Sylvester Stallone‘s The Expendables “isn’t a good movie — it’s merely a serviceable one,” writes Marshall Fine. “Stallone wants it to be a valedictory, perhaps: a meditation on the way men of violence live their lives and live with themselves. But Unforgiven it ain’t. Neither is it The Wild Bunch nor The Dirty Dozen. It wants to be, but, again, there’s not that much depth.

“Stallone would like to fancy himself an auteur on the order of Clint Eastwood: a director/writer who happens to act and who, eventually, could step behind the camera full-time. But as The Expendables shows, he is, at best, a journeyman filmmaker. He’s capable of assembling a movie that is mildly coherent, but not one that engages the audience emotionally or intellectually. Instead, it’s all about the big-bang theory: the bigger the bangs (explosions, gunshots, mammoth fireballs), the bigger the box-office. In theory, anyway.

“It’s all fairly economical: a little action, a few stale wisecracks – and then one huge blowout at the end. But two things keep the film from rising past the level of middling (which is a generous description).

“The script is the main problem. Written by Dave Callaham and rewritten by Stallone, it wants to have humor, action, thrills and drama all jostling for your attention. But aside from the action itself, the rest of it — from Barney’s conscience-stricken decision to go back to the island to the attempts at banter involving Jet Li — seems sketched out, rather than written

“The other problem is the editing, [which] succumbs to the chopped-salad school of film cutting. None of the mano e mano duke-outs are ever given a clean, clear look. Rather, the action is sliced into fragments so that you never have a sense of how the action builds; instead, it’s all pay-offs – punches that connect, kicks that deliver, body-slams that raise a cloud of dust. Or diced-up action [that] is intercut further with scenes of what the other characters are doing at the same time. There’s no continuity to the action, and so no sense of fulfillment.

I wrote a couple weeks ago about how it’s possible to buy into an implausible movie like Salt. The Expendables, however, is both implausible and ridiculous, a formula on to which other formulas have been carelessly grafted. I’d say that I already can smell the sequel, but I believe that odor is coming from this film.”