The Expendables 2 – 2012
Director Simon West
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Arnold Schwarzenegger,Bruce Willis, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claud Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth
Screenplay Richard Wenk, Stallone
The first thing I noticed about The Expendables 2 is that I can’t understand what it is that Stallone or inexplicably, Lundgren, are saying without subtitles. Stallone has been hard to decipher since he made it big with Rocky. Just last year, however, I heard an interview with Lundgren on The Dan Lebatard Show, and he seemed every bit the Fulbright Scholarship guy with a Masters in Chemical Engineering that he is. He was completely understandable. Why the change for this movie? According to dialogue, it’s the booze. What in the hell is Stallone’s excuse?
The Expendables 2 is the equivalent of a 13-year old nephew at a family function. The muscles are bigger than he had before, and all of a sudden, he’s funny, but not in the way he thinks he is.
“You wanna man up?” Stallone’s Barney Ross says nearing a climactic fight, “I’ll man you up.”
Just as in the first movie, there is an appropriately named bad guy (JCVD as “Vilain”) surrounded by a bunch of guys who can’t shoot straight. He has one guy who can, but that guy is reserved for Statham’s Lee Christmas.
The plot is a mashing of elements from a 13-year old’s idea of Bond, Indiana Jones and The Dirty Dozen. There are almost no memorable shots in the film, which was strange to me, because I thought I remembered Simon West as a better director than that. Looking up his movies, I discovered that while he had directed Con Air, he’s done nothing else memorable on the big screen. The big surprise came when I realized that it was Simon Wincer who had directed the classic TV mini-series, Lonesome Dove.
There are more forced cameos with bad dialogue this time, as Willis, Norris and Schwarzenegger creak their way onto the screen with a thud. Norris’ entrance is particularly bad, as he and Stallone swap Chuck Norris jokes, without using the name, Chuck Norris. This is funny to somebody. This is not funny to the people who started the Chuck Norris Facts internet phenomenon.
All of this old flesh means less time for the guys who were in the first film. The best character, Rourke’s Tool, is not mentioned, because he bailed this time out. Jet Li’s Yin Yang makes a nominal appearance at the start of the film. Those were the smart ones. The rest of the guys, except Statham and Lundgren, are barely there. Very few lines, and what lines they have are cut off by Stallone. It’s a thankless job.
There is one more addition, Liam Hemsworth as Billy “The Kid.” Billy’s a sniper. And he’s got a girl in France that he’s saving up to marry and live with. Guess what’s gonna happen to him.
Van Damme’s role is a waste. The talent that he has as a martial artist is compromised when he is forced to wait for Stallone to lumber across the screen towards him, throw a slow left, then a slow right and so on. Then he gets to kick butt for a while, and then lose. Supposedly Nic Cage is waiting in line to die next. They’ve made overtures to Eastwood and Harrison Ford, too. Great.
Stallone is a stone-faced relic by now. He only seems to be putting the bare minimum effort at being understood. The script is just a pile of bad one liners, often between him and Statham. Watching Stallone run is almost as funny as watching him shoot those tiny guns he insists on carrying here, as part of his “character.” Statham fares better with the knives and his martial arts skill. Neither man can list this as their best work. Not even close.
If the first one was a collection of friends surrounding an action star past his prime, what was this one for? Money, plain and simple. And this one made more than the last one. This will never end.
(*1/2 out of *****)