In the rousingly explosive ’80s-pulp climax of The Expendables, Sylvester Stallone’s old-tin-soldiers-of-action mercenary thriller, the director-star and his right-hand lug, Jason Statham, lead a band of commandos in an assault on the island fortress of a corrupt general. The funny thing is, they don’t really have a plan. The ”plan” is this: They show up and attack the general’s men with fists, knives, and very big guns. The way that Stallone directs, though, every machete thrust and relentless round of bullet spray is staged with a certain undeniable…conviction.
Retreads of The Dirty Dozen are now a dime a dozen, but what’s distinctive — and backwardly fun — about The Expendables is that it’s a completely low-tech, brute-force movie, a real meathead jamboree. There are no video-surveillance scenes, no computerized weaponry or digital gloss. The movie doesn’t have that stuff because Stallone doesn’t think that way. And yet, by sticking to his primitive guns, he has made a film that not only blows up real good but, at times, seems as exotic as anything in Grindhouse. I do wish that some of the action all-stars on the film’s poster had been given more to do. Dolph Lundgren, as a junkie turncoat, is roughly magnetic, but Bruce Willis, as the CIA honcho who hires Stallone’s crew, is barely in the movie (ditto for Arnold Schwarzenegger — he, Bruce, and Sly have a brief, amusing testosterone summit), and Mickey Rourke, as a tattoo artist, waxes poetic but never does get in on the action. As for Stallone, he grimaces purposefully in his El Greco beard, and he keeps the body count coming so that it sates you like a junk-food craving fulfilled. B