Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Expendables 2

THE EXPENDABLES 2 (Simon West, 2012)

When the stars of yesteryear lose their luster, it’s common for them to keep working and try to remain relevant by parodying themselves, sometimes to the point of debasement. The faded action heroes in THE EXPENDABLES 2 aren’t making mockeries of themselves for the general public’s amusement, but they’re toeing that line when Chuck Norris turns up essentially to play along with his own meme.

The group of mercenaries led by Sylvester Stallone’s Barney Ross are persuaded once again by CIA operative Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) to do a job for him and to include Maggie (Yu Nan), one of his own personnel, on their crew.  This time the Expendables, including Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), and newcomer Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth), are dispatched on a recovery mission in Albania’s Gazak Mountains.  

They retrieve the desired item but are forced to hand it over when Jean Vilaine (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and his men intercept them.  Vilaine gives them reason enough to want to hunt him down before Maggie reveals that they’ve given him a map to the hidden location of five tons of plutonium.

The makers of THE EXPENDABLES 2 can claim to have given audiences what they want.  You want action stars, you got ‘em.  In addition to the primary cast of Stallone, Statham, Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, and young blood Hemsworth, also on hand to get their hands dirty are Willis, Norris, Van Damme, Jet Li, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Scott Adkins.  Looking for numerous action scenes?  Here you go.

At issue, though, is that most of the biggest names are present for what amount to glorified cameos.  Schwarzenegger and Willis get to do more than they did in the first film, but they’re hardly reliving their glory days in the genre.  Director Simon West doesn’t skimp on shootouts, which would be all well and good if they weren’t spatially incoherent and nonsensically cut.  A brief sequence of Jet Li battering baddies with pans is more pleasing to follow than all of the time in which shots are held for about as long as heavy artillery can fire off a few rounds.

THE EXPENDABLES 2 isn’t a parody, yet it doesn’t help its cause naming the villain Vilaine.  The oldies on the soundtrack are reminiscent of what scores erectile dysfunction pill ads.  One-liners like “rest in pieces” and “I now pronounce you man and knife” are artlessly added and overused.  The movies that many of these guys made in the 1980s and ‘90s were hardly bulletproof, but this is a cynical exercise in settling for what is expected to be passable. THE EXPENDABLES 2 doesn’t give the impression that anyone is making a serious effort, not when they can coast on nostalgia.

Grade: C-

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