Expendables 2 C+
“The Expendables 2,” a sequel to the 2010 sleeper hit, “The Expendables,” is one notch above the original due to the more skillful direction of Simon West and the addition of several new and young characters to the male aging team.
Back in 2010, “The Expendables” was a trashy feature that mostly served as working opportunity for many of Hollywood’s former action stars. The industry has never been kind to its old players, as was clear from the careers of so many stars, even during the studio system.
That film was dismissed by most critics (according to the Rotten Tomatoes service, 60 percent of the reviews were negative), but it made money at the box-office, grossing over $100 million domestically and quarter of a billion globally.
The taut but expectedly silly and trivial script is co-penned by Richard Wenk and Sylvester Stallone, based on a story by Ken Kaufman, David Agosto and Richard Wenk, based on characters created by David Callaham.
Simon West is a more skillful action director than Stallone, who helmed the first one, and functions here as a co-scribe (he is also not a good writer, but that’s another story).
West knows that the only reason viewers will go and see a movie like Expendables 2 is to view their popular stars as they age, some more gracefully than others. Thus, he gives each action hero a few lines and a semi-distinctive character that draws on their specific screen image.
“Expendable 2” is movieish to a fault, a self-referential tale that walks a fine line between overt parody of its stars and paying a slightly more serious homage to their better and more glorious days in the past.
This time around, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), Toll Road (Randy Couture) and Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) are joined by some new members, Billy the Kid (up and coming star Liam Hemsworth) and even an attractive and young femme named Maggie (Yu Nan).
There must be a reason for their class reunion, and so the scribes have concocted a rudimentary plot, in which the gathering occurs, when Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) enlists them to take on a seemingly simple job.
At first, the task is perceived by the macho members of Barney and his band of old-school mercenaries as just an easy paycheck—and something to do!
However, predictably, things go wrong and one of their own (whose identity cannot be revealed here) is viciously killed by a villainous adversary. The ensuing saga is one of brutal revenge with the sort of enemies and in a hostile territory where the odds are stacked against them. Or do they?
Time is running out: Hell-bent on payback, the crew engages in massive and cruel destruction of its opposing forces, wreaking havoc and shutting down the menacing threat, five tons of weapons-grade plutonium, which is sufficient for changing the already precarious balance of power in the entire world.
Not to worry, the tale is simple and conventional, replete of familiar clichés, and devoid of any discernible politics or ideology. You wish the plot were slightly more inventive, slighltly less formulaic in using an extremely large number of characters—about a dozen dirty fighters–for an actioner.
The new members, Liam Hemsworth, Scott Adkins, martial arts legends Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Chinese actress Yu Nan (who boasts the title of the first female Expendable) don’t have much to do, serving as distraction, supplement, and divertissement for the older stars.
The job gets done, and we wonder whether “Expendables 2” would yield the kind of boffo (to use Variety jargon) that would justify the making of “The Expendables 3.”
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