In USA’s tawdry telepic “The Expendables,” Cuba has much more pressing issues to deal with than uniting Elian Gonzalez with his father: Like dealing with an American undercover operation, staffed with six sexy violent felons, who take off and put on their clothes with alarming regularity.
In this bizarro variation of “The Dirty Dozen” on estrogen, tough guy Col. Finley Deacon (Brett Cullen) is handed the assignment of training a team of women held in a max-security prison to rescue an American agent who got “the urge to go mano a mano with big daddy Fidel,” as a top official explains.
Deacon gets to pick his women from a pool of tough-talking lifers (sample dialogue: “Bite me,” “My mouth ain’t that big!”) and puts them in a tricky boot camp to prepare them for the journey south of the border. Along the way, the girls get into a lot of photogenic catfights, share various sob stories about their criminal pasts and manage to keep their make-up and hair in place while roughhousing around the base.
Once they get to Daddy Fidel’s island, the posse proves that Deacon’s efforts haven’t been in vain. Writers Patricia Resnick, Peter Geiger and Bruno Heller even throw in a couple of lame twists to keep everybody awake in the final act.
Among the cast, former MTV veejay Idalis de Leon and ex-“Head of the Class” student Robin Givens do their best with their stereotypical tough cookie roles. A very grown-up Tempestt Bledsoe (“The Cosby Show”) also gets to show us that she’s definitely not in Huxtable Country anymore, and Cullen brings a certain wooden macho mystique to the role of the good colonel in charge. Here’s a guy who is man enough to just say no to one of the lovelies when she offers a little nookie as a latenight birthday gift.
Tech credits are solid, and Mexico is a good stand-in for Cuba. Frankie Blue’s Havana-flavored music certainly rocks, while costume designer Debbie Shine shows an intriguing flare for mixing military camouflage pants with Victoria’s Secret lingerie.