Whatever you think of this mucho macho male reunion movie, you have to admire 64 year-old writer/director/actor Sylvester Stallone for optioning David Callaham’s “Dirty Dozen”-like script, rewriting it to his own specifications, trying to revive his “Rocky,” “Rambo” glory days, and then assembling a tough-guy cast, including uncredited cameos by Bruce Willis and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. (It’s rumored that Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme declined additional roles.)
Maintaining, “If the money’s good, we don’t care what the job is,” this battered, bickering band of hard-bodied mercenaries consists of their leader Barney Ross (Stallone), hotheaded knife expert Lee Christmas (British Jason Statham of “Transporter”), Chinese martial arts master Yin Yang (Jet Li), long-barrel weapon specialist Hale Caesar (former NFL player Terry Crews), cauliflowered-eared demolitions expert Toll Road (Ultimate Fighting champion Randy Couture), and psychotic sharp-shooter Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren, who was Stallone’s “Rocky IV” nemesis). Mickey Rourke plays Tool, Ross’s ex-Expendable buddy, who has retired to become a tattoo artist. When these fellows with improbable names are disguised as ornithologists from the Global Wildlife Conservancy and sent on a covert, CIA-funded mission to infiltrate the (fictional) South American country of Vilena to overthrow a ruthless despot, General Garza (David Zayas of TV’s “Dexter”), they discover that the cocaine-producing country is really run by a renegade CIA-agent (Eric Roberts) with wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and kickboxer Gary Daniels at his side.
Subsequently, while trying to rescue the General’s idealistic daughter, Sandra (Giselle Itie), chaos, confusion and a barrage of violent explosions commences, turning everyone into virtual viscera or, as they put it, “red sauce and jello.” The most memorable verbal banter occurs near the beginning when the shadowy CIA-agent known only as Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) offers the job to ex-Expendable Trench Mauser (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who turns it down, saying “I’m busy now.” “What’s his problem?” asks Church. “He wants to be President,” replies Ross. Cue laughter.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Expendables” is a savage, testosterone-propelled 6. Too bad the blast-from-the-past mayhem is so absurdly incoherent.