I’m not entirely sure there’s any reason trying to do a normal review of this film. It defies analysis, or anything remotely approaching how a film critic (even an amateur like me) would deal with a film. But I’ll give it a go.
This film has literally everyone in it who ever starred in a 1980s action film. Mickey Rourke quit after the first film, but the sequel brings in – Jean Claude Van Damme (with his co-star from the most recent Universal Soldier film as his sidekick); Chuck Norris (accompanied by the theme music from “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly”, as if the filmmakers really wanted Clint Eastwood but realised the best they could afford was another right-wing nut, but one who’d not worked in a decade); Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis (who both appeared in the first one too, I guess, but had bigger parts here); and of course the main cast – Sylvester “wow, HGH sure changes a person” Stallone, Jason Statham, Randy Couture, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and Terry Crews.
I was actually wracking my brain and can’t think of a single action star of that era who’s been left out. Maybe Barry Bosworth, star of the amazingly-titled “One Tough Bastard”? Jackie Chan, who was never really a Li-style action star? Cynthia Rothrock and Michelle Yeoh too, but I guess mature women have no place in this brave new world. I think they got all the main ones.
So, the basic plot of this film is that Stallone, Van Damme and Schwarzenegger are hugely wealthy men who paid a bunch of decent younger action stars to do this super-cool-sounding adventure with them so they can pretend to be young…oh wait, that’s real life, not the plot. The Expendables (who, for their name, lose very few members) have to stop some baddies stealing some Cold War-era nuclear material, and…no, that’s about it.
The action stuff. This film was directed by Simon West, who made one of my favourite films ever (“Con Air”), a film which should have been awesome but which sucked (the first “Tomb Raider” film) and then apparently alienated a bunch of people in Hollywood and the jobs dried up. Anyway, he did what he could with this one, and the action scenes are decent. There’s also one fantastic fight – the Stath vs. JCVD’s sidekick, which is short but looks like two excellent fighters beating the crap out of each other.
Jason Statham and Terry Crews. Two guys who don’t really need this franchise, and who look suitably ashamed to be reading some of this dialogue out. And JCVD makes a decent villain too.
First up, the banter. Someone told these guys that a bit of playful banter in between scenes of carnage is a good thing, but unfortunately they hired a sexually frustrated teenager with no friends to write these parts. Perhaps it’s some meta joke about how bad dialogue was in those 80s action classics?
The acting mostly sucked too, but then I guess what should we expect? Schwarzenegger and Norris effectively play themselves, Randy Couture isn’t an actor and a lot of other guys were clearly not hired direct from a stint at the RSC.
BOOM! TAKE THAT YOU GUYS! (high fives imaginary audience)
In conclusion, it’s stupid and only worth bothering with if you suffered some sort of head trauma and forgot about the 80s. Remember these guys as they were – kicking ass in low-budget films in a variety of colourful locales; not as they are, which is sad old men doing the equivalent of 4 different bands all getting together to form one monstrous supergroup, years after fame left them…and trying to write new material.