I decided to see the nationally top-grossing film of last week, “The Expendables 2,” a sequel to the surprisingly entertaining “The Expendables” from 2010. I discovered that “top-grossing” didn’t mean what I thought it did. Yes, I expected nonstop carnage and flaming mushroom clouds. Yes, I expected testosterone to gush from the screen like water over a dam. But I also expected to be entertained. Poorly conceived, poorly written, and poorly executed, “The Expendables 2” was just plain boring.
The plot is simple and laced with gratuitous violence (I didn’t actually do a count, but I believe the opening scene had a higher body count than all the Rambo movies combined). A team of mercenaries is hired by the CIA to retrieve the contents of a safe from a downed plane somewhere in Eastern Europe. They arrive on the scene and extract the contents of the safe, but have their treasure stolen from them by a local warlord who brutally murders one of the mercenaries. The mercenaries then pursue the warlord’s gang (which miraculously keeps growing in numbers) to extract vengeance—oh and save the world from nuclear conflagration as well.
In a follow-up of “The Expendables,” (which wasn’t all that bad) on steroids, the mercenaries are all played by stoic, over-the-hill action heroes and given inane character names straight out of a comic book. Sylvester Stallone (“Rocky”) mumbles his way through his lines as Barney, the leader of the soldiers of fortune. His second in command is Christmas (played by Jason Statham, “The Mechanic”) as a self-absorbed yet sensitive uber cool ladies’ man. They are joined by Maggie (Nan Yu, “Tuya’s Marriage”) as the resourceful CIA operative who knows the high tech means of accessing the safe, and Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth, “The Hunger Games”) as the ill-fated rookie to the team. Reprising their roles as the rest of the band of brothers are Dolph Lundgren (“Masters of the Universe”) as drug-addled chemist Gunner, Terry Crews (“Bridesmaids”) as epicurean Hale Caesar, and Randy Couture (“Hijacked”) as slow-witted and cauliflower-eared Toll Road. Cameos by other notable action heroes Jet Li (“Hero”), Arnold Schwarzeneggar (“The Terminator”), Bruce Willis (“Die Hard”), Jean Claude Van Damme (“Bloodsport”), and Chuck Norris (TV’s “Walker, Texas Ranger”) are punctuated by dead-panned puns about their previous roles.
For an action film, “The Expendables 2” is remarkably slow paced, and while the action sequences are expertly filmed, the transitions and editing are amateurish. The script, co-written by Sylvester Stallone is embarrassingly sophomoric: A highlight includes seven men blasting away promiscuously at a lone bad guy; the man is hit at least fifty times, with blood spouting from his mutilated and twitching body and Stallone quips, “Rest in Pieces,” to the corpse. The movie is filled with similar bad lines badly delivered, no character development, and no semblance of intelligent thought.
“The Expendables 2,” directed by Simon West (“The Mechanic”), is not the worst movie I’ve ever seen. It’s not even the worst movie I’ve seen this year (“Dark Shadows” takes that honor). But it’s close.