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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Expendables

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service

The only thing higher than the body count is the testosterone level in "The Expendables" (Lionsgate/Millennium), a brutally violent action movie that teams, for the first time, some of Hollywood's biggest tough guys with an assortment of professional sports stars.

The result is "The Dirty Dozen" on steroids, with much more brawn but far less acting chops.

The soundtrack to this very loud film includes the 1970s Thin Lizzy hit "The Boys Are Back in Town," and indeed they are. Leading a band of misfit mercenaries is Barney Ross, played by Sylvester Stallone, who also directed and co-wrote the screenplay with David Callaham. Barney, not surprisingly, combines the wit and sensitivity of Rocky Balboa with the lethal weaponry of Rambo.

Barney's crew is called the Expendables, and each member has a knack for handling guns, knives, or explosives. There's Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Toll Road (mixed martial artist Randy Couture), and Hale Caesar (ex-NFL-star-turned-actor Terry Crews).

The spiritual guru and deal broker for this brotherhood is Tool (Mickey Rourke), a soulful tattoo artist who leaves his mark—literally—on every member.

There's trouble in paradise—in this case a South American country called Vilena—and Barney and Lee go on a reconnaissance mission. There they find rogue CIA agent James Monroe (Eric Roberts), who has overthrown the government, taken command of the army and set up a corrupt regime financed by drug trafficking.

Monroe's bodyguards include the aptly named Paine (Steve Austin of World Wrestling Federation fame), and Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren, who battled Stallone in "Rocky IV"). Jensen is a turncoat, thrown out of the Expendables for violating the brotherhood's strict moral code by his substance abuse.

After blowing up half the capital and shooting everyone in sight, Barney and Lee barely escape with their lives. But Barney is smitten with resistance agent Sandra (Gisele Itie), and he vows to return to Vilena with the entire gang to find her and restore the nation's freedom.

Despite a slender script and minimal dialogue, "The Expendables" tries to be several films at once. It's a morality tale of good versus evil, with the promise of redemption for a group of warriors, each of whom has been around the block once too often. It's also a buddy movie, with Barney and Lee trading tips on dating women in between throwing grenades. Finally, it's a message picture on freedom and patriotism, with justice dealt out to hostage-takers and enemies of democracy.

Unfortunately, these themes get lost in the sheer chaotic spectacle of the film. "The Expendables" is an assault on the eyes and ears, akin to going 10 rounds with Rocky himself. Under Stallone's direction, everything gets supersized: People don't simply get shot; their heads and bodies explode. It's not enough to blow up one building; the entire town must go.

"The Expendables" is not without a few funny moments, and two uncredited actors nearly steal the show. Bruce Willis plays CIA head Church, who gives Barney his new assignment. And Barney's rival is Trench, played by the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The film contains relentless bloody and graphic violence—including shootings, knifings, explosions, decapitations, torture, and implied rape—and some rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.


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Wolfgang of Regensburg: Wolfgang was born in Swabia, Germany, and was educated at a school located at the abbey of Reichenau. There he encountered Henry, a young noble who went on to become Archbishop of Trier. Meanwhile, Wolfgang remained in close contact with the archbishop, teaching in his cathedral school and supporting his efforts to reform the clergy. 
<p>At the death of the archbishop, Wolfgang chose to become a Benedictine monk and moved to an abbey in Einsiedeln, now part of Switzerland. Ordained a priest, he was appointed director of the monastery school there. Later he was sent to Hungary as a missionary, though his zeal and good will yielded limited results. </p><p>Emperor Otto II appointed him Bishop of Regensburg near Munich. He immediately initiated reform of the clergy and of religious life, preaching with vigor and effectiveness and always demonstrating special concern for the poor. He wore the habit of a monk and lived an austere life. </p><p>The draw to monastic life never left him, including the desire for a life of solitude. At one point he left his diocese so that he could devote himself to prayer, but his responsibilities as bishop called him back. </p><p>In 994 Wolfgang became ill while on a journey; he died in Puppingen near Linz, Austria. He was canonized in 1052. His feast day is celebrated widely in much of central Europe. </p> American Catholic Blog Keep your gaze always on our most beloved Jesus, asking him in the depths of his heart what he desires for you, and never deny him anything even if it means going strongly against the grain for you. –Blessed Maria Sagrario of St. Aloysius Gonzaga

 
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