Sylvester Stallone. 100 minutes. Rated MA 15+ (strong action violence).
Testosterone. No. TESTOSTERONE. No. T-E-S-T-O-S-T-E-R-O-N-E. Yes, and with a huge plus...
Having established a screen presence with Rocky and Rambo (with sequels to both in recent years), Sylvester Stallone is branching out into a new character, Barney Ross, the leader of a squad of mercenaries who, had they been employed by the US military might have stopped the war in Afghanistan in the first couple of days. We see them at once in operation against Somali pirates (a new and topical enemy for movies), total enemy body count, releasing their amazed hostages and getting unobtusively back to the US to await further bookings.
One comes almost instantly. A mysterious Mr Church (cameo by Bruce Willis) urges them to destroy, with extreme prejudice, the corrupt government of a Latin American island (when they are interrupted by a comic cameo, aureole shining behind him, from Arnold Schwarzenegger in some amusingly hostile banter with Stallone and the comment, as he leaves, about his wanting to be president).
Stallone’s mainstay is Lee Christmas, played by movies’ current tough guy, Jason Statham. He is expert with knives, Stallone with bullets which sets up some competitive rivalry in mid-mission. Jet Li is there too (with wry comments about his being small) and some wrestlers, Randy Couture and Steve Austin (and some jokes about the former seeing a psychotherapist).
And, Eric Roberts is there, too, smiling and snarling simultaneously, in a performance that has stood him in good stead in many a B or straight to DVD movie: the master villain.
If you want action, more action and then more action, plus impossible stunts and punishing body fights (Stallone keeps getting up again and again after more physical pounding than was inflicted in The Passion of the Christ), then here you are.
There are plenty of nasty touches, vicious deaths with an immediate aftermath of nonchalant wisecracks. There is also a grim torture sequence when the woman who tries to help the expendables is waterboarded.
The whole thing is more than a bit much for all except the macho, hawkish niche audience.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Released August 12, 2010.