Jason Statham, left, Sylvester Stallone and Randy Couture. (Karen Ballard)
'The Expendables" has more muscles on screen than any film this side of a bodybuilding documentary.
It desperately wants to be the "Ocean's 11" of adrenaline flicks, a pumped-up, all-star throwback to a time when an action hero's worth was measured by the size of his biceps and the length of the cigar he chomps. Instead, it's a bit like a trip to the gym on a flat tire.
Written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, "The Expendables" casts several generations of action stars in one slam-bang, diesel-injected barrel of TNT. The marquee cast is like browsing the action section at the video store: Stallone, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and more. What, Brian Bosworth wasn't available?
It's a shame, then, that "The Expendables" is all beefed up with nowhere to go. Stallone leads a crew of mercenaries called the Expendables, who take on high-risk jobs that involve lots of gunfire and massive explosions. The team is recruited for a job in South America that has something to do with fighting a smarmy Eric Roberts, as if there were any other options for the villain role in a movie like this. When the crew's not blowing stuff up or cracking wise, they're hanging out in a tattoo shop and talking about their feelings, bro. Tough guys hurt too.
There's rock and roll on the soundtrack (Georgia Satellites, Mountain), big blasts the size of Cambodia and not a single superhero costume in sight. But there's nothing in "The Expendables" that pushes it past its inherent nostalgia value or makes it relevant to today. It's like the best summer action movie of 1987.
Stallone has years on his face and stories in each one of those grooves and wrinkles, but "The Expendables" isn't interested in exploring them. If there were more humanity behind all those muscles, his macho opus would be far less expendable.