This is not a review of The Expendables, as I have not seen the picture yet. But the biggest problem with The Expendables as a concept (trailers here, here, and here) is that it promises to be 'all your favorite action stars in one place!' yet lacks some of the prime contenders. If you grew up as an action nerd in the 80s and 90s, you're worshiping one or more amongst Sly Stallone (present), Bruce Willis (cameo), Arnold Schwarzenegger (cameo), Harrison Ford (absent), Mel Gibson (absent) Chuck Norris (absent) Jean Claude Van Damme (absent), and Steven Seagal (absent). Truth be told, if you were a child of the 80s and early 90s, when it came to pure action, it was all about Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Willis. Since most of the 'A-team' didn't show up, who exactly did Stallone corral?
Steve Austin has made ONE theatrical film (The Condemned, which was actually pretty good), Jet Li broke out at the tail-end of the 1990s (Lethal Weapon 4 in 1998), and Dolph Lundgren is simply 'that Russian dude from Rocky IV', the guy who played He-Man, and/or 'the other guy from Universal Soldier'. Jason Statham is certainly the modern day equivalent of Stallone and Schwarzenegger, which would make sense if this were some kind of passing-the-torch film, but I gather it's not. Randy Couture has never had a major theatrical action film, and Terry Crews is known more for his comic work (Idiocracy, Everybody Hates Chris, etc) than his nearly non-existent action-film record (he had a small role as a villain in Gamer about a year ago).
At best you have Stallone, an 80s cult figure (Dolph Lundgren), and two genuine action stars (Jet Li and Jason Statham) who are a generation or two removed from the kind of films that The Expendables is trying to harken back to. Heck, John Cena would already have far more action cred than Austin, Crews, and Coutre, since he was the lead in two theatrical action pictures of late (The Marine and the shockingly good 12 Rounds). As for Mickey Rourke, he's doing a glorified cameo allegedly as a favor to Stallone, as Stallone cast him in Get Carter back when he was basically out of work as a mainstream actor. Whether that's true or not, no one thinks of Rourke as the kind of guy who would have anchored a Missing In Action or Commando type movie back in the 1980s anyway.
Does this have anything to do with the quality of the movie? Nope, but when you look at who did and didn't show up, you cannot possibly argue that this is an All-Star line-up of the greatest modern action heroes of our generation. It's, at best, a B-list of whomever Stallone could convince to play in his sandbox. A nitpick, but one worth noting none the less. Imagine how exciting The Expendables would have been had it been had it actually included a true action hero dream team.
Follow Scott Mendelson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ScottMendelson