The Expendables

(2010) Sylvester Stallone. Regal Union Square Stadium.

As "The Expendables" are reminiscent signifiers of aging 1980s action-movie actors, so too the dude audience recognizes itself as having aged and that it too is expendable. There is the nostalgia of Stallone in his 60s for the Stallone of Rambo, and the dude audience, now adults, is nostalgic for the adventuresome, gore-bucked fantasy life of boyhood. These sorts of action movies, exemplified by Cannon Films, prepared a kid for a world of drug-induced 1980s nihilism, bizarre characters, disturbed uses of the fuck word, and the moral code of killing bad guys.

The Expendables hang out at Tool's Tattooes, run by Tool (Mickey Rourke), where they park their motorcycles and talk about the old days, sometimes spouting limericks and having knife-throwing contests. As men of violence, The Expendables are a ragtag dragoon of ex-soldiers hired for dirty missions, and except for getting older, they are much more expendable as men of emotion.  Barney Ross (Stallone) can still fly a plane with brute grace while Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) mans the machine gun outside the nose.

But Toll Road (Randy Couture) is having issues at his shrink. Lee Christmas returns from a Somalian pirate mission to an unfaithful girlfriend. Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) wields a cannon he nicknames "girlfriend." Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) has gone killcrazy and turned against the Expendables, a victim of the post-traumatic stress of a 20th century mercenary in the 21st.

The Expendables are offered a mission leftover from the Reagan-era involving CIA-financed South American juntas. Arnold Schwarzeneggar crosses the fourth-wall of Hollywood action star self-consciousness by simply playing himself, The Governator, who, besides running the state of California, happens to also secretly lead a crackerjack militia on global suicide adventures. Arnold's gang is the Gary's Bar to The Expendables' Cheers. But, as Barney mocks, Arnie "wants to be President," so Schwarzeneggar passes up the mission, and The Expendables are stuck with the job. Bruce Willis gets to ask Stallone and Schwarzeneggar, "You guys gonna start sucking each other's dicks?"

The centerpiece of the movie is not an action scene, but a monologue by Tool, the camera close-up his jacksawed face, telling a Bosnia war story about his failure to save what was left of his soul.

One can easily forget, that along with Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles (and sure Billy Bob Thorton) Stallone is the only Best Actor nominee (1976) to also be nominated for Best Screenplay.  He's a writer's guy.


  1. You should curate a Cannon Films Tribute Pt 2, showing all the movies that FLSC did not include. Clearly whoever put that together did not grow up on these movies.

  2. Agreed. Cobra, Missing in Action, Last American Virgin....