The Expendables - Blu-ray Review

'as a director, Stallone just doesn't have the necessary technical skills to pull off a good film'

Whilst not the most important facet of The Expendables, its worth noting right from the off that Sylvester Stallone's poor excuse to get his pecs out again features two of the best character names of recent times. Sadly, they're both obscured during the film by mumbled dialogue but a quick visit to IMDb will reveal that Terry Crews plays a character called Hale Ceasar and that Randy Couture's on-screen moniker is Toll Road. Just genius.

Away from inventive names, the script by Stallone and Dave Callaham doesn't have a whole lot to offer. There's some nice one-liners but more often that not the ideas in Callaham's story, about a group of ageing mercenaries called in to do a job on the fictional island of Vilena, prove to be neither big nor clever.

But then again, if you're putting a film into your disc drive starring Stallone, Statham, Li and Lundgren, you're probably not here to watch philosophical musings on time and space. What you are here to watch is guns and action and plenty of it. In that area, The Expendables delivers... kind of. The problems with the film are really all down to Stallone. As an actor his normally weak areas are still present (unintelligible dialogue, constantly blank facial expressions) but as a director, Stallone just doesn't have the necessary technical skills to pull off a good film. Cinematographer Jeffrey Kimball doesn't help (almost every scene is poorly lit) but even without his negative contribution, Stallone just can't seem to frame scenes in a way that makes them watchable. His final shot, consisting of the back of three people's heads, is testament to that fact.

On the plus side, Jason Statham is well cast as Stallone's second-in-command and, despite some of his on-screen time being wasted in an unnecessary side plot involving Charisma Carpenter, the two leads share a likable chemistry which continues to develop throughout. Eric Roberts chews scenery better than anyone here and is great as the dastardly villain. Mickey Rourke, as the group's handler, is also a welcome presence and one scene requiring him to emote more than is typical in this sort of thing is spoiled only by - you guessed it - Stallone's mumbled responses.

This though is the type of film where for every good there's at least two 'bads'. Jet Li is anonymous. Dolph Lundgren is beyond awful and has a horrible conclusion. Wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin and mixed martial artist Couture are pandered to with fight choreography straight from the ring. It should be two hours of pleasant reminiscing, a winking throwback to eighties stupidity, but too often it forgets the fun and the nostalgia, shooting for - and hitting - only the stupidity.

Look further...

'Things that are expendable here: plot, dialogue, taste, well-filmed stuntwork, and any 1980s action star who isn’t also directing' -


  1. It is nice to read a review that actually tells the truth about this movie. It is garbage!!...well in my opinion it is !!
    Everything you have written is right on the money. Stallone can't act and his directoral skills are also on about par. I was deeply disappointed with this when I saw it on the big screen and have been unable to believe the number of people who thought it was either good or great!
    It is neither, and one can't help but feel that most who have seen this are just making excuses for its general poorness.
    2/5 is a very fair score I'm afraid.

  2. Dreadful film, my brother liked it as he felt it harked back to the Eighties actioners (which I grew up with). My main problem is that this film somehow contrived to be worse than those films. I couldn't understand why Stallone, 20 years on from that era, kept all the trappings but decided not to improve on any aspect of them.

    I'm stunned at the thought of an Expendables 2 but at least there is room for huge improvememt.

  3. Just watched this for the first time, and it looks like we're of almost identical opinions on it, Sam. To be honest, it's amazing that Stallone has lasted this long as an actor when you genuinely can't hear around 75% of the words he says. I enjoy Rourke, but he wasn't much better at times - the scenes between him and Stallone needed subtitles as far as I'm concerned. I was really put off by the lighting too, as anything not set during the daytime was just too murky to enjoy, or at times even discern. Considering the throwback concept behind The Expendables, this has to be seen as an almost complete misfire.

    1. The second one isn't any better either I'm afraid. They just don't seem to be in on their own joke - far too serious and technically inept.