The Expendables 2: So Much More of the Same

Sylvester Stallone beefs up his aging-action-hero franchise with Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, and action hack director Simon West, delivering exactly what you’d expect: relentless carnage and stilted one-liners galore.

Sylvester Stallone’s first Expendables faltered by promising something (a big, dumb, self-aware meta-action movie) and delivering something else (a big, dumb action movie that seemed all too convinced of its badass nature, bypassing the fact that its entire cast of action beefcakes were about 900 years old total). This sequel, surprisingly enough, is not directed by Stallone; the result is a slightly more self-aware but equally dumb romp that brings back the original lame dad jokes, relentless carnage and stilted one-liners while adding a few more iconic names.

The highly-paid group of mercenaries known as the Expendables returns from its original mission indebted $5 million to their nebulous boss Church (Bruce Willis); in exchange, he cuts their leader Barney (Stallone) a deal to find some doohickey in the ass-end of nowhere. Their plans are soon thwarted by dastardly villain Jean Vilain (a game Jean-Claude Van Damme) who needs said doohickey to acquire a cache of plutonium and blow up the world. The Expendables (their ranks somewhat fortified by new recruits Nan Yu and Liam Hemsworth as well as old dogs Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger) must go to Bulgaria and right the wrongs of the world, whatever that entails.

Intellectual cinema this ain’t; it’s almost wall-to-wall action scenes and whatever character moments may have been attempted are wooden and awkward. The digital cinematography is often muddy and grainy, and the plot verges on the nonsensical throughout. The dialogue seems to have been written by a carefully selected consortium of the lamest pun-happy dads, and criminally, Mickey Rourke has not returned to add unnecessary gravitas.

As a stupidly nostalgic action flick, however, it more than delivers the goods. Director Simon West keeps the action moving fluidly, each cast member gets their little moment to shine and callback to a better-known role, the digital squibs come hard and fast and Stallone fights Van Damme mano a mano. It’s entirely inconsequential but undeniably entertaining, and Stallone seems to have devised a structure that allows for an infinite amount of Expendables sequels. Better get used to it. ■

The Expendables 2 opens Aug. 17.

Alex Rose blogs and podcasts about movies at Why Does it Exist? @whydoesitblog on Twitter.

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