November 28, 2012

The Expendables 2 (2012)

IF YOU TOLD ME 20 YEARS AGO that Rambo, John McClane, and The Terminator were in the same movie, I would’ve pulled a muscle in my sprint to buy a ticket. But now that the men behind those three action icons have finally joined forces in this year’s The Expendables 2, the experience is hollow, anti-climactic, and two decades too late.

Not that Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger share equal screen time. Like the 2010 original Expendables, this is Stallone’s show, with Bruce and Arnold in supporting roles (though larger than their opening-and-gone appearances in the first film). Here, Stallone’s Barney Ross leads the same team of mercenaries – Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, and Terry Crews – plus two new team members: young sniper Billy (Liam Hemsworth) and weapons specialist Maggie (Nan Yu).

The Expendables 2 opens with a spectacular attack and rescue sequence (despite cheesy CGI blood sprays and poor ADR). This ultimately leads Ross and his team to bad guy Vilain, played by Jean-Claude Van Damme, who’d be more intimidating if you could understand half of what he’s saying. Vilain and his small army plan to steal stockpiles of plutonium from an abandoned Russian mine and sell to the highest bidder, but not before Vilain kills one of Ross’ men. Judging from the pecking order of the cast, you can probably guess who it is (rhymes with “Shmemsworth”).

No one’s looking for high art in the Expendables films or the blow-‘em-ups of yesteryear they hope to emulate. But The Expendables 2 is dumb and ridiculous even by ‘80s standards. Cheesy one-liners elicit more groans than laughs, there are hackneyed references to the stars’ classic action characters and their catchphrases, and every other scene seems to be our heroes walking in slow motion to the “dum-da-da-dum” score by Bryan Tyler.

Essentially, The Expendables 2 is an exercise in missed opportunities. Li disappears after the opening sequence, Mickey Rourke (who had the most poignant scene in the original) does not appear, Van Damme and Lundgren never square off in a possible Universal Soldier rematch, and Chuck Norris’ cameo is pointless and uninspired (he’s basically the Mighty Eagle to the Expendables’ Angry Birds).

And yet again, not one member of Ross’ original team (despite the overwhelming odds) is killed or even seriously injured. Stallone and co-screenwriter Richard Wenk could have really upped the audience involvement by bumping off someone like Statham, Li, Lundgren, Couture, or Crews and made us thirsty for Van Damme’s blood. We can only hope that if the rumored Expendables 3 happens, Stallone and the filmmakers will take a chance and show just how expendable these kill-‘em-all characters truly are.


Is it suitable for your kids?
The Expendables 2 is rated R for “strong bloody violence throughout,” and they ain’t kidding: shootings, beatings, stabbings, dismemberments, and immolation, to name a few. In addition, many, many things – from bridges to tanks to planes to buildings – are blown up, crashed, or demolished. Strangely, there is very mild use of profanities (though one use of “retard”).

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
Highly, highly unlikely. Between the awful dialogue, bloody violence, and aged action stars, I think she’ll feel that what’s not expendable is 103 minutes of her life to sit through this.

Yay, we won! Orange whips on me!

The Expendables 2
* Director: Simon West
* Screenwriters: Richard Wenk, Sylvester Stallone
* Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, Scott Adkins, Yu Nan
* MPAA Rating: R (strong bloody violence throughout)

Rent The Expendables 2 from Netflix >>

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