By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)
Sylvester Stallone’s Barney is back … and unfortunately, he’s still blushing like a June bride. For a 66-year-old man who’s in excellent physical shape, Stallone should wear his age with pride, rather than making some vainglorious attempt to reverse the clock, coating his face like some Killer Klown with berry-red stained cheeks and shoe-polish eyebrows. C’mon, Sly, stand tall, visible wrinkles and all … as an august member of the AARP-Team, you’re very much alive and kicking.
If only The Expendables 2 could say the same.
On the subject of AARP and retiring: This weekend heralds the end of Summer 2012’s remakes, reboots and sequels. As a final 21-gun salute, here comes this thudding scud of a sequel that defies the word “action” with its excruciating pacing. Adding insult to injury, literally, expect an ensemble that’s treated more like a bunch of extras than a supporting cast, as well as a plethora of feeble jokes that are downright embarrassing.
Poorly scripted by Stallone and Richard Wenk, the movie starts off with a quasi-bang, as Barney’s old gang of mercenaries flies to Nepal in order to rescue a kidnapped Chinese billionaire. Aside from the billionaire, however, it seems that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Trench is tied up as well. (Look for not one but four verbal winks of “I’m back.”) Upon the Expendables’ return to the States, Barney is approached by secretive CIA operative Mr. Church (Bruce Willis), who wants to work out a deal. Since Barney is in debt to the CIA to the tune of $5 million, if he takes his crew and a crack code-breaker to Albania to retrieve “Something Important” from a downed plane, maybe all will be forgiven. The fact that the code-breaker is a woman named Maggie (Yu Nan) is a bit dicey. (Gasp! A girl traveling with the Expendables? What will they think of next?)
Things go wrong, an Expendable is cruelly slain by a villain named, what else?, Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and, even worse than his lame name, he’s about to get his hands on five tons of weapons-grade plutonium. Even though the men aren’t youngsters (many geriatric jokes abound, often spoken by a Schwarzenegger who does indeed resemble someone’s deranged grandpa), do Barney & Co. still have the right stuff to apprehend Vilain, avenge their compatriot’s death and save the world as we know it?
With Simon West (Con Air, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) hired on as director – instead of Stallone, who helmed the previous edition – the intent was to make a zippier, lighter version. And that the story would finally deliver on the dynamite entertainment we’d been promised, a high-concept schtick of watching a gaggle of ’80s action stars all duking it out together on the same screen. Maybe with #2, we’d truly experience something akin to a 25-year high school reunion for Planet Hollywood-ians, blasting to the oldies as they dispensed round after round of their own special brand of flaming punch.
Oh well. We can dream, can’t we? Instead, we get minor mumbles from every Expendable other than Jason Statham and Stallone. Toll Road (Randy Couture) and Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) have about five lines each, ditto the grunting Gunner (Dolph Lundgrun) who loses his rogue, double-crossing persona from film #1, and Jet Li gets a few action sequences in the opening before being categorically dismissed. New additions include Yu Nan, so stoic as to appear nearly catatonic, as well as the usually solid Liam Hemsworth, directed as if he were a starry-eyed naïf from Hicksville. Chuck Norris plays Booker, supposedly a “lone wolf” yet, like some deranged stalker, he keeps showing up uninvited. Perhaps he doesn’t understand the meaning of the term.
And though this particular band of mayhem makers is extremely talented with knives, fists, guns and vehicles of all sorts, in the one scene where they’re forced to drop their weapons, they’re suddenly immobilized. Huh? We’ve seen the Expendables fight back with nothing more than a well-placed martial arts kick … and suddenly they’re as helpless as kittens in a box.
Set primarily in Bulgaria, many of the film’s scenes are shot through a murky fog – as if the locations were as cosmetically defensive as the actors, demanding to be diffused with a kinder, gentler lens.
The movie proudly claims its stake in a retro, anti-CGI world. Per Stallone: “We are bringing back that old time rock ‘n roll, and giving audiences what that they haven’t seen for a while: visceral, true-to-life action.” OK … so then when someone is decapitated by a whirring blade, it’s real? When army tanks blow up dozens of villagers, they’re actually dead? Wow … someone should call the police. Once they’re called, maybe they can round up the Expendables as well. For once and for all.
Rating on a scale of 5 highly expendable Expendables: 2
Release date: August 17, 2012
Directed by: Simon West
Screenplay by: Richard Wenk and Sylvester Stallone
Story by: Ken Kaufman & David Agosto and Richard Wenk
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, Scott Adkins, Yu Nan
Running Time: 103 minutes