Writer David Callaham submitted the first draft of an action film called Barrow to Warner Brothers, revising it several times until it caught the attention of Sylvester Stallone, who used it as a starting point for this ensemble film. Or maybe not — as Nu Image and Millennium Films filed a lawsuit against Callaham and the Writers Guild of America West in 2013 for “fraud, unjust enrichment and declaratory relief over a flawed and misinformed Guild arbitration that gave Callaham undeserved writing credit” for The Expendables series of films.
Regardless, he’s gone on to great success, writing films like Doom, Horsemen, 2014’s Godzilla, Ant-Man and the upcoming Zombieland: Double Tap, Wonder Woman 1984 and Marvel’s Shang-Chi. And The Expendables films have become big money makers. Hollywood is crazy sometimes, right?
The Expendables are an elite group of mercs who are made up of some of the biggest action stars of the last few decades. Led by Barney Ross (Stallone), they are bladed weapons expert Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), hand-to-hand fighter Yin Yang (Jet Li), one-time mathematics genius and now burned out combat vet Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), weapons specialist Hale Caesar (originally this role was for Wesley Snipes, but it ended up going to Terry Crews) and demolitions expert Toll Road (MMA fighter Randy Couture).
The thrill of this movie is seeing who shows up next, like Mickey Rourke as Tool, the team’s friends, as well as Barney’s rival Trench Mauser (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and CIA boss Mr. Church (Bruce Willis). The mission in this film involves overthrowing a corrupt general who has an army of his own mercs led by Dan Paine (“Stone Cold” Steve Austin) and support from his own ex-CIA agent James Munroe (Eric Roberts).
This is also all about men coming to grips with their feelings, like the overly angry Jensen leaving the team and having to win them back to his side, Christmas losing his girlfriend (Charisma Carpenter) and winning her back, the toll of combat on a man and Barney trying to deal with the losses he’s had to endure as the leader of the team. But it’s also about fistfights and things blowing up real good.
Stallone went through hell making this film, suffering fourteen injuries like breaking a tooth, rupturing his ankle and a hairline fracture in his neck that required the surgical insertion of a metal plate. He also had bronchitis and shingles to top it all off. He also found the time to direct the film despite the multitude of injuries he was going through.
The Expendables was a movie that Hollywood may have thought no one was looking for, but action fans were crazing the kind of movie that has a body count of 188. It succeeded at the box office, making $275 million worldwide on an $80 million dollar budget. Of course, sequels would soon be in the offering and the ensemble cast would be greatly expanded. In my opinion, they could make one of these movies every single weekend and I’d show up for them.