Movies: The Expendables *
(15A, general release)
This latest oeuvre from the delicate hand of Sylvester Stallone is being sold as a kind of ironic tribute to the clumsy action pictures of the 80s, with the involvement of 80s royalty such as Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke and Arnold Schwarzenegger lending the project a certain cultural weight.
But Willis and Schwarzenegger only appear for a couple of minutes, and we should know by now that Mr Stallone doesn't do irony, or nuance, or subtlety of any kind.
No, The Expendables could be one of those mind-numbingly dumb 80s action pics that starred Dolph Lundgren or Jean-Claude Van Damme or Sly himself and lasted 87 gory minutes and often went straight to video.
Lundgren appears in this item too, as one of a group of globetrotting mercenaries who call themselves The Expendables.
Led by Barney Ross (Stallone), the group turn up in troublespots around the world and free hostages, blow up things or kill all and sundry as the situation demands. They do so with relish, swapping one-liners curiously bereft of wit as they hack and shoot their way through hordes of the kind of gormless third-world baddies one demands as standard in a film like this.
As our story opens, Barney and his close associates Lee (Jason Statham), Gunnar (Lundgren) and Yin Yang (Jet Li) end a tense hostage situation aboard a hijacked tanker off the African coast by butchering a group of bewildered Somali pirates.
That mission accomplished, Barney and the boys are approached by a mysterious gent (Bruce Willis) who offers them $5m to overthrow the dictator of a small South American island called Vilena.
It turns out that a rogue CIA agent (Eric Roberts, of course) has set up shop on Vilena and is running drugs and making himself a fortune. And things turn nasty when Barney and co turn up, with the general's feisty daughter getting kidnapped and tortured after Barney discovers a traitor in his midst.
Ladies show up infrequently in The Expendables, and only as helpless damsels in distress. They're the real expendables here, because once they're saved they're casually tossed aside. There are faint homoerotic undertones to it all, especially between Messrs Stallone and Statham, who seem to have really hit it off.
But, mostly, they hit bad guys in a stylelessly violent film that's so shoddily edited, written, directed and acted (with the exception of Mickey Rourke) that it may be dubbed 'so bad it's good' by some. But not me.