THE EXPENDABLES:

I welcome the recent trend, starting with this summer’s SALT, of action/adventure flicks returning to non-computer generated stuntwork. Genuine “gags” are prominent in this old school, “men on a mission” film featuring just about every action star … EVER. When they’re not blowing up stuff or splattering Somali pirates as they do in a nifty opening sequence, the titled mercenaries bond over female problems, argue about money and in almost loving terms describe the kind of anatomical damage that a particular weapon can cause. I’m guessing that writers David Callaham and director Sylvester Stallone (ROCKY) spent a lot more time coming up with names for the protagonists like Hale Caesar (former NFL player Terry Crews), Toll Road (UFC star Randy Couture) and Yin Yang (Jet Li) as well as villains James Munroe (Eric Roberts) and the aptly named Paine (wrestler Steve Austin) than they did on an actual plot. That’s okay, though, since the well-staged shootouts drive this movie which is such comic book pulp in its style that you almost expect the good guy warriors to jump off the screen with blazing automatic weapons while demanding that their victims “eat hot death.” There’s not much in the way of any real acting going on either except for a scene in which tattoo artist Mickey Rourke (THE WRESTLER) ruminates about an episode in Bosnia where he experienced a moment of conviction about his work which motivates another character to take action leading to the final climactic battle. But even with all its shortcomings, THE EXPENDABLES is good, bloody fun in a “retro cool” sort of fashion that’s an ideal way to spend an otherwise slow afternoon. CRITIC’S GRADE: B-

EXCELLENT MOVIES TO REMEMBER THE LATE PATRICIA NEAL (1926-2010): THREE SECRETS (1950), THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951), DIPLOMATIC COURIER (1952), A FACE IN THE CROWD (1957), BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (1961), HUD (1963)*, IN HARM’S WAY (1965), THE SUBJECT WAS ROSES (1968)**, COOKIE’S FORTUNE (1999)

*Academy Award winner for Best Actress

**Academy Award nominee for Best Actress