For anyone who grew up on the bloody violence of 80s action movies "The Expendables" is like a dream come true. Not only does it see Sylvester Stallone lead an ensemble of action stars from the 80s, 90s and 00s it also sees him briefly share the screen with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. What could be better, well for me it is also the fact that whilst we have 80s action where people get shot and blood spurts we have a set up which takes us back to the 70s and such movies as "North Sea Hijack" and "The Wild Geese" as we have a team of men sent on a mission rather than just one action hero. That for me makes "The Expendables" something rare in this day and age, an action movie about the action rather than pretty boys looking good.
Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone - Rocky Balboa), leader of a group of highly trained mercenaries is approached by the mysterious Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) with a mission. The mission is to assassinate General Gaza (David Zayas) the dictator of a small South American island. Along with right hand man Christmas Lee (Jason Statham - Death Race) they head to the island to scout it out and make touch with their liaison Sandra (Giselle Itié). But all is not as it appears and when they are forced to flee the island leaving Sandra behind Barney has to make a decision, whether to forget all about it and Sandra or go back with the team and try and rescue her.
So "The Expendables" takes us back to the 70s when it comes to the story, not in that it is set in the 70s but we have the idea that a government agent secretly pays for a group of mercenaries to go to an island to deal with a despot leader. And that is basically it, "The Expendables" summed up in one single sentence because that is it; oh there are sub plots such as one of the team, Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), losing it and becoming uncontrollable as well as a semi romantic, relationship subplot. But at its heart "The Expendables" is simple, mercenaries, an island, a General, drugs and a hell of a lot of action.
But to be honest "The Expendables" is not a movie you really watch for the story but for other reasons starting with who is in it. Here we have a collection of action stars from the 80s to the present, so you have the muscles of Stallone, the quickness of Jet Li and the snappy action of Jason Statham. Add to that parts for Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Steve Austin and Mickey Rourke and you have an impressive cast of big men who know their way around violent movies. Plus we get the fun of having Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis sharing the screen together all but briefly which gives us some great tongue in cheek humour.
This collection of stars leads to the next reason and that is the action delivered by men who get dirty, get hurt and deliver death in various ways. So you have Stallone wielding a big gun, Statham throwing knives, big explosions, martial arts and I could go on as there is such a variety of action to enjoy. And people die in visual ways, a knife sticking out from the side of a head, a neck snapped, limbs chopped off this 80s action delivered with modern style and man does it work.
And to be honest that is it, "The Expendables" is about watching proper action delivered by proper action stars where people die in a visual manner. Yet this is not gratuitous, mindless violence, it is not porn for those who get their kicks from violence because whilst it is slim the storyline still drives the action, giving it reasoning. I suppose for those who never saw the likes of "Commando" or "Predator" may be shocked but this is what fans of 80s action have missed for so long.
What this all boils down to is that "The Expendables" is a 70s idea, with 80s violence and action heroes from the 80s to the present. You don't watch it for the story but because this is big men with big guns blowing people up and kicking butt.