You know that scene in every action movie since 1974 when the guy jumps into the water after being blown off an edge by a massive, flaming ball of death? Yeah, that's The Expendables in a nut. If it isn't on fire, crumbling to pieces, being chased by a thousand guys in face paint and getting torn apart by a rapid-fire shotgun, it probably isn't in The Expendables.
This is the kind of film we used to spit-ball with friends in a kind of 'wouldn't it be cool if...?' scenario – all the biggest action stars coming together for one massive orgy of violence and bloodletting. Really, the concept is so tantalizing that we harboured a flickering flame of hope for this one; Sylvester Stallone called upon his action movie counterparts, roping in some of the biggest, toughest Ess-Oh-Bees out there for a movie that promised all the hallmarks of classic hard-action films we love to pieces (mostly things exploding and quippy one-liners).
Joining Sly are a fan-favourite selection of muscle-bound heroes. After a tone-establishing opening, complete with classic 80s-era 'steel font' typeface (look, we like the little touches), things play out witlessly and inexplicably. The story is baffling; something about cocaine plantations, American government conspiracies, an uprising and motorcycle gangs. You can fill in the blanks – Sly certainly did – and his solution is more everything. He piles on the (thankfully well-choreographed) fight sequences and stupendous set-pieces. Everything is exploding or being torn apart and people die with the same strawberry-jelly bursts of gore that made the Rambo reboot a mess of bloodthirsty fun. Between the neck-breaking combat and the occasional sense of humour, The Expendables earns its star-and-a-half.