After a summer packed full of 3D effects, not to mention a string of mediocre kids' movies, it is understandable why audiences would welcome the overworked muscles of this old school cast. And if you love '80s and '90s action-fests, starring oldies like Stallone and Lundgren, this movie will not disappoint. 'The Expendables' looks like every shoot-em-up you've ever seen, and has its fair share of unbearably drawn-out monologues and clichéd moments to boot. But when it comes to fighting, killing and explosions, this movie more than delivers on expectations that it would be 2010's manliest and hardest hitting thriller.

The story centres on a team of mercenaries hired by a mysterious figure, Mr Church (Willis), to travel to the South American island of Vilena and overthrow its ruthless dictator, General Garza (Zayas).

Barney Ross (Stallone), a man with nothing to lose, is the leader of this highly skilled team. Lee Christmas (Statham), a former SAS soldier, is quite nifty when it comes to flinging blades around as though they were boomerangs. Yin Yang (Jet Li) is a martial arts expert who gives a totally new meaning to the 'Highland Fling'. Hale Caesar (Crews) pops caps like no tomorrow and Toll Road (Couture) is the intellectual of the bunch whose ability to cause explosions would put James Bond to shame. Put all their bulging biceps together and these men are a force to be reckoned with.

On arrival in Vilena, Barney gets sidetracked by Gaza's beautiful daughter, Sandra (Itie), who's fighting against the regime and who almost discloses her dark secret to him. When the mission goes terribly wrong, Barney and Christmas are forced to dump Sandra, effectively handing her a death sentence. However, it's not long before the guilt kicks in and Barney and the gang are planning a rescue mission.

While it's not a great plot, the special effects are vintage to say the least and Stallone and co look a bit worse for wear at times, 'The Expendables' still manages to feel fresh and even the lesser scenes work well enough. Everyone gets their moment, and the stars are all good together, particularly Stallone and Statham, who seem like a natural born double act. And although it is only a short scene when Stallone, Willis and Schwarzenegger unite, it has a great atmosphere and allows us to reminisce even more about the good old days of 'real' action movies.

'The Expendables' isn't the be-all-end-all of tough guy blockbusters. The screenplay, co-written by Stallone with Dave Callaham, is overflowing with clichés and macho one-liners, and it relies quite heavily on close-ups - perhaps because of Stallone's ego and even age. That said, what really matters is that the mayhem is as aggressive, preposterous and eccentric as you could wish for, with lots of shootouts, thrown knives and bombs making for an insanely spectacular movie. Definitely this summer's must-see.

Laura Delaney

Listen to the 'Framerate' review of 'The Expendables' from RTÉ Choice.