The two trades are split on the new action flick The Expendables, which I have been avoiding like the plague--clearly I am not in the target male demo. Interestingly, THR's Sheri Linden finds the testosterone fest worthwhile, while Variety's Peter Debruge does not. UPDATE: Time Out London does not mince words:
If ever a test case were required to prove the theory that shit in quote marks is still shit, this is it. ‘The Expendables’ is a sluggish, derivative, witless farrago which is laser-targeted to the nostalgia set and would surely have gone straight to DVD were it not for Stallone’s recent run at the box office with belated sequels to his ‘Rocky’ and ‘Rambo’ franchises.
More review snippets are on the jump.
An effective mix of lean and over-the-top, "The Expendables" is often preposterous, but it achieves the immediacy of a graphic novel without the overdone mythology…Americans are both heroes and villains in "The Expendables," which avoids political specifics while embracing brute force as righteous retribution -- and shows the bad guys resorting to waterboarding. It can be an uneasy mix, but mostly it's played on too broad a scale to take seriously. DP Jeffrey Kimball frames the action for kinetic impact and velocity. The extended fight scenes deliver the easy catharsis of straight-up violence, all with a comic-book sense of pow and splat.
When the movie isn't in fight mode (and be warned, it's as gratuitous with futile plot- and character-building scenes as it is with gore), its chief running gag involves getting the characters to hurl insults at one another -- the idea being that auds will enjoy watching these guys lob locker-room taunts as much as the cast appreciated having the chance to tease one another. (While age and ego are prime targets, no one dares make fun of how Stallone runs or the fact that we practically need subtitles to decipher all those heavy accents.) The best line is lobbed at Arnold Schwarzenegger, who turns up with Bruce Willis for an informal Planet Hollywood reunion…[the] approach might've worked had the editors assembled all that footage in such a way that we could tell where characters are in relation to one another or what's going on. While Brian Tyler's temp-sounding score beats its drums and blows its horns in support, pic crams sequences of rapidly cut, high-energy moments down our throats, such that the effect begins to resemble the waterboarding Sandra's character endures in one particularly unpleasant scene. With "The Expendables," Stallone certainly makes the point that Hollywood wouldn't be the same without these action heroes. As for their big group effort? Not so indispensable.