During the few bloated explosion excuses in Expendables, my mind kept drifting back to a little scene in Sly's fourth return to his most famous character besides Balboa. Remember when Rambo had to hightail it through the jungle, plant a charge near an undetonated explosive in aircraft wreckage, and then tear out like no other sixty-two-year-old ever before a group of nondescript little brown soldiers became millisecond fire? Or what about Arnold suiting up beachside to slaughter a small army in Commando, Sly cauterizing a bad wound in Rambo III, or Bruce picking shards of agony from his bare feet in Die Hard? Simple slices of macho hubris more exhilarating than anything witnessed in the huge personality pile-up of Expendables. The only real showstopping setpiece is a fantastic seaplane firebombing of a long pier. The slapdash frenzy that infests the rest of the confusing action deflates much of the visceral impact.
Whether this cast, regardless the project, was a good idea is debatable. Rourke, Austin, Couture, Li, and Schwarzenegger are easily "expendable" and should have never been approached. In their place, define a clear role for Van Damme, he would have been worth it, and expand Willis's turn. Maybe drop the vanilla Eric Roberts and let Bruce embody the villain. Unfortunately that's a pipe dream and in its current state The Expendables bogs down into a few obvious "acting" moments with some slopped together action segments peppered in. And yes, Al-Qaeda should have been the bad guys, not some vague South American faction, since '80s action gave a giant fuck off to topical political correctness.
It's a shame Stallone hasn't done more behind the camera through his career. When he's not orchestrating action scenes like a post-stroke Paul Greengrass with the shakes, the ol' plastic-faced lug definitely has an eye and pulls off great use of dark cinematography. At times, this aspect was actually more interesting than whatever was happening on-screen. The film also never feels its 103 minute runtime and seemed to breeze by. In the end, I still hold hope for a sequel or a really fleshed out extended cut. The Expendables isn't so much a throwback as it is a bullet someone forgot to pack with gunpowder as they rushed it through the loading press. As for Lionsgate's Blu-ray, the video and audio quality are superlative.