Grumpy old action heroes
Published: Monday, August 27, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 22:08
“The Expendables 2” has a dream scenario for every action fan: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Chuck Norris teaming up for the climactic fight. And their opponent? Jean-Claude Van Damme.
That would have been the coolest movie ever about 20 years ago, when those guys were still bankable stars on the younger side of middle age. Now, though, when they are either at, or approaching, senior citizenship, it is not quite as exciting. Sadly, that is about all this sequel to the 2010 hit has going for it.
The story has the eponymous mercenary team—made up of Stallone (“Rocky”), Jason Statham (“Crank”), Jet Li (“The Forbidden Kingdom”), Dolph Lundgren (“Rocky IV”), Terry Crews (“Everybody Loves Chris”), UFC’s Randy Couture and newcomers Liam Hemsworth (“The Hunger Games”) and Yu Nan—traveling to Eastern Europe to retrieve a map to an abandoned Soviet nuclear stockpile. After an ambush by their ruthless enemies, led by Van Damme (“Bloodsport”), the team sets out to stop the enemies from stealing the radioactive material from the site and selling it on the black market.
There are some good action scenes (ridiculous, over-the-top and a little silly, but entertaining nonetheless), but when the guns are holstered, the movie drags. “The Expendables 2” is not as fun as some of the other films these guys have been in. Instead of just playing it as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the action pictures of yesteryear, frequent scenes of brooding and sulking about death do not gel with the ridiculousness of the whole concept.
It is especially out of place when the whole movie is obviously just a big setup for the aforementioned meeting of legends in battle. The story is obviously no more than an excuse to get to that point, as every line and plot point falls into place to set up the final fight. Norris literally appears out of nowhere, playing off his status as an Internet cult hero.
The film surpasses the original simply for delivering on the final fight, whose gimmick of all these stars in one movie was misleading. The action is apparent, but, aside from Stallone, the legends people came to see merely made cameos instead of taking part in the mayhem.
As the bloodshed gets more ridiculous, the stars get more self-referential by dropping in little pieces from their other movies. Willis and Schwarzenegger trade the catchphrases from “Die Hard” and “Terminator” in a scene that borders on lame and awesome.
The finale is satisfying enough, but it never quite lives up to the sound of the idea on paper or even measures up to action scenes in better movies. It is like seeing four great musicians team up to form a super group, but many years after they were famous and only because they need the money. It is time better spent going back to their old work.
“The Expendables 2” receives a 2.5 out of 5 stars.