Capsule Movie Review – The Expendables 2 (2012)
by HELEN GEIB
Stallone and Van Damme engage in a fight to the death to avenge a murdered comrade, Schwarzenegger and Willis do a bad Hope and Crosby routine during a video game-style shooting spree, and the camera cuts to the rest of the guys a few times to remind us they’re in the movie. It’s bad when the big action finale is the low point of the movie, it’s worse when it’s representative of the whole. The worst of it is the jarring shifts in tone. Stirring together meta goofiness, tear-jerking sufferings of salt of the earth peasants, and mawkish tributes to our men in uniform does not make for an appetizing stew. Director Simon West’s point-and-shoot style doesn’t break the action into tiny pieces and Van Damme steals the show as the villain, but nothing else can be considered an improvement. The sequel trades in the basically straightforward, mercenary buddy, action-comedy with a gimmick (“We’re old, but we’re still tough!”) formula of the original for ’80s action movie nostalgia and pop culture kitsch. Statham is demoted from one half of the buddy team to comic relief, joining the returning Lundgren, Crews, and Couture; Li is written out after the action set piece opening; Liam Hemsworth has a small part as a plot contrivance; Nan Yu fills in for the absent Rourke in the Serious Moments; and Norris has an over-extended cameo. Speaking of the opening, it’s easily the highlight of the movie. They quip, shoot, and pummel their way to victory by land, sea, and air in a deliriously overstuffed 10 minutes. If only that was the representative part….
One thing I liked and one thing I didn’t like: Jet Li has a terrific energy that’s sorely lacking in most of the movie. Nothing against Yu, but she’s not exactly an action movie star of yesteryear. The casting department really missed a trick with that one.