Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
A retro ode to the golden, violent era of 80s Cold War inspired Hollywood carnages, this sequel to the surprise box-office hit from 2010, is one where you must dump all logical plausibility about plots and characterization before entering the cinema’s cold, dark confines. And even if you do, you might find it a smidgen of a challenge.
The tone in the latest nihilistic orgy helmed by Simon West (‘Con Air’ and ‘The Mechanic’) is established in a bombastic, absolutely irrelevant but mindlessly entertaining, pre-credit fifteen minute action sequence where the titular motley crew of mercenaries led by Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) successfully rescue a hapless Chinese tycoon from the wretched hands of (cue: suspend your already suspended belief) a Nepalese warlord. Michael Bay might have just been taking notes on how to trump the sheer pointlessness in his next celluloid venture.
Besides narrative absurdity, our has-been action dinosaurs seem to rewrite conventions of physics that even our caped heroes don’t possess. This is all evident when Ross smashes a helicopter to smithereens with a catapulting motorcycle in rather dated CGI fashion.
Come on, we are brutally aware that we aren’t here to witness an inkling of stellar acting but it’s really difficult to fathom how Ross can crash his vintage seaplane into the baddies’ hideout with his entire crew onboard, yet in the very next frame, they are all geared up with ammo to gun down their enemies. Bloody hell, now we know why they are action heroes.
Like the cocksure erection of a 60-year-old local fogey tanked up on Viagra before a Bangkok sexcapade, Stallone more than gets his gritty action on as long as he doesn’t have to emote anything more than the nominal grunt and hangdog expression of a sunburnt beefcake.
But there is more to Stallone as he takes on co-scripting duties with Richard Wenk, to ensure that the flick is flushed with a deluge of painfully groan worthy one-liners, tepid bromantic sequences and a heady overkill of self-referential humor.
Only if they bothered to let us in about what happened to Tool (Mickey Rourke) the philosophical tattooist character instead of boring us senseless with the tele-drama debris of rookie Billy the Kid( Liam Hemsworth) past as a American serviceman in Afghanistan.
So what happens after the mad intensity of the pre-credit sequence, nothing much actually except a colossal body count and more explosions. Seems valid enough but the action drearily plods along as CIA honcho Church (Bruce Willis) assigns Barney and his crew onto the seemingly easy biz of retrieving a safe inside a plane that crash-landed in Albania.
To add a layer of gender politics in the pent-up, testosterone fueled environ, Maggie (Yu Nan), a skilled code breaker and Church’s operative, enters the fray and the task of replacing Yin Yang (Jet Li) is complete. But her character is far from fleshed out as her screen time is dominated by smirks and a poorly developed, fledging romance between her and Ross.
But the simple task becomes complicated when megalomaniac psychopath Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and his cronies arrive to steal the recovered item in his quest to have access to weapon grade plutonium and even kills one of Barney’s crew in that tussle.
No brownie points for guessing who and the conflict becomes personal as the Expendables fight to save the world as well as avenge the death of one of their own with a little help from allies like Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Booker (Chuck Norris) and Church.
One can sense the paucity of acting prowess in this movie when the best performance came from a hilariously tyrannical Van Damme donning tacky Terminator like wrap around shades and delighting us with famous roundhouse kicks.
The wittiest scene in the movie involves Church sharing about male pattern baldness to Barney in his introduction scene, but the cleverness is all lost as the audience is shoved with a steady stream of nonsensical effluence based on the on-and off-screen personas of the stars. There is only x number of ‘Terminator’ jokes and ‘Die Hard’ repartees before the proverbial sh*t hits the fan. The funniness behind the gag of watching two of the biggest action heroes totting guns and struggling in a too small car was what the reviewer wished for more.
The action movie genre has been routinely successful with great taglines and catch phrases but this caper can’t seem to crawl out of its’ stale footnote referencing inanity.
Despite the appalling lack of originality, one can’t help but partake in laughing at the comical cameo of Booker who has probably spent seven hours in the make-up room dyeing his mane black to look like a bad Xerox of himself from his glory years, only to entertain us with a Chuck Norris fact as dialogue.
If you like your action campy with a hoard of recycled cardboard archetypes, cringingly horrific one-liners and a dash of self-deprecation packaged as failed wit, this hyper-violent extravaganza shot in the sewerage reminiscent hues of sh*t brown, murky grey and piss yellow, is right up your alley.
With a script that leaves little to imagination, it wouldn’t be bad form to let everyone in that the climax fight between the leathery, battle hardened Stallone and Van Damme (more than 20 years in the making) is worth the ticket price for any action hero fanboy.