Stallone* and his motley crew of ageing masses of muscle start the film on a rescue mission. Guns! Explosions! On their return (after Jet Li parachutes out of the film forever) Bruce Willis sets them the task of collecting a package from a plane crash to settle their debt from the previous film. It is a seemingly simple mission… Guns! Explosions! Having been scuppered by Jean-Claude Van Damme, playing a man called Vilain (I kid you not), the Expendables are off on a revenge mission which will also stop the world from entering into nuclear war. Guns! Explosions!
It would be too easy to let The Expendables 2 off lightly. To pat it on the head for trying to be an old-fashioned action film and for being nothing but fun. The trouble is that the film is neither good nor bad enough to be truly enjoyable and is just stuck in the middle ground of passable mediocrity. The middle ground may well be filled with guns and explosions but even these set pieces never quite ramp up the action enough for The Expendables 2 to really stand out.
While you could never expect a film with such a recognisable, if craggy-faced, cast to ignore the action film heritage onscreen, the constant winks and nods to the actors’ previous films become tiresome. An exchange between Willis and Schwarzenegger in the film’s climactic battle was so cringe-worthy, I was in danger of having the wind change and making me look like Gary Busey forever. And while the funny dialogue made me cringe, the serious emotional speeches had the whole audience laughing. Stallone has a moment of poignancy over a fallen comrade so horribly clumsy, dumb, and clichéd that giggles were heard throughout the cinema. We certainly weren’t laughing with you Stallone.
You may look at the extensive cast list for The Expendables 2 and wonder how the script is going to service each and every one of the truck-sized men it contains. The simple solution is that it doesn’t. As I mentioned before Jet Li literally jumps out of the film early on while Schwarzenegger, Willis, and Norris are simply overblown cameos. Arrive, shoot everyone, say something that could pass for wit, and then wander off into the distance. I only wish I were exaggerating. Too many times the core group of Expendables were in a seemingly impossible to escape situation when Cameo #3 would appear, save them all, and leave. It’s just plain lazy.
The Expendables 2 is mercifully brief at just over an hour and a half but that runtime is filled with an unengaging plot, bad dialogue, weak acting, and more potential heart attacks than you’d find at an Alan Dale** character convention. I laughed when I was supposed to cry and cried when I was supposed to laugh – Stallone has messed up my emotions forever. The two stars are because I am slightly scared of most of the cast and the next sentence is likely to make them want to hurt me. The Expendables 2 is as clumsy, cumbersome, bloated, and dumb as its lead actors look.
*Actual character names are too ridiculous and forgettable to bother with
**An obscure but accurate joke