Sylvester Stallone! Jason Statham! Randy Couture! Dolph Lundgren! Jet Li! How can you be a fan of action movies and not love the idea of teaming them all up as a mercenary army ready to take on the biggest bad guys in the world? That’s how Stallone undoubtedly lined up the funding for this big, loud mess of a movie. Actually, The Expendables is worse than that, because the first half of the film is terrific, enjoyable, dripping in testosterone and insider jokes, including cameo appearances by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. Then it just falls apart, the story becomes completely incomprehensible and even the editing degrades to choppy transitions.
At their best, this sort of military action film has a simple “if only” storyline, a wish fulfillment tale that sends our tough guys into the most dangerous of situations just for them to triumph, often specifically because they circumvent the authorities (think of the many Chuck Norris Vietnam War-themed films for a superb example).
Ross (Stallone) and Christmas (Jason Statham) take a solo trip to Vilena in their military cargo plane, cunningly camouflaged as part of the “Global Wildlife Conservancy”. Their contact on the island is the beautiful, troubled, artistic Sandra (Giselle Itié) who — surprise! — turns out to be more than just their cute driver. Ross and Christmas escape in a blaze of bullets and when they return to their HQ, decide that the job is just too dangerous to accept. Except Ross has fallen in love with Sandra and wants to return to Vilena to rescue her.