Old school lock-and-load. The Expendables 2 is off the ground because of Sylvester Stallone, but this time he’s gotten his crew of 80’s and 90’s action icons more involved. Generic Asian baddies get battered up no good by the Stallone band of mercenaries, and really, these guys never lose. Why would they? It’s a demonstration of macho invincibility. Being the B-movie it is, these guys or maybe the filmmakers have a case of Alzheimer’s. For instance, a freed hostage is brought up and then forgotten for the rest of the sequence. And Jason Statham’s girlfriend is brought in Act One and never… well, is this really a girl’s movie? I’m not supposed to care, right?
One action babe does tag along, played by gun-toting Chinese ingénue Nan Yu who has pouty lips you stare at the entire movie. I wondered for awhile which guy in the cast she was going to warm up to, it had me guessing. But mostly, things blow up real good and in one scene, an unmanned motorbike drives off a roof and crashes into a baddie helicopter – a great early laugh in the movie. The storyline does finally bring up exploited forced labor and illegal plutonium contraband. The greater suspense is, really, when are Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis going to share the same shot? The answer will not be met with disappointment as the three of them cock their weapons and get busy.
This is not a franchise that is long on words, but they are hardly an illiterate group. The first “Expendables” had Mickey Rourke who notably had that movie’s longest monologue. He’s gone this time, who knew he left? This time, the longest monologue belongs to Liam Hemsworth followed by a semi-long speech by Willis. These actors are given good manly speeches to work with, ones that deal with at least a sliver of humanitarianism.
How about a quick run-through of the rest? The shortest amount of words spoken might be Randy Couture. The very funny but ripped Terry Crews has a few more words, and more physical humor. Also funny is Chuck Norris, whom he never really got back in the heyday – probably because he never had a good director to work with. Dolph Lundgren garbles his words. Jet Li will be remembered mostly for his early efforts in the movie.
This Part 2 installment is directed by Simon West (“Con Air”) who conceives everything in over-the-top outrageousness, and without a dip to subtext. If just this of subtext: When bad guys are brutal Neanderthals (Jean-Claude Van Damme leads the Eurotrash) why not have Stallone and crew go annihilate the hell out of them? Violence is how you solve problems, at least according to old school scripture.
103 Minutes. Rated R.
ACTION & ADVENTURE / MALE AGGRESSION PANDEMONIUM / BLOCKBUSTER WEEKEND CROWDS
Film Cousins: “Inglorious Bastards” (1978, Italy); “Con Air” (1997); “Grindhouse” (2007); “The Expendables” (2010).