“The Expendables 2” Movie Review


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     In 2010, I have to admit, I was quite giddy about the possibilities of an ensemble of both current and 80s action stars teaming up in a summer blockbuster.  "The Expendables" didn't disappoint as it successfully ruled the August box office and reintroduced Stallone as both an actor and director to a new generation of fans.  Obviously, a sequel was inevitable and perhaps even warranted.  There was a noticeable chemistry amongst the core group of Stallone, Statham, Couture, Li, Crews, and Lungren, as well as the cameos that included Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Fans clamored for larger roles for the latter and in "The Expendables 2", they get what they've asked for, though numerous others sacrifice to make it happen.

     "The Expendables 2" begins with the same intensity seen in the first film with a rousing action sequence comparable to the best I've looked at all summer.  Taking the directing reigns from Stallone for this installment is Simon West ("Con Air") and the opening scene alone lends credence to the skills he possesses.  The advantage of opening a film with such a massive action sequence is it really doesn't have to fit within the realm of the story about to be told.  We already know what these guys do, so it's acceptable to start the sequel as if we're on a ride along in their latest mission.  If "The Expendables 2" were to go on and lay the proper ground work for an actual story, than it may have been a memorable and satisfying film.  Unfortunately for all involved, this doesn't happen.  "The Expendables 2" is a series of scenes designed to give each returning character something witty to say and usually within the context of another actor's famous quote from another film.  In an early scene, Arnold tells Crews to give him his gun.  When Crews is ordered to hand it over he quips, "I better get it back or I'll terminate you".  The film is so concerned with the main characters blurting out these kinds of lines that it completely forgets to construct any kind of story.  

     The plot is set up when Barney Ross (Stallone) goes to his team's plane for some alone time.  In what comes off as cheesy and forced, Church (Willis) happens to be there waiting and tells him he's there to collect on a past debt in which he got Ross and his team out of trouble.  Church sends Ross and his team on a mission to retrieve a mystery case from a safe located in a plane wreckage.  When things don't go as planned and one of the team members is killed, the rest of the film becomes a revenge plot.  In the pivotal scene in which Ross is temporarily beaten by his adversary (played by none other than Jean Claude Van Damme), the villains have the opportunity to shoot and kill Ross' entire team and be done with them.  Of course it's only an hour or so into the film so guess what? The bad guys let them go!

     The second hour is nothing more than each team member having their own moment of mayhem.  To make room for Arnold, Jet Li is written out of the film after the first 10 minutes, not to be seen again.  After a clunky dialogue driven middle, which centers on the villains possessing 5 tons of weapons grade Plutonium, the film's third act is devoted to endless shoot outs and fight scenes laced with each actor's signature dialogue from previous films.  Even Chuck Norris comes out of no where and plays a character who has no function in the story, yet happens to be in the same place and at the same time as Ross and his team for no explainable reason.  I guess it's a really good thing he ends up being on their side, otherwise there would be a second time in the film where all of the main characters would've been killed.  As you probably expect, Van Damme is involved in a fight scene in which he shows he can still pull off his famed helicopter kick, though I'm shocked they never have him do the splits at some point!

     Don't get me wrong though.  I get what Stallone and his iconic cast of characters are trying to do here.  Nobody in this movie is taking their role seriously and neither should you.  "The Expendables" was made for entertainment value only and is meant to be the ultimate in escapist fun.  The big problem I see here is after the first one, the novelty has worn off.  There's nothing new here.  The gun fights, the aerial battles, the testosterone filled fight scenes are all the same with no additional creative aspects on display.  When you have so many recognizable actors playing caricatures of themselves in what seems to be a boiler plate story, the result will always be a "been there, done that" feeling.  These are larger than life actors, in a painfully average film. GRADE: C