Sly Stallone has been in a lot of films in his career, most have been poor, a few ( Copland, Cliffhanger, Rambo First Blood and Rocky) have been good. This is another addition to the poor list. The power of Hollywood legends is considerable. When Sly decided that he wanted to write, direct and star in this movie no-one was strong enough to say no. The result reeks of self indulgence.
The story, such as it is, is perfunctory. An “A Team” style collection of ageing hard men is called upon to deal with a South American traitor, laced with a risible sub-plot involving CIA double dealing. Obviously this involves a lot of explosions and people being blown up – but that is about it. Apart from some good action sequences, including a questionable obsession with knives, precious little entertains.
An opening sequence in which “the expendables” free hostages held by pirates is quite promising, but thereafter it is only when guns are blazing, knives are slashing and things are blowing apart that any interest is created. To describe the characters as one dimensional would be generous. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a walk on part which is little more than an excuse for a gag. Jet Li’s martial arts skills are woefully underemployed, his presence is little more than a lever to secure interest in the far east. Mickey Rourke reminded us in the Wrestler what a good actor he is, here he has nothing to do of note. Bruce Willis looks smug, about what I am unsure. Dolph Lungren is simply awful, Jason Statham provides a modicum of respectability with some semblance of character and conviction.
Stallone himself tries too much. The story is not up to it, nor is the dreadful dialogue. Why these men are “expendable” is largely unclear, and anything which is not an action set-piece falls flat. Naturally Stallone gets to gaze into the eyes of the female lead, Charisma Carpenter, who looks considerably younger than her years. Crucially we don’t really care about any of the characters, it is nor well written enough for that. Furthermore the good v evil axis is unconvincing. Are ageing mercenaries the good guys? Are all South American Dictators bad guys? Is the shadowy rogue ex-CIA man bad or good? And you end up not really being bothered either way