Guns! Explosions! Cheesy one-liners! Blood! Sweat! References to better films from decades gone past! That’s The Expendables 2 for you. The manliest part of me – the part that builds fine woodworks and eats beef jerky and drinks Jack Daniels – loves the concept of a stripped down, straightforward shoot ‘em up with the biggest action stars of the past three decades. And that same part of me had a blast during a number of the big explosive set pieces here (especially the over-the-top opening scene) but every part of me was left feeling disappointed. You can be loud and dumb and still give a good time, but there has to be something memorable, something unique to make this more than what its one-line synopsis is on paper. You know this movie as “Stallone and company shoot people and blow stuff up” and that’s all you get. You could probably keep that thought in mind, close your eyes and imagine a more creative movie on your own.
I’m not going to hate on this movie for not having much of a plot – I expected that. But I’m disappointed they didn’t do something a little more fun. It’s just Rambo, the Transporter and their friends shooting guns and chasing after Jean-Claude Van Damme. They’re fueled by revenge but there’s also something about some stolen plutonium or something. It doesn’t really matter. The movie kind of celebrates its laziness and lack of thought as if the cast and crew are proud of making it dumber than dumb; the villain’s name is “Vilain” for crying out loud, and at one point Chuck Norris shows up to shoot some people then tells a Chuck Norris joke/fact and leaves. On the surface that’s all kind of fun, but a little bit more is needed to sustain the movie’s entire running time.
After the first scene I was convinced that this could be something special and unforgettable, but that enthusiasm wore off as the movie wore on. At times it feels like one of those good ol’ flicks I’d watch on a rainy Saturday afternoon on TBS when I was younger, and during those moments it put a smile on my face. Sadly, the lamer and groan-worthy parts are more in abundance than the shamelessly guilty fun. The movie is built around winks and references; we all know that we’re watching Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger shoot guns from a Smart Car and we want to enjoy it – please don’t nudge us repeatedly by saying, “Get it?! It’s John McClane and the Terminator!! GET IT??” This is the type of movie whose idea of “clever” is to put those two action superstars side by side and have Willis say “I’ll be back” and follows it up with Schwarzenegger uttering “yippee ki-yay”. We were all in on the joke from the get-go, you can’t base every single line on the novelty that grabbed our attention in the first place. The movie sold itself to me, put me in my seat, but then didn’t make it worth my time.
It seems worthless to even try to critique this. It was what I expected, but it could’ve been something more. The action scenes are shot coherently and competently enough by Simon West (the director of the 90s’ action classic Con Air) but there’s no real moment that would make me say, “You have to see this one.” I enjoyed the opening scene a lot, had a few laughs, and left the theater without any lingering memories or high spirits. If you’re looking for an action fix I’d much rather recommend staying home and getting your hands on a copy of this year’s The Raid, which takes a similarly simple concept but fills it with the real hard-hitting stuff we’re hungry for. I have no doubt we’ll see these muscular mercenaries back for another round, but it would be nice if they spend more time thinking and less time winking.
EXCLUSIVE The Expendables 2 - Debut Trailer