By Skip Tucker
At 103 minutes, “The Expendables” is an gonzo action movie on steroids, overdosing on testosterone. However, what else would you expect from a movie directed by, co-written and starring Sylvester Stallone? This is most definitely NOT “Eat, Pray, Love.” In the full theater 12:05 am opening screening at the Grove, there were MAYBE five women in the audience. (Sidenote: There WERE several of the guys in attendance who worked as stuntmen on the movie. They treated us all to an impromptu gymnastics and martial arts demonstration prior to the movie).
So, here’s the plot. Stallone is “Barney,” the leader of a group of motorcycle-riding mercenaries who get their jobs through a tattoo artist, played with a grizzled glee by Mickey Rourke (who steals every scene he’s in). The movie opens with the group freeing some sailors taken hostage by Somali pirates. In a precursor of what’s to come, the pirate ringleader gets literally blown in half during the inevitable firefight. Unfortunately, there’s a problem with one of the Expendables – a sniper named Gunner (Dolph Lundgren, who last faced up against Stallone in Rocky IV) is strung-out on drugs and goes off the deep end (who could tell?) and attacks one of his own team. Apparently, being a murdering psychopath is okay, but (as Mr. Mackey says) “drugs are bad,” and he’s forced off the team.
For the next mission, a mysterious Mr. Church (Bruce Willis, in a one-scene cameo) hires the mercenaries to assassinate a general of a fictional Caribbean nation an island where the inhabitants speak Cuban Spanish.
Follow so far?
The honorable Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, makes his less than two-minute onscreen appearance in this scene trading insults with Stallone:
Schwarzenegger: Give this job to my friend here. He loves playing in the jungle, right?
Bruce Willis: What's his problem?
Stallone: He wants to be President.
It’s pretty easy to tell the bad guys from the good guys in this movie. All the bad guys wear red berets that never fall off. Wearing a red beret in "The Expendables" is as dangerous as wearing a red shirt on "Star Trek."
Rounding out the cast are Eric Roberts as the rogue ex-CIA agent and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as his muscle, Jason Statham as Barney’s best friend and right-hand man, Terry Crews as the guy with a love affair with REALLY big guns, Randy Couture as the therapy-loving killing machine, and Jet Li as the comic relief – the butt of all the short jokes.
The fights are bigger, the guns are louder, the explosions more epic than in any other film in recent memory. There are plot holes you could drive Stallone’s ego through; it’s not going to win any Academy Awards, and it’s bound to garner a warehouse full of negative reviews, but the boys and I loved it.
A warning, however, to any woman thinking of attending “The Expendables”: you may leave the theater needing to shave your newly acquired beard.