by Luke Whitmire

I’ll be honest: Expendables 2 is a shoddy and lazy film with careless acting, clumsy story structure, cheesy dialogue, and awful CGI.

This film truly is a nonsensical and emotional detached opus that redundantly serves up an untrammeled mess of exaggerated carnage. Elementary filmmaking at its worst.

Sylvester Stallone structures this sequel just as he did with the first film—no subtext or underlying theme to empower the high-octane action sequences or the cast of muscle-bound meatheads with pathos or dimensional characteristics. We are once again served a plethora of incongruous scenes of mayhem, while our expendable heroes show up out of nowhere and shoot and blow stuff up. There is no logic or narrative cohesiveness whatsoever.

The campy one-liners from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris are horrendous.

Stallone: That plane belongs in a museum.
Schwarzenegger:  We all do.

What hurts is that these two geriatric legends are really speaking the truth. Then Chuck Norris shows up after saving the Expendables and tells a joke about surviving a Cobra bite! What?! Again, very bad scripting by Sly and his co-writer, Richard Wenk. I didn’t know if they were trying to be funny or not! Pretty much all the dialogue is redundant, lame and cheekily self-aware, especially from Schwarzenegger.

Another new addition to the Expendables cast is Jean-Claude Van Damme as the sneery and cavalier Jean Vilain. I read somewhere that Van Damme gives something new every take, and it shows positively in every scene he’s in. He is the real actor and star of the film, adding flourishes to his dialogue and showing off his amazing physical dexterity. Van Damme is the only positive in the film; he brings a dynamic presence to the company of self-styled alpha males.

This time around the film is helmed by Simon West (Con Air, Tomb Raider), and he is a more skillful action director than Stallone. Simon gives us more wide shots and more efficiently choreographed fight scenes than Sly constructed in the first film. No more of the shaky-cam or unfocused shots that really burdened its predecessor. This sequel is several notches above the first film due to Simon’s keen eye for direction. At least this time we have a director that lets the actors charm their way through a hackneyed and conventional parody.

Arnold, Sly, & Willis in The Expendables 2

Stallone attempts to give the viewer a glorious satire on the 80’s action genre, but fails on every level to devise a compelling formula. Expendables 2 is a vacuous, self-referential tale that’s all brawn and no brains. The film spends a lot of serious time with our old heroes, paying homage to their better glory days. But, this film doesn’t know what it wanted to be a lot of times–action/parody or action/drama? What it was was a befuddled mess of ideas and concepts.

Furthermore, I was really hoping for a clever, nostalgic action fantasy—a sort of wish-fulfillment spectacle for hard core action fans. Instead we are treated to a lame, semi-automatic experience of septuagenarians who have devalued over time.

Bottom line: A  bulging, flexing, brute-force disappointment!

**  (2 stars out of 5)

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