The Expendables made more money than it probably should have, so The Expendables 2 was an inevitability. That film had a bunch of action stars — some of whom you might have forgotten about, like Dolph Lundgren — who were past their prime (and Jason Statham, who is still a star) and had them team up in one movie which was simple and kind of stupid, primarily because it was meant to be a throwback to action films of the ’80s — you know, the era when most of the actors were still bankable.
The Expendables 2 follows that formula to a T. A bunch of aging action stars (and Jason Statham and Liam Hemsworth) well past their prime team up to perform a simple mission. There are shootouts and fist fights and dialogue talking about how manly everyone is, presumably because half of the actors are insecure about how they’ll appear on-screen. This might be fun if the action was good but it’s some of the blandest and least-inspired action you can see in a big-budget movie. And you know you’re in trouble when the best actor in your movie is Jason Statham.
The story goes something like this: After a relatively simple mission for the mercenary group known as the Expendables goes wrong and one of them dies — the Liam Hemsworth character; sorry, teenage girls — the remaining members decide to go after the villain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and kill him because he killed one of theirs. Along the way, they hope to recapture the safe they lost in the initial mission, and also free an oppressed group of local Bulgarians whom the villain has enslaved. And, hey, Van Damme’s character’s name is literally “Vilain.”
I think part of the problem with this whole setup is that watching a 60-year-old fire a gun at nameless bad guys is both unimpressive and unenjoyable. None of the people in the film look like they’re unable to shoot a gun, and for the most part, that’s what most of them get to do. Sylvester Stallone (the group’s leader) has one fist fight — the film’s climax — which is just awful, and Jason Statham gets a couple of hand-to-hand combat scenes, but the rest of the characters just get to stand around and shoot, occasionally walking or even — gasp — running in the process of shooting.
Could I have a whole paragraph listing all of the characters in The Expendables 2? Yes, I probably could. And it would waste your time less than this movie does. Here are the ones you want to know: Chuck Norris shows up for a couple of scenes and gets to make reference to his internet meme status, which I can’t see many people finding funny; Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger get involved in the final action scene, making jokes about one another’s catchphrase; and Jet Li is in the film for about three minutes before saying “see you” and leaving.
I don’t dislike this premise. I’m just not a fan of the execution. Watching older actors fire guns in any which direction gets boring after the initial shock of seeing it. Filling a full movie of little more than this just isn’t fun. We’re watching this movie to be a fun throwback to the ’80s action films and stars, and it just functions as a reminder that those films, for the most part, weren’t that good (then again, the majority of movies over cinema’s history weren’t that good).
There’s a bare minimum of plot in the film. I’m under the assumption that this was done because the filmmakers have no faith in the target audience to be able to comprehend something more complex than “guys go here and shoot things.” I don’t believe that to be true but it says a lot about how much respect the filmmakers have for their viewers.
I suppose if all you’re looking for in a movie is a lot of destruction, carnage, and explosions, then you’ll get lots of that with The Expendables 2. Lots of things go “Boom!” People are shot and blood comes out of them. I can’t get excited about describing this. There are maybe one or two exciting moments in this 103-minute movie. Being thrilled once every 50 minutes isn’t my idea of a good action movie. Can everyone but Statham and Li retire? And can they do a buddy-cop movie together where guns are forbidden? That might be fun.
Do you know what The Expendables 2 needed? Mickey Rourke. He had a couple of scene-stealing moments in the last film and it would have been nice to actually let him get in on the action scenes this time around. What happened? Did the other actors hate him for doing that acting thing he gets paid to do? Now we’re left with Jason Statham and Sylvester Stallone as our best dramatic actors. Well, there’s also Bruce Willis, but he’s here to shoot guns, make jokes, and collect a paycheck.
I don’t begrudge people for liking the Expendables movies but two chapters in I’m confident in saying that they’re not for me. They lack a plot, they don’t contain many action scenes that are exhilarating, and I can’t think of many reasons to watch them. The cameos don’t make me laugh or smile, and while they’ve both had one or two good moments, that’s not enough to justify spending over 100 minutes of our life watching them.