What can you say about entertainment that has already labeled itself expendable? The original Expendables at least had an original concept going for it, and some nice dialogue exchanges and quiet acting moments from Sly Stallone and the rest of his gang of over-the-hill action stars. Here we get a few more action stars (Liam Hemsworth, Chuck Norris, Nam Yu) and even more digital blood and exploding body parts, but little in the way of satisfaction.
Jean Claude Van Damme, as the creatively-named villain Vilain, shows some promise in an early scene, but his character is never further developed and the climactic battle between him and Stallone is perfunctory.
I got the same sense watching this film that I did watching Red. This is not a film for me. This is an old man fantasy.
And that’s fine. Live and let ignore laws of physics. Normally, this wouldn’t be a movie worth hating. But the occasional glimpses of awesomeness in it make me yearn for what it could have been. Instead, we get re-treads of what would have seemed un-creative action scenes in the 1980’s. Would the bad guys really have unlimited fan boats? Does Nan Yu’s CIA superagent really have to fall for Stallone’s mealy-mouthed mercenary?
In the first chapter, Jason Statham threatened to be the protagonist, so magnetic was his screen presence, and so preposterous the love story between the Stallone and Giselle Itié characters. You think maybe it is Stallone passing the torch to a (slightly) younger generation. But no, he wasn’t. And no, he isn’t. Here, in chapter two, he and co-writers Richard Wenk, Ken Kaufman and David Agosto put Statham’s baby even further in a corner, giving him almost nothing to do while Bruce Willis and Ah-nold trade some of the lamest quips ever written. Other actors who threaten to give believable performances are equally sidelined (Hemsworth, Van Damme and even Dolph Lundgren.)
I’ll give this much to Stallone: he was the franchise man well before Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean made it cool. Rambo, Rocky, and now this. An Expendables 3 is already announced, rumored to feature some past-their-prime female action stars. Maybe one of them will even find the heart to love Dolph Lundgren.