The Expendables 2 Review
The team is back and this time…it’s disappointing.
If you do not like action films of the 80s/90s then please, look away now.
The first Expendables did not live up to the expectations of many. For the die-hard (pun intended) fans of the Golden Age of the action movie genre a team up of the greatest gun-toting, cigar chomping, explosion causing macho men of all time seemed like a dream come true. Unfortunately, the first film proved to be a disappointment and I am afraid to report that The Expendables 2, although better than it’s predecessor, is very much in the same vein.
This time around the expendable team of action legends; including Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren and Jet Li,as well as non-legendary newcomer Liam Hemsworth, find themselves reunited and carrying out a seemingly simple job under the orders of Mr. Church (Bruce Willis). However, as usually happens in these scenarios, things go wrong and revenge becomes the meal of the day for the muscle-bound team.
Here we have a perfectly basic action film plot, and yet somehow the whole experience seems shamefully wasted. Clocking in at around 100 minutes you’d think there would be plenty of time to have the film race along with characters exchanging some witty banter, shooting guns and throwing punches and you could leave the cinema with a grin. Yet for long periods of time it feels as if nothing is really happening and there is nothing to really focus on. It seems that, as was the case with the first film, there are just too many cooks spoiling this particular broth.
The acting is never extraordinary but it wasn’t expected to be and nor should it be. All of the actors play their parts just fine and the macho chemistry between Stallone and Statham is very entertaining. Somewhat unexpectedly the best performance is undoubtedly Jean-Claude Van Damme as the villain…Villain. That’s right, the villains name is Villain. Van Damme plays the role with a real pantomime-like theatricality which is a lot of fun to watch. He’s an antagonist you truly love to hate. You’ll also be pleased to know he can still perform a pretty mean roundhouse kick, as always only with his right leg.
The film also sees the triumphant return of the Austrian Oak and master of one-liners, Arnold ‘Arnie’ Schwarzenegger and it is a treat to see him back on the big screen. It is the tastiest treat in the film. He still shoots a machine gun like a pro and his thick accent has been truly missed. Though his comedic timing is a little lacking he is allowed a warm-up film.
It was a pleasure to see Schwarzenegger cameo in the first film, but he really is back now. Unfortunately he feels it necessary to constantly mention this, as does every other character who interacts with him.
This brings me neatly to the next problem with the film; the script. Like the acting no one was expecting Oscar-bait but the dialogue here is just woeful, at times eye-rolling. And not in a fun Commando-like way. A major quarrel many had with the first film was the lack on one-liners and it seems the writers heard this criticism and made up for it, with gusto. One liners fly across the screen almost as often as bullets do and though this may sound great I assure you it is not. Actors utter each others immortal lines from other, better, franchises and this is just a stark reminder of what this film could have been. Perhaps this kind of action flick should remain in the decades where it shone, or perhaps the inevitable third installment should find a better writer.
Despite all of this, things like characters and dialogue are a moot point really with a film like The Expendables 2 as the main focus is big action set pieces. Again these are something of a disappointment. Though some of the action does raise a smile, particularly Chuck Norris’ entrance and Schwarzenegger and Willis sharing a Smart Car, each set piece seems to fizzle out. The film’s action cannot hold a candle to the great action films of old and just seems to simmer when really it should explode.
The overall problem with the film is that it is trying to reignite a genre that was executed perfectly back in its day. The thing with perfection is that you cannot get any better and so The Expendables films simply falter. The endless comparisons with various members of the cast’s old franchises are rife and, though a good idea in theory, only highlight the problems with this film.