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Remember when you listened with rapt attention to your grandfather’s stories of his glory days? Imagine that Grandpa is Sylvester Stallone, who calls in a bunch of his buddies to act out his stories. That, in essence is The Expendables 2. It’s poorly written, unevenly plotted and deeply silly. Yet it’s fun to watch action stars of the 1970s and ’80s relive their glory days.
Barney Ross (Stallone: Zookeeper) routinely leads a group of mercenaries on bloody jobs in foreign lands. His team is a who’s who of former action heavyweights, including Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Randy Couture and Terry Crews. Ross and team are on assignment to Mr. Church (Bruce Willis: Moonrise Kingdom) to recover a map that leads to a former Soviet storage bin filled with plutonium.
The job is going well until Monsieur Villain (Jeanne-Claude Van Damme: Dragon Eyes) shows up, kills a member of the team and makes off with the map.
Now out for blood, the Expendables raid a former Soviet mine, defeat Villain, free an oppressed village and unleash enough bullets to kill a third of the world’s population. Along the way, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chuck Norris show up to kick ass and take names.
With a script co-created by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Stallone, The Expendables 2 isn’t much for characters or plot. Dialog is creaky, fight scenes are slow and the main villain is named Villain. Stallone is also a bit of a problem as he experiments with a deadpan style of line reading that makes it seem as if he’s missed his nap. Characters recite lines such as “nothing beats a classic” to remind the audience that age doesn’t matter.
To men, at least. The women featured here have nary a wrinkle or crag to mar their perfect visages. It would have been assuring to see Brigitte Nielson (of Red Sonya fame) blow a hole in an enemy fighter. But I guess action movies are still a boys’ club, even when that club is headquartered at AARP.
Still, The Expendables 2 has a certain nostalgic charm. It’s fun to see Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Van Damme and Willis relive their glory days as they punch, kick and blow up everything in their paths.
I also appreciated director Simon West’s (The Mechanic) commitment to vintage action. In many modern films, violence is mechanized: Bullets fly through the air, people fall down and machines crash into each other causing explosions. That’s how current action movies earn their audience-friendly PG-13 rating. Here bullets cause sprays of blood, mortars take off people’s heads and the audience gets a bloody good picture of just what happens when this sort of violence is unleashed.
So while intellectually I can’t give this movie a rave review, I will confess that I joined the audience’s cheers as Sly and The Muscles from Brussels finally squared off.