I won’t waste too many words on this one – the lure of The Expendables is the cramming of 80s action stars (and action stars who belong in the 80s) into an 80s-style action movie; however the first film was unable to deliver. The biggest stars only played cameos, the action scenes lacked tension and were dull, and the entire movie seemed half-baked, eschewing even meagre attempts at a storyline that the 80s movies would have tried.
My hopes were high after the opening sequence – there was more engaging, over-the-top action than the entirety of the first movie. Sadly that dissipated the longer the movie continued – the plot plots were heavy-handed and unnecessarily melodramatic, while it was good to see Willis and the Governator, all the characters’ posturing grew cartoonish and silly very quickly. JCVD as the villain Vilain (yes, that’s right) was menacing in his initial encounter, but grew ridiculous by the end. Chuck Norris turns up to deliver a Chuck Norris joke: “I heard you were bitten by a king cobra?” “Yeah, but after 5 days of agonising pain, the cobra died.”
Once again, the movie throws together big names in the action genre and can’t figure out what to do with them. They wave guns around and villains fall like flies – there’s none of Willis’s original Die Hard vulnerability or cunning. Characters make awkward callbacks to each others’ prior franchises, and represent themselves rather than any character. All the metafictional references throws you out of engaging with the thin storyline (in which the MacGuffin is a MacGuffin). Oh look, it’s Arnie and of course he can’t die, of course he can kill dozens of baddies without even aiming properly, haha he said “I’ll be back”. There’s even a creepy maybe-it’s-romance-with-a-generational-gap subplot which I tried to ignore as much as possible.
The whole movie epitomises “try hard” – you’re better off watching one of the original action movies starring any one of these actors. They’re a sorry sight here, in a movie that has so little substance it doesn’t even measure up to a genre with a low bar.