Directed by: Simon West || Produced by: Avi Lerner, Danny Lerner, Kevin King Templeton, Les Weldon
Screenplay by: Richard Wenk, Sylvester Stallone || Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Music by: Brian Tyler || Cinematography: Shelly Johnson || Edited by: Todd E. Miller || Country: United States || Language: English
Running Time: 103 minutes
I remember sitting in theatres on August 13th, 2010 on my birthday in eager anticipation of the big, dumb fun to come in the form of Sylvester Stallone’s 1980s action-tribute/ensemble movie, The Expendables. It was everything I had hoped for: Big, powerful, bloody, unapologetic combat interspersed with amusing dialogue. Despite how awkward that film was whenever people weren’t shooting each other, the original Expendables remains a good action movie because it nailed the right mixture of pacing, dumb one-liners, and explicit violence. Despite what critics thought, that movie worked both because and in spite of Stallone’s writing. Its sequel, however, does not.
The Expendables 2 (E2) will bore you to tears; given all the action and star power we were promised (including extended appearances by Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger), that is unacceptable. The film’s biggest problem is its pacing. To be clear, it’s not like we expect Dickensian levels of character development or colloquy, nor do any of us walk into a Stallone action film expecting the most coherent narrative. Those are not my beefs with this movie. The film’s severe pacing issues stem from its mind-boggling amount of mediocre-to-terrible dialogue, character moments, and exposition, compared to its sparse set-pieces and the tameness thereof.
I have a hard time deciding which conversation is the worst in E2, since they are all bad in their own way. Dolph Lundgren’s running attempts at comedic relief as a former chemical engineer or math wiz or super-genius (I don’t remember which) are bad, but so is the forced Chuck Norris joke about a cobra. The film’s sense of humor is cringe-worthy.
When the action does pick up in the airport finale, none of the shootouts or hand-to-hand combat match the violence from the first movie. Both the scope and editing of these set-pieces feel tame compared to the original, lacking any sort of rhythm, memorable choreography, or sense of urgency. Sure, there’s some blood here and there, and the violence is distinctly R-rated, but it’s not riveting or impressive by any means.
As for the film’s impressive lineup, that too is a letdown. Willis and Schwarzenegger participate in action scenes this time around, which is a small plus, but we don’t see Norris shoot a guy on screen until the finale, and Jet Li leaves after the opening battle-scene less than half an hour into the movie! And yes, before you interject, Van Damme does fight Stallone… at the end of the movie for about three minutes. Stallone, if a cast member has less than fifteen minutes of screen time, or kills fewer than four people, can you please not bill them as a “starring role?”
I feel so cheated by this whole affair, and that’s pathetic considering the film’s potential. The first hour of E2 is terrible, and it’s all because we are forced to watch a bunch of macho, 1980s throwback action-stars pretending to be dramatic actors. They should’ve stuck to what they did best: Shooting first and asking questions later. It would have been better than whatever the hell this is. Don’t let people tell you that The Expendables 2 is a revamped version of the original 1980s action tribute. It’s not. If anything, it’s a watered down, lazy, half-assed version of the 2010 flick. It feels eerily like the outtakes from that movie, as if Simon West and Stallone took all the unused, cut footage from The Expendables, strung it together, and repackaged it to make another movie. It might as well be.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Expendables 2 is a dull, poorly paced, senior-citizen action flick with none of the old-school charm of the original. The violence is subdued and spaced between huge chunks of awkward, cringe-inducing dialogue and lame one-liners. Li, Willis, Schwarzenegger, Van Damme and Norris are barely in the movie, for the record.
— However... the opening and closing action scenes show some promise.
—> NOT RECOMMENDED
? This movie is like watching Rocky V (1990).