Average Star Rating (ASR): 3 ★'s
An ode to the action films of the 80’s and 90’s (the ones that catapulted their actors into stardom), The Expendables delivers exactly what is expected of it. Enormous explosions, innumerable bullets, and an exorbitantly high body count drown out its one dimensional characterizations and sparsely written plot. With so many stars on the bill, Stallone’s foremost directorial quality here is that he knows what the audience wants. He shows restraint in divvying up their screen time, instead allowing the actors to share the stage, to come and go, and to ultimately be seen together. The end result is a lavishly aggressive popcorn flick sure to give action fans the thrills they seek. ★★★
Best Part: Seeing Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Willis together for the first time.
Worst Part: Not allowing Mickey Rourke in on the action. Though, to be fair, he makes the most of his limited screen time and delivers the best monologue of the franchise.
The Expendables 2
After the rousing box office success of the first film, Stallone brings his venerable crew of action heroes back, while also adding a few more for good measure. Doubling down on everything that made the first installment memorable, The Expendables 2 is bigger, louder, and more explosive. But where it really sets itself apart is in its self-referential humor, heart, and ability to hone in on the unique traits of its characters. Thankfully, director Simon West gives his actors more to do than simply fire guns and toss grenades. Fans of the first will certainly be back on board, especially those who are familiar with the cast’s prior filmographies, but this iteration is ultimately even more accessible thanks to its humor and expanded cast. ★★★½
Best Part: Arnold steals every scene, especially when he uses every star’s iconic lines from past films
Worst Part: Mickey Rourke left the series and does not appear this time around. Also, the villain’s name is Vilain... That just seems lazy.
The Expendables 3
The third installment of the franchise gathers the core crew of heroes again but boasts even more additions to the cast that include both veterans and relative newcomers. The biggest change, however, comes from Stallone himself, who tailors the film to a wider audience by toning down the violence and attaining a PG-13 Rating. The ramifications are evident: The Expendables 3 boasts less of what fans have come to expect in terms of action and violence and doesn’t compensate with a smarter or wittier script. However, the tone remains consistent and the new veteran cast members bring a fresh energy. Expendables 3 makes the franchise more accessible to a younger audience, but risks losing some of its original fan base in doing so. Stallone went so far as to admit to and take responsibility for the rating “mistake,” vowing to not to repeat it should they comes back for a fourth time. ★★½
Best Part: Antonio Banderas “helping” Stallone on their solo mission, and frankly, any time he talks... which is all the time.
Worst Part: The introduction montage of the younger cast. They obviously don’t have the same pedigree as the vets, but they also don’t do much to stand out on their own.