Expendables 2, The (2012)
Release Date: August 17th, 2012 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Simon West Actors: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Liam Hemsworth, Nan Yu, Amanda Ooms, Charisma Carpenter, Nikolette Noel
here’s no denying the appeal to action fans of seeing Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Chuck Norris in the same scene together. But “The Expendables 2” doesn’t venture far from the experience of just watching a collage of action clips from those stars’ earlier films. A sparse plot bookends the adventure while minimal character development barely manages to squeeze itself between the detonations and cannonading. Any emotional impact of the protagonists’ peril is heavily dulled as a result, but at least no one can claim the film is lacking in action. Cars crash, helicopters explode, tanks plow through buildings, zip line firefights lead to fanboat chases and bazookas, missiles and rockets all find their targets in a furious cacophony of booms – and that’s just in the first few minutes.
When the mysterious Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) demands that Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his team of “Expendables” (Jason Statham, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Dolph Lundgren, and Liam Hemsworth) partner with operative Maggie Chen (Nan Yu) to retrieve the secret cargo from a downed airplane, they assume it will be just another routine mission. But when mercenary Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) unexpectedly arrives to steal the merchandise for himself, things become personal – especially as one of their own is lost to the madman’s rampage. Determined to finish the mission and get revenge for their fallen compatriot, the Expendables must wage an all out war against Vilain and his inexhaustible forces.
It’s amusing to see this assemblage of famous action stars; the macho, muscle-bound men responsible for several of the greatest adventure franchises in movie history. The addition of Chuck Norris brings a smile to the face while Jean-Claude Van Damme assumes the role of the stereotypical, expressionless villain who mercilessly creates the catalyst for inextinguishable revenge. But this second chapter reveals the looming foibles of a movie based solely on the convergence of recognizable action heroes: what exactly to do with them. Simon West steps in for Stallone as director, but little changes – too many characters consume the concise running time, having nothing to do except the insanely repetitious activity of unloading unlimited ammunition into random, gun-toting, enemy soldiers.
The boundless weaponry, armored transports, and aircraft (as well as money) make this group what “G.I. Joe” should have been as a theatrical adaptation – senseless explosions, covert missions, and nonstop gunplay tied together in static scenes of warfare (the opening five minutes concedes sequences of sea, air, and land battle in the overly destructive rescue of a Chinese billionaire). But for all the violence, gung-ho camaraderie, and cheesy one-liners (frequently between the Expendables, trading animadversions that spill into referential homage), there just isn’t enough story to fill in the gaps. A lazy “weapons-grade-plutonium-theft” plot wastes the potential of the group; or perhaps it’s another aspect of self-aware mockery of the genre these actors defined – along with a line about the nameless “corporation” Church works for, and even Van Damme’s moniker of Vilain. They’re like a visualized “Gears of War” Delta Squad or a less restrained “The Wild Bunch” (devoid of the splendid build to an outrageous finale of over-the-top bloodshed), but without heart. It’s great to see them all together, but saddening to witness the lack of creativity.
– The Massie Twins