The Expendables
This is one hell of a Bar Mitzvah!

Theatrical Release Date: 08/13/2010
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, David Zayas, Giselle Itié, Charisma Carpenter, Gary Daniels, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke

“How are you here?” – “I just am.” Although these lines aren’t uttered until well into the film, it basically sums up the testosterone fueled, explosion laden and action star-studded “The Expendables”. Written, directed, and starring Sylvester Stallone, it takes a simple premise (mercenaries for hire) and gives the intended demographic what they want (punching, kicking, shooting, stabbing, other violent words that end with ‘ing’).

A good portion of the action star hall of fame cast list is included, with Stallone gathering Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews and Mickey Rourke all together. Those who’ve seen the trailer know that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis make appearances as well, though as one could have surmised, they are super small cameos so don’t go into this hoping for a nostalgic Commando/Die Hard situation to arise.

Each of the main cast members get featured throughout, though Rourke is essentially the old gunslinger who’s left the life behind and merely waxes poetic about the loss of humanity in their line of work and the final stand for Eric Roberts doesn’t involve him going shirtless in a coliseum mine field with a tiger roaming free as Jean-Claude Van Damme exacts revenge (for all its faults, “Double Team” does give the world this amazing scenario).

Speaking of which, although there’s plenty of ass kicking on display, enough explosions to keep a pyrotechnics company afloat in this economy, and cheesy, fun banter between the cast, it doesn’t mean the audience was fully satiated. There’s a glaring lack of gratuitous nudity (if you’re going to exploit this genre, go for the gold) and the film tries a bit too hard sometimes to be more than anyone wants it to be. Whenever the script tries to grow a brain and moralize the situation at hand or develop a story, we get some ‘deep’ collection of words that only have us clamoring for the next bit of action to start up as quickly as possible.

Now, some of the fun afterwards is talking with friends about people that should have made the cut. There are significant actors in the genre missing from the cast list; Van Damme turned down a role (huge mistake and it makes me sad) but there’s also no Chuck Norris, Danny Trejo, Kurt Russell, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Michael Dudikoff, Jeff Speakman, Steven Seagal, etc. etc. However, you can’t cast them all (for budgetary and script reasons) and it does give any sequel ideas plenty of names to include so maybe we’ll see it come to fruition if this finds enough success at the box office.

The bottom line is that “The Expendables” delivers (for the most part) on the premise and it’s just fun to watch this conglomeration of muscles do their thing. A 3.5 out of 5, there could have been a few more fight scenes and much less talking but there’s finally an action film deserving of its genre for us to enjoy and Stallone has created a franchise well worthy of getting the sequel treatment.

Update 8/13/2010
Thanks to IMDb’s trivia section: Kurt Russell said no to a role because he wasn’t interestd in “ensemble acting at the moment” and Seagal turned down a cameo because of issues with one of the producers … I wondered how they were able to film in Jefferson Parish, LA where he’s an actual police officer and somehow didn’t shoehorn him into a scene. Between this and JCVD refusing to participate, my nostalgic heart is breaking.