During the middle of a fight scene in The Expendables 2, Sylvester Stallone and his group shoot a single enemy to death and then Stallone says, “rest in pieces.” The phrase used by Stallone in that specific scene is exactly what I want this particular action franchise not to do. The Expendables 2 stars Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Liam Hemsworth, and Chuck Norris.
The plot is that Barney (Stallone) and his team have to stop Villain (Van Damme) from stealing a very expensive computer that has a blueprint to mines filled with plutonium, which Villain intends to sell to the highest bidder. If you think that sounds kind of thin, you’d be very wrong; it’s downright weightless. The characters who are part of The Expendables group are given no way to grow and change as people in this film.
The film is a chain of action scenes cut together as one very disjointed film, which pays homage to the 80s and 90s action stars who are the leads. Liam Hemsworth (Billy) is a new addition to The Expendables group, but he really isn’t given anything to do other than be the good soldier and the new kid in the team. I wanted his character to make choices that were different than the rest of the group in terms of what strategy he uses to take out the enemy. I didn’t believe Liam Hemsworth as a soldier and he really has no personal life other than the fact that he has a girlfriend in Paris who he is hoping to provide for as part of The Expendables team.
The main problem with this film is the dialogue. The screenplay, written by Sylvester Stallone and Richard Wenk was chalked full of catchphrase parodies by the action stars in the film. Bruce Willis says something about Rambo and Chuck Norris makes a Chuck Norris joke. Arnold Schwarzenegger makes a Terminator joke. This film is full of winks and nods and I hate it because it is almost as if these actors are trying to say to the audience, “look at all the great movies we made. Remember how great we are?” It’s a mistake for this film to be so self-serving and indulgent.
Another problem for the film is that while the gratuitous violence in the opening scene is fun, the shooting of all the guns gets boring and repetitive very quickly. As a fan of action films, I think a way to make this sequel genuinely interesting would have been to find many more creative ways for enemies to die or, better yet, have The Expendables team make multiple mistakes that jeopardize or compromise their mission. Having multiple serious mistakes made by the main characters would make this group seem flawed and vulnerable and would give audiences reason to root for the mission to succeed.
One positive of this film iss that the final fight between Stallone and Van Damme, which is all hand-to-hand combat, is superb. These guys may be old, but they certainly know how to throw down when they need to. The fight is genuinely brutal, and I found myself rooting for it to continue another few minutes.
The Expendables 2 is an all right action film with numerous problems but, if you grew up in the era in which these men were popular, you will enjoy reminiscing and watching your favorite stars saying their signature lines. That being said, this franchise is definitely expendable.