I never thought I'd hear myself saying this about a film, or anything else for that matter, but what The Expendables really needed... no, what it really needed... was more Dolph Lundgren.
Now I'm hardly what you'd call a Dolph Lundgren fan. In fact, up till now, I think I've seen a grand total of two of his films - Rocky IV (which was bollocks) and the original 80s version of The Punisher (which was utter bollocks, though not quite as bollocks as last year's woeful Punisher War Zone). I don't consider Dolph a great actor. Hell, I don't even consider Dolph an actor. Yet unlike many of his aged action hero comrades in The Expendables, Dolph appeared to know exactly what he was doing. He was taking the piss. And if there'd been more of that, The Expendables would have been a much better film. Unfortunately, Slyvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke and (to a lesser extent) Jet Li appear to be taking this material far too seriously. And therein lies the tragedy.
Films like The Expendables can only really work (for me, at least) when they know they're rubbish. When they wedge their tongues firmly in their cheeks and glory in that very rubbish-ocity. Look at Willis. He's only there five minutes, but the smirk doesn't leave his face for a second. (Some believe the wind stuck when he was a particularly smug child and that's just his default expression. This Bruce-fan would never be so cruel.) Even Arnie, wooden as ever, knows he's here to take the piss. Stallone though - Stallone is serious. He's staked his career on this comeback, and he's desperately trying to make some kind of statement. Or rather, SUB KIBE OB STABEMEBNT. And Rourke? Oscar-worthy in The Wrestler, Raspberry-worthy here. That comeback didn't last very long, did it Mickey?
(The less said about Statham, as always, the better. I was disturbed to see him cosying up to Charisma Carpenter though - Cordelia's taste in men doesn't improve with age, does it?)
Don't get me wrong, The Expendables is not an unenjoyable way to spend an hour and a half if you grew up watching daft 80s action movies. There's enough OTT violence and dumb one-liners to satisfy anyone who ever claimed First Blood: Part II or Commando a classic. But we've all grown up a lot since then. Well, all but Sly Stallone. In Sly's world it's still 1985, Reagan's still in the White House, the video shop still rules home entertainment and dumb action movies may still have the PODENDIAL to CHAMGE BHE WORLB. "The Most Awesome Action Cast Ever Assembled"? Pity they couldn't have spared a few dollars for the script.