As it has been billed, this is one of the greatest ensemble action movies ever made. It's a celebration of everything macho: guns, motorcycles, clever put-downs and comebacks, and tattoos. Speaking of which, Stallone just became the coolest actor in Hollywood in my book as he showed off his exceptional quarter-sleeves. I really like Stallone's directing style, though I would have to say that 2008's John Rambo was much more graphic and gritty than The Expendables. Stallone's new film feelsa bit too polished and clean, the lighting is too professional, and it feels a bit stagey at times. The grit and grime of John Rambo combined with the flair, wit, and gleefully-excessive action sequences would have been the perfect movie. As it stands, The Expendables still kicks major ass and it is a heavy metal action bonanza that anyone with a pulse would enjoy.
However, I did have a couple issues with the film, one of which is not the film's fault. Since China doesn't have a movie ratings system, all movies are general admittance, which means that every film released in Chinese cinemas have to trim any objectionable material, no matter what the target audience is. That means that the Chinese version of The Expendables was somewhat neutered. Several kill shots were going to be super cool and then...cut to the body falling to the ground. Most of the violence was left intact, but there were just a few moments of fist-clenching frustration.
The other issue I have is with Jet Li. If you look at the movie poster to the left, you will see Jet Li standing eye to eye with his fellow stars. If the poster photo had been shot with everyone together, Li wouldn't be visible- he would be obscured by Stallone's mammoth shoulder. Li's unimposing stature was brought up several times in the film to the point of being uncomfortable. His character even had the gall to demand more money because he's smaller, and the bullet holes are subsequently bigger and the distances longer. Now as an American, it's no big deal, but I felt that it might be a bit awkward for Chinese audiences to see one of their homegrown heroes mocked for a stereotypical Asian characteristic, even if it's true in Li's case. Make no mistake, though, Li gets buck wild on many a bad guy's ass and his kung fu magic takes backstage to his bullet ballet skills.
In this movie age of impressive but hollow special effects blowouts and bumbling nerds finding themselves becoming the hero of the day, The Expendables is a refreshing blast of napalm to remind people that the big boys have and always will rule action empire. You could literally feel the testosterone and HGH crackling in the often-talked-about scene with Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Willis. This film rocks, and I am definitely going to get my pirated copy of the real DVD the day it comes out.