We all knew it was inevitable. It was just a matter of time before a sequel to 2010’s “The Expendables” was made to deliver more explosions, gunfire, and corny one-liners. With “The Expendables 2,” you get all that and… nothing more. If you were hoping for a film with characters you can care about, you’re looking in the wrong place. If you’re looking for a film that’s entertaining, that’s really going to depend upon your definition of the word. This is a film made very specifically for action junkies. Unfortunately, for everyone else it’s going to be very forgettable.
The film starts off with the old gang, which includes Barney (Sylvester Stallone), Lee (Jason Statham), and Bill (Liam Hemsworth), rescuing a prisoner in Nepal. Upon their return, they are given a mission by an old acquaintance, Church (Bruce Willis), to retrieve the contents of a safe that is in a plane that was shot down over China. The mission seems to go pretty well as they recover the contents pretty easily. Unfortunately, on their way out, they walk into an ambush led by Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme), the leader of a gang. After Vilain forces them to turn over their prize, he kills one of their men. This changes it from just another mission, to one where they must now seek revenge for their fallen comrade.
Right away, the filmmakers want to remind you that you are indeed watching an action film as they immediately inundate you with enough explosions and gunfire to disinterest you pretty quickly. It’s certainly not helping that these sequences are pretty badly edited together, making them a blur of events. In my review of the original film, I referred to it as “A.D.D.: The Motion Picture,” and from this opening, it was pretty clear that that was what we were going to get once again.
What was really baffling about this film was the filmmakers’ choice of giving the biggest parts to the actors with the least personality, i.e. Stallone and Statham. Why have your whole film riding on people as dull as them? On top of that, they feel the need to tease you with the likes of much better action stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. A little change up could have done wonders for the entire film. Instead, we only get the better pair for a couple of scenes.
However, even their limited presence came with a price. For some reason, the writers, Stallone and Richard Wenk, felt the need to fall back on snippets of dialogue from Schwarzenegger’s and Willis’s biggest films. This merely comes off as desperate and embarrassing as we hear Schwarzenegger spout off “I’ll be back” and “Yippee kai yay” to Willis. It was as though they were trying to remind us of when they made good action films like “The Terminator” and “Die Hard.”
The final battle comes down to a rather baffling encounter, one that turns out to be completely unnecessary. Instead of ending the battle right then and there, Stallone’s character opts to risk millions of lives in order to have a fist fight with Van Damme over the possession of a vast amount of weapons grade plutonium. I guess they took any excuse to throw in yet another action sequence, even if it didn’t make any sense.
If there’s good news to be found about “The Expendables 2” it’s that it really isn’t any worse than the first film. In fact, it might even be a little better as the final act’s big action sequence didn’t seem to drag on for nearly as long as it did in the previous film. This certainly doesn’t mean that it’s recommendable, just that they did a little better on the pacing this time around. They still have the much bigger problem of there not being any reason to care about what’s happening on the screen to deal with.
Hopefully, we won’t have to face “The Expendables 3,” but if we do, let’s hope that the filmmakers take some of this advice to heart: promote Schwarzenegger and Willis to the leads while ditching Stallone and Statham and find better screenwriters. If not, a potential third film will end up failing just like the first two. At least they’ve been aptly named. They certainly are expendable. 2/4 stars.
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