It's interesting that the reviews for this flick have been so split, and that the reviewers who didn't like it also didn't like Rambo. I on the other hand absolutely loved Rambo - proper, old school (with modern techniques) balls-out hardcore action ... like the dictionary definition of "bad ass" made into a movie.
Now along comes The Expendables, and as it said explicitly on the tin, this is an old school throwback to 1980s action cinema - but, yep, with modern techniques and a modern pace. Think along the lines of Cobra, Red Heat, and Commando - but remove the cheesiness, and ante up the action by a hundred and there you are.
It's all about big dudes, big personalities, big muscles, big guns and even bigger explosions - and the big finish to this movie certainly delivers on all of those to exhausting lengths (in a seriously enjoyable way). Many of the classic 80s action flicks - the movies that served action icons of the era so well - had a simple plot, and it's no different here. If you want a complex, conflicted and troubled arse kicker, look elsewhere - the spiffing Bourne trilogy, or Daniel Craig's James Bond are there and waiting ... The Expendables is just about being awesome.
Jason Bourne et al are, if I dare to stagger into a mangled comparison, akin to Nirvana. They delivered a hard edged sound but with the lyrics exploring the deep, dark depths of Cobain's troubled mind and life. The Expendables (and Rambo, for that matter), is akin to AC/DC ... catchy rock riffs with thunderstruck raspy lyrics. AC/DC are bad ass - and The Expendables is bad ass.
Some of the big names might be somewhat sidelined, some might say, but they all tear up the screen with their big-time presences. Stallone (an 80/90s action icon) and Statham (a 00/10's action icon) are the leads here, and they have a nice rapport going throughout. It's a rapport which infiltrates the whole movie - a nice, unobtrusive mix of humour amidst the exploding buildings, flying bullets, and splattering gore.
Speaking of which, there is some pretty obvious CGI gore littered throughout the movie. It's properly good fun, no doubt, but certain shots could have used a bit more work to blend the CG-claret more smoothly into the existing picture. That said, the action and cutting are so fast-paced you won't have time to linger - and thankfully the shaky-cam doesn't run roughshod over the proceedings. Again the movie strikes a nice balance - between understanding and seeing all the cool action stuff, and giving the audience a suitably rough ride for the duration.
Like with Rambo, I eagerly await this flick on home video release. I had a properly fun time, with a grin from ear-to-ear, and I do hope the DVD/BR release is jam-packed with equally arse kicking extras. The protagonist's souls may be tortured, but they don't whine about it, they blow something up instead. It's classic action with a modern sense of showmanship ... and I can't help but think that at least some of those complaining about the movie have completely and utterly missed the entire point of the movie.