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Ten Word or Less Review:  A big, loud fart of a movie.

I’ve often thought of Sylvester Stallone as a semi-intelligent soul trapped in the body of a big lug.  He always puts forth an articulate nature and seems to have been genuinely humbled by his drastic career downturn of the 90’s and 2000’s.  He embraces his fans and truly wants to make films that people will enjoy.  But a lot of this has to be called into question with “The Expendables.”  After doggedly gaining back enough credibility with returns to his iconic Rocky and Rambo characters, Stallone’s new feature reminds us that at his heart he’s still just a purveyor of bad action movies.  In this case, an incredibly bad action movie that feels like two or three bad action movies rolled into one.  One used to beat the audience into submission with its rank awfulness.  And all of its badness rest squarely on Sly’s muscled shoulders.

Sly’s old action vehicles had plenty of stupid to go around but they at least knew that.  Crap like “Cobra” and “Tango & Cash” had no aspirations at greatness, not even respectability.  They were garbage but they were done efficiently, effectively and never wondered off their well worn tracks.  “The Expendables” feels like a grab bag of half-assed and stupid ideas stitched together for no useful purpose.  It’s loaded with subplots that go nowhere, characters which are useless and story developments that belong in some other movie.  Blathering on about the plot details would be a waste of time because “Expendables” doesn’t know what to be about for more than a few minutes at a time.  It’s as incoherent and garbled as Gary Busey on a coke binge.

The cast is loaded from top to bottom with muscle heads from yesterday and today but most of them are sitting sideline.  Stallone and Jason Statham get the majority of the screen time but their banter doesn’t work.  They have no chemistry together.  Jet Li, Eric Roberts, Mickey Rourke, some guys who wrestle, some ripped dude from a deodorant commercial and Dolph Lundgren all pop in and out.  The thing is they could almost all pop out and never be missed.  “Expendables” is slovenly written to include lots of characters it doesn’t need.  The movie keeps getting bogged down in character beats which go nowhere and worse, aren’t interesting at all.  Only Lundgren seems to have the potential to really add something but he doesn’t get the opportunity.  He looks like a ripped, sweaty, hophead about to snap and kill an orphanage full of kids, but Stallone never turns him loose.

All of this fail falls directly on the lumpy head of Stallone.  He’s dreamed up, and even co-wrote, this project as a throwback to 80’s styled mayhem but he’s forgotten the rules of the genre he helped define.  He directs the action with a jittery, over cut, undistinguished style.  Deciphering the mayhem is almost impossible and eventually a chore.  With this dithering, derivative style and lack of a bigger budget, “Expendables” starts to feel like something that should’ve gone straight to Spike TV.  All of his dialogue is forced, trite and worst of all, really unfunny.  He should’ve locked 80’s hack sensation Shane Black in a room for a month to rewrite the whole damned mess.

When it’s all over, all the bad guys are dead and everything is blown up real good, relief sets in.  Not because the tension was so high but because you know this ride on a flaming train wreck is done.  On one hand “The Expendables” is nothing but a dunderheaded action movie with a lot of promotion behind it.  On the other hand it’s one of the most ironic movies ever made.  Stallone slowly and steadily ruined his career making dumb action movies that fewer and fewer people found themselves liking.  After years of career turmoil and failure, climbing back to a point where he could achieve something again, he’s made a dumb action movie that I can’t imagine many people liking.  Way to go Sly.


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