It's been a rough year for action films, with releases large (The A-Team), medium (Repo Men) and small (the aptly-titled The Losers)
flaming out critically and commercially. Fortunately, Sylvester
Stallone has assembled a near bulletproof lineup of '80s action stars
and a couple of their contemporary counterparts to forcibly yank
moviegoers into theaters for this week's wide release, The Expendables.
Billed as "the toughest crew of the century," the star-studded mercenaries include Jason Staham, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke and cameos by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. Kinder critics have likened the machine-gunning mash-up to an almost tongue-and-cheek sendup of the Robert Aldrich classic, The Dirty Dozen. Others simply gunned down the action flick.
- It's Another Retread of 'The Dirty Dozen' but what makes this version so unique is its "completely low-tech, brute-force" ethos that creates a "meathead jamboree," writes critic Owen Glieberman at Entertainment Weekly. The film's violence is nearly as exotic as anything in Grindhouse and "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."
- The Male Equivalent of 'Sex and the City 2' quips Lou Lumenick at The New York Post, leveling the film with what is intended to be an unflattering comparison. "As in 'Sex and the City 2,' the barely-there plot is the barest of pretexts for bonding rituals...in truth, the most serious eyelash-fluttering and flirtation is going on among the aging muscleheads."
- Where Is Jean-Claude Van Damme? asks The New Yorker's Anthony Lane, who flatly panned the script as "savage yet inert, and breathtakingly sleazy in its lack of imagination." The film, which tries to play it straight-faced with the group of has-been action stars, is bereft of any "shafts of irony or pathos" and it's not even worthy enough "to touch the holster of 'The Wild Bunch.'"
- Action as Timeless as the Reptilian Brain and the movie's Neanderthal tendencies endear it to Village Voice critic Nick Pinkerton. He writes: "Rocky's creator is a promoter at heart, and in his career's third act, Stallone is hawking nostalgia...the movie is a throwback to '80s run-and-gun action, when Hollywood gym rats made boffo box office depopulating Third World countries."
- One Hopes Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal Appear in the Sequel writes Jen Yamato at Movies.com. It "more than delivers on its promise to be the manliest movie ever made. After all, we all need a little testosterone injection in our lives, and we're not gonna get it from Julia Roberts or Michael Cera."