½*/**** Image A- Sound A Extras A
starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke
written and directed by Sylvester Stallone
by Walter Chaw After the remarkably tough and uncompromising Rambo and the almost-unbearably poignant and transparent Rocky Balboa, it'd be fair to nurse a healthy anticipation for Sylvester Stallone's paean to the '80s blockbuster, The Expendables. Alas, what's on display owes more to Stallone's Rhinestone than to his venerable Rocky series. A redux of Wild Hogs as embarrassing, boring, and ineptly- shot and edited as the original, The Expendables even ends the same way, with geezers riding off into the sunset on the backs of their four-fifths-life-crisis choppers. Tattoos and plunging v-neck Ts the rule of the day, it's more Rogaine commercial than action movie, making fun of itself in the way that old guys who are genuinely insecure about their age make fun of themselves. It's awkward. It's also, in addition to being almost entirely free of excitement or a single line of dialogue that isn't some syncopated mix of grunting and tough-guy cliché, maybe a no-shit adaptation of Eugene Ionesco's "The Bald Soprano". That's the only way to explain how it is that a film tits-deep in dialogue could have not one exchange that makes any sense whatsoever. The way the movie's put together, too, is a model of the Theatre of the Absurd's occasional dabbling in non sequiturs--something The Expendables seems to address at one point when the horsey-looking, freshly-waterboarded damsel (Giselle Itié) wonders how Stallone's Barney has magically appeared as her saviour in a Caribbean (?) dictator's dungeon. "I just am!" mumbles Barney. Who am I to argue with that?