There are a few moments during its running time where "The Expendables" manages to become the movie it should be, where it feels effortlessly bloodthirsty and appropriately over-the-top. There are moments of real red-meat action-movie glory, with bodies blown in half and entire buildings vanishing in white-hot explosions and one-liners that actually land a punch.
I've enjoyed this late-career resurgence by Sylvester Stallone. Both "Rocky Balboa" and "Rambo" demonstrated a real understanding of his own iconography, and walking into "The Expendables," I hoped he was going to do the same for his whole cast, and that this would be a knowing celebration of the macho ensemble movie, a great big men-on-a-mission flick with a fat bag of mayhem to unleash on audiences conditioned by modern action films to expect special effects and shaky cams.
And, like I said, there are moments where the film almost pulls it off, but not enough of those moments, and they are unfortunately wrapped in a big limp noodle of a movie, a largely impotent mess that wastes its cast to no memorable effect. Taken as a whole, "The Expendables" is a disappointment, and a frustrating one at that.