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'The Expendables': The Reviews Are In!

Critics have mixed reactions to Sylvester Stallone's homage to '80s action movies.

Three high-profile flicks debut this weekend, and they couldn't be more different from one another -- few people would confuse the globe-trotting vision quest of "Eat Pray Love" with the comic-influenced landscape of "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" or the shoot-first-ask-questions-never action of "The Expendables."

Nor should anyone be confused about which of these films will end up winning the weekend box office. "The Expendables," Sylvester Stallone's fireball-enveloped ode to '80s action flicks, is poised to blast away the competition despite decidedly mixed reviews. Some critics have lamented the film's soggy storyline and over-the-top dialogue, while others have celebrated the full-tilt action sequences and the spectacle that results from Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger sharing the screen. A sampling of reactions is below.

The Story

"In the rousingly explosive '80s-pulp climax of 'The Expendables,' Sylvester Stallone's old-tin-soldiers-of-action mercenary thriller, the director-star and his right-hand lug, Jason Statham, lead a band of commandos in an assault on the island fortress of a corrupt general. The funny thing is, they don't really have a plan. The 'plan' is this: They show up and attack the general's men with fists, knives, and very big guns. The way that Stallone directs, though, every machete thrust and relentless round of bullet spray is staged with a certain undeniable ... conviction." -- Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

The Performances

"What makes 'The Expendables' bearable and even enjoyable is that Stallone and most of the cast maintain exactly the right attitude toward this nonsense. There's a certain lumbering grace to the movie that comes with age and experience and the urge to not take oneself too seriously. There's also an awareness of when he-man posturing crosses the line into genuine moral ugliness on the part of the villains." -- Ty Burr, Boston Globe

The Action

"Stallone has an eye for spectacle and stages some truly insane set pieces -- a dock explosion and Statham shooting bullets from the top of a seaplane comes about 30 minutes in, and it's fantastic -- but not only does none of it fit into a coherent story, but you've got no reason beyond nostalgia to care about this group of self-satisfied roughnecks and their desire to track down a criminal, even one as sleazy as Eric Roberts (who is probably the film's acting MVP, though that doesn't say much)." -- Katey Rich, CinemaBlend

The Effects

"Featuring pyrotechnic displays over-the-top enough to alter the planet's orbit, the aesthetic here is very much in keeping with the '80s action pics that established Stallone's career, save for the use of digital blood in lieu of old-school squibs. When the Expendables shoot anonymous evil henchmen, they don't just die, they erupt, sending a shower of virtual viscera across the screen -- a distractingly artificial way of rendering violence presumably intended to appear more realistic (for those who've wondered what a knife to the throat or a mini-cannon to the head might look like)." -- Peter Debruge,


The Final Word

"The movie is a good-humored affair, and it delivers exactly what the action audience wants (or once wanted, anyway): maximum damage. In the production notes, the star emphasizes his avoidance of CGI in rendering the fiery mayhem, and he claims the actors did their own stunts (although in one furious beat-down scene in which he takes part, you have to wonder). This dedication to a faded action-flick ideal is rather touching, and you wonder how long Stallone, now 64, can keep carrying the old-school flag. When he pops up unexpectedly in the midst of one of the film's many conflagrations, the general's daughter turns to him and says, 'How are you here?' Says Sly: 'I just am.' Welcome back, champ." -- Kurt Loder, [article id="1645670"]MTV News[/article]

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