The Expendables 2 is an over the top splatter-fest populated by almost every iconic action hero of the last thirty to forty years, plus some others. In other roles, these actors are often charming and/or engaging.
In Expendables 2, they’re pretty much boring. It’s strange for a movie with so much action to be so incredibly uninteresting and bland. That said, there are a few effective moments, notably the meta, self-deprecating humor that sprinkles in.
Here’s the trailer:
Released August 17, 2012
Written by Richard Wenk, Sylvester Stallone, Ken Kaufman, David Agosto, and Dave Callaham
Directed by Simon West
Starring Nan Yu, Charisma Carpenter, Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Arnold Schwarzzeneger, Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, Liam Hemsworth, and Randy Couture.
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The old crew is still working together, apparently as a principled mercenary force. Barney (Stallone) leads his crew on a daring rescue of a Chinese businessman, with Lee (Statham) there as what appears to be a co-captain of the squad. His team consists of Gunnar (Lundgren), Caesar (Crews), Toll Road (Couture), Yin Yang (Li), and Billy (Hemsworth). They break the businessman free, while at the same rescuing Trench (Arnie). Yin retires from the team at the end of this caper and Bill talks about leaving the team after the next job; he’s got a girl waiting for him.
Church (Willis) shows up and calls in the debt Barney owes him, getting the team to make a run to secure a package that is in the wreckage of a crashed plane. The team is joined by Church’s acquaintance, Maggie (Yu) for this job. But the baddies are there too and they kill one of Barney’s team in the process of making off with the package. The baddies are led by Vilain (Van Damme), who wants to make money off throwing the world into chaos.
Which, when thought through fully, makes zero sense.
So Vilain and Barney’s team are in a race to control a cache of weapons-grade plutonium. And the bullets are going to fly like crazy. And Chuck Norris shows up as a guy named Booker, although he really should have been called Deus Ex Machina. Explosive scenes ensue. Lots of bullets are fired. Plenty of blood splatters.
I bet you can predict how it all ends.
The Expendables 2 is predictable, exploding, intermittently entertaining stuff. Happily, the stars are smart enough to know that they need to be self-deprecating and that some meta-humor would be necessary to make the film more palatable. The problem is that, despite the whizz-bang action, it’s a boring movie. The characters aren’t authentic, and aren’t quirky or absurd enough to make it not matter that they’re not authentic. Every effort is made to keep things as complicated and explosive as possible.
It’s a generally joyless outing. There are moments of fun, but in general this movie doesn’t provide so much of a ride. Instead, it’s like a painting in motion– static characters posing through multiple different scenes.
There is plenty of inventive violence, to be sure. Moments are mined for clever quips as well. But it’s all somewhat lifeless because most of it seems like posturing rather than storytelling.
Not even a gamely trying Jean Claude Van Damme, or a very loose Jason Statham, could breathe any consistent life into this flick.
Content warnings: some language, nearly non-stop bloody violence
Writing: 2 Acting: 2 Overall: 2
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PS: You know there’s something rotten in the state of Rotten Tomatoes when this movie has a higher fresh score than John Carter. Something very rotten.