It’s entirely possible to be put off from the word go by the thought that this is a film from that august bunch of filmmakers, the WWE. Or alternatively, delighted by that fact. Whatever the reaction, this is a 2007 film from director Scott Wiper which does it’s best to highlight the main product of the WWE empire, sweaty people fighting each other.
The story is set on an island, covered in cameras, Big Brother gone mad and used purely for the purposes of entertainment. In this way it is actually a clever satire on the WWE itself, and has a few observations to make on the public’s demand for gladiatorial combat, even to this day. The island is filled with convicts who are going to be executed and so here they have a chance to fight for survival, while the producers reap the financial rewards of their tribulations. It’s an effective basis for a script and one that is used well throughout as a plot device, whenever there hasn’t been an action scene for all of five minutes or so, the producers can step in and manipulate events to stir up a hornet’s nest of trouble for the lumbering participants.
Steve Austin (wasn’t he the six Million Dollar Man?) stars as …well basically himself (or his WWE persona) and as such doesn’t do much in the way of soul searching and character development. He picks people up and slams them to the floor an awful lot, then kneels on them a bit. The fight scenes are well shot but do get a little repetitive as the same OTT moves are deployed again and again and again. The supporting cast do largely the same thing, in a variety of entertaining outfits and thoughtfully chosen close ups and it is only when Vinnie Jones (who can actually act!) turns up that things really start to kick off and develop very slightly.
You might have gathered that plot wise there isn’t very much to this movie. Well apart from a nice central premise and lots and lots of fighting, there really isn’t much else to recommend it! If you’re looking for a film that will leave you thinking or breathless with an adrenalin rush, weeping or laughing, then this really isn’t going to be it. If you’re a fan of the WWE however and their particular style of entertaining wrestleballet, then this is an absolute must see!
The Expendables stars and is written by Sylvester Stallone, not a name one usually associates with writing so perhaps it’s for the best that he has co written it with Dave Callaham.
Sylvester Stallone stars as Barney Ross, the leader of a team of fighters and mercenaries who call themselves “The Expendables” as they frequently expect not to survive their highly dangerous missions. And this is their most dangerous mission yet, they are sent by a man calling himself Mr Churchto wipe out the dictator of a South American island, a ruthless murderer in his own right who’s people live in a state of constant fear and oppression.
However, when they reach their destination and encounter a local rebel, Sandra, they discover that they have not been given the full story of what is happening on the island and Barney must make a choice as to whether to walk away or stay and fight, attempting a mission that seems like suicide but which might just lead to his own spiritual redemption.
The Expendables is an absolute joy to watch, largely because of the roll call of acting talent that director (he did a lot of work on this movie, didn’t he!) Stallone has assembled. Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren (Stallone’s old Nemesis from the Rocky films) and the gloriously eye rolling and intense Eric Roberts all jostle for attention while Giselle Itie does an astonishing job of managing to make an impression in this sea of stars as Sandra who provides Barney with something of a moral compass.
The action scenes, of which there are many, are as beautifully shot as you would expect. It’s high octane, fast moving, funny and hugely entertaining, though anyone looking for deeply meaningful scripting or realistically drawn characters really should go else where, this film does exactly what it says on the tin and nothing else.
The plot, such as it is is hardly original either but who cares, watch it and revel in these stars of the 80s doing what they do best…kicking ass!
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Writers: Dave Callaham (screenplay), Sylvester Stallone (screenplay)
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, David Zayas, Giselle Itié, Charisma Carpenter