One of the very first movies I reviewed here after I rebooted the blog in 2010 — man, I wish I hadn’t done that — was The Expendables. My reviews were a lot shorter then than they are now, so if you click through and have a read you won’t be gone long. If you’d rather not see what I wrote, then I can sum up the review in a just a few words: I didn’t like it.
Now to clarify: I didn’t think it was terrible. My review doesn’t spend 500 words talking about what a worthless piece of trash it is. I don’t think it’s worthless and I don’t think it’s a piece of trash. What I do think it is: a failure to deliver on its promise and a strange misstep for Sylvester Stallone as a director and a writer after making two excellent movies in a row, Rocky Balboa and Rambo.
The whole premise of these films is that when you bring together the action luminaries of today and yesterday, you get something special, particularly when you stage the action in the classic ’80s style. For those who don’t remember the ’80s, it was a time when heroes were essentially invincible, were as deeply characterized as a sheet of paper and, most importantly, the audience could actually see what’s happening onscreen. The Expendables got two of these elements down, but squandered the third by rendering up virtually unwatchable, lackluster action sequences that are shaky-cammed to death. I honestly don’t know what happened. To make matters worse, the mostly excellent cast was completely wasted, especially Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren, who deserved a lot better.
I hate to say this, but The Expendables 2 has all these problems and more. It’s possible that the cast is even more wasted than it was in the first go-round, and though it’s a lot easier to tell what’s going on when the bullets start flying, all the worst qualities of ’80s action filmmaking are in full effect, meaning that even though the kill-count is astronomically high, none of it has any visceral impact at all.