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From left, Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone and Randy Couture in The Expendables. (Karen Ballard/AP)
From left, Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone and Randy Couture in The Expendables. (Karen Ballard/AP)

Movie Review

The Expendables: Too much Sly here, but hey, it's fun times Add to ...

  • Country USA
  • Language English

The Expendables

  • Directed by Sylvester Stallone
  • Written by David Callaham and Sylvester Stallone
  • Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts and Mickey Rourke
  • Classification: NA

Rival mercenaries Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger meet up with CIA spook Bruce Willis to bid on a contract. "Give this job to my friend here, he loffs playing in a jungle," Schwarzenegger says, walking away.

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"What's his problem?" Willis offers.

"He wants to be president," Stallone smirks.

At which point we say goodbye to the A-team - so long Bruce and Arnie - and The Expendables brings on bench players Eric Roberts and Stone Cold Steve Austin to provide further obstacles for Stallone in his new, dangerously impossible screen mission: snatching a bosomy revolutionary from a jungle fortress guarded by machine gun-wielding guerrillas.

That's right, rescuing a damsel in distress. Say what you want about Sly's latest. Yes, it's violent - brutishly so. There's so much slugging and shooting, so much loose testosterone, male viewers might sprout another testicle. And it's sometimes galling watching all these old warhorses camp it up, decorating every line with a wink to show they've what … matured? Grown as actors?

Still, what makes Sly's new film fascinating is that, 35 years after he created and starred in the ultimate little-boy fantasy, Rocky, Stallone remains such a guileless, big-dreaming innocent. If you want to add dope, go ahead. But you'd be missing out on a career's worth of preposterous, low-grade entertainment.

Who else but Sly would dream of a world where 63-year-old seniors (Stallone's age) race around on motorcycles in team jackets to a cool clubhouse, where they throw big, shuddering knives against dartboards and plan death-defying adventures?

Who else but Sly would dream up knock-knock-calibre gags, like the scene where Stallone's character, Barney, and best friend, co-mercenary Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), barge into a woman's office:

"Can I have your names?" she asks.

"I'm Buddha," Statham says. "And he's Pest."

The most child-like, touching element of The Expendables is its depiction of women. Stallone and Statham both have girls. And both are in trouble. Statham's gal (Charisma Carpenter) is going with a guy who beats her, while Sly's dream girl (Giselle Itié) is under lock and key, guarded by a sadistic CIA rogue (Roberts) and an army of coarse, stubbled mercenaries.

Neither man, however, wants to run off with his romantic ideal. Way too complicated - too kissy. No, what our heroes really want to do is beat their girlfriends' tormentors to a fine spray, then gently place their blushing heroines back up on pedestals, untouched (by them at least). After that - vroom - it's back to the clubhouse to play with more toys.

The Expendables isn't as much fun as it should be. Sly doesn't know how to share with other kids. Never has. The producer's coup of reuniting a slew of 1980s action stars would've worked a lot better if the event co-ordinator had given Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and Mickey Rourke more to do. (Maybe that's why Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme turned down invitations.)

There is too much Sly here. Sly running. Sly taking his shirt off. Getting a tattoo. Fighting. Then taking his shirt off again. Too many times when guest stars are reduced to hugging the writer-director-star and saying, "Hey, you're looking good."

Then again, it's Sly's fantasy. That his dreams are wildly overblown and never ever contaminated by common sense is what makes Sylvester Stallone such fun.

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