When I started reading about this movie (seemingly forever ago), I was super fucking excited about it. Stallone writing and directing a mercenary flick to star a bunch of action stars/lesser action actors? Fuck yeah!
Then, the first trailer hit. Still excited!
Then, all of the TV spots and other such promos. Not as excited.
Then, last night, I saw the flick at midnight. Excitement confirmed!
While the film may not live up to the expectations I had when I first heard about this movie being made, it is better than the promos make it out to be. It's exciting and action-packed and often funny. But you really go to see this movie for the actors.
Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham are great as competitive best friends who look out for each other, bicker, and crack many a joke. Jet Li is great in what is, for him, a rather small role. Dolph Lundgren isn't as good as expected, but still pretty good as the loose cannon of the group. Terry Crews and Randy Couture are sadly underused, but great when they're on screen. Mickey Rourke is his usual amazing self as an ex-Expendable friend.
David Zayas, Eric Roberts, and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin are all good as the bad guys.
And, of course, the cameos by Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger....... pure greatness.
It is somewhat odd to see some headliners taking a backseat. Stallone and Statham have the biggest roles, but it's kind of strange to see Jet Li as a sidekick and Mickey Rourke as a buddy who's only in a couple of scenes.
The action is pretty good, but Stallone's camera work is often too shaky and tight, and the CGI blood/fire/smoke often looks obviously fake. But the fight scenes and some of the more creative deaths are great. Seeing Stallone getting beaten up by Stone Cold, Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren going mano a mano, and Jet Li and Jason Statham double-teaming a bad guy -- these are all wonderful things to behold.
Of course, the real treats are the references. Stallone and Lundgren together again (Rocky IV), Statham and Li reunited (War), Randy Couture talking about his cauliflower ear. The best scene is probably the interaction between Willis, Schwarzenegger, and Stallone. Schwarzenegger and Stallone just go at it with the insulting jokes, and the audience just erupts. I love that a lot of lines are written specifically because of the actors playing the characters.
In case you can't tell, I definitely recommend seeing this movie.
(As an aside note, in a real fight, Dolph Lundgren would probably kick Jet Li's ass. Jet Li could probably kick a lot of guys' asses, but mostly he does flowery, gymnastic wushu, whereas Dolph Lundgren is a giant man who was in the Swedish army and is an experienced practitioner of kyokushin karate.)