Friday, August 17, 2012

FILM REVIEW: The Expendables 2 -

In the summer of the spectacle, The Expendables 2 comes lumbering back into theatres like a heavy ammo edition of Hollywood Squares amped up on Red Bull and Botox. In 2010, Sylvester Stallone managed to reanimate his career by directing an army of action movie has-beens in an old-fashioned shoot-em. The movie was trash, but the fans responded. So for the sequel Stallone cast his macho-man net wider for more vaguely familiar faces to round out his army of aging assassins.

The movie starts in a nameless Asian country. Vietnam? Nepal? I might have missed it under the explosion of exhaust and gunfire as Barney (Stallone) and his crew come flying over a muddy hill in armoured vehicles that look like Delta Force meets Mad Max.

Leading the charge are Sylvester Stallone and Jason Stratham, combat buddies performing in their own unfunny sitcom Mumble and Grumpy with jokes from the Two and a Half Men slush pile. Dolph Lundgren is there with his lopsided grin, emitting various groaning sounds. Terry Crews, free of the burden of being an action icon, seems to be enjoying himself, hooting and hollering while showering the landscape with hot lead. Randy Couture wears a little cap. It's darling. Nan Yu joins the team as the IT specialist who need to prove to Barney she's as good at blowing away nameless foreigners as the rest of the guys. Liam Hemsworth dies. Oops, I mean he plays a sniper named "Billy the Kid" who talks about hanging up his night vision goggles and settling down with the one girl who loves him. Then he dies. But it's for the greater good, giving Barney and team the best possible reason to reunite: Revenge.

Which bring us to one bright spot in the cast : Jean-Claude Van Damme. JCVD plays a dastardly villain (named Vilain!) who swans around in a trench coat and sunglasses and is looking to sell uranium to terrorists and even worse, steals Barney's favourite skull knife. At 51, the kickboxing legend doesn't look like he's aged a day, until he takes off those glasses and we see his Rip Van Winkle eyes.

Stallone, Statham, CrewsThe Expendables 2 sees the return of action stars, from left, Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Terry Crews. (Frank Masi/Alliance Films)

Of course, if you've seen the posters you know there's still more action icons to thaw out of deep freeze. Ar-nold returns in two short scenes, spitting out clunky one-liners faster than bullets from his Gatling gun. Bruce Willis shows up playing Bruce Willis in a suit. And yes the bearded internet macho-meme himself, Chuck Norris, appears so briefly that when his first scene ended the crowd made an "awww" sound like someone had stolen their favourite G.I. Joe toy.

Now Expendables 2 may be a muddy camo-coloured film filled with more geysers of blood than a Mortal Combat marathon. But its worst sin is that it's just plain boring. Arnold and Stallone stand there and grimace as hundreds of nameless vaguely Slavic bad guys are blown away like so much buckshot. It's as if Stallone and the guys figure the sheer presence of their iconic faces is all the firepower this movie needs. The reason for our attachment to these craggy-faced combatants is that they're survivors from an age from when action movies were actually fun. Compare the original Total Recall, a muscular sci-fi farce, with this summer's reboot, which is choked with CGI, starving for personality.

The final showdown between Van Damme and Stallone almost makes up for the two hours of tedium that precedes it. But if you're looking for a nostalgia fix, I'll direct you to the movie JCVD, a noir-ish bank robbery where the Muscles from Brussels plays himself.

In the meantime think of Ex 2 as the ultimate tale of sound and fury signifying nothing. Diehards may protest "it's just for fun." But if anything, Stallone's real-man reunion proves what's expendable is our affection for those once-famous faces.

RATING: 2 out of 5

Van DammeJean-Claude Van Damme is a new addition to the Expendables family. (Frank Masi/Alliance Films)

Tags: Couture, Crews, Hemsworth, Li, Norris, Schwarzenegger, Statham, Sylvester Stallone, The Expendables 2, Van Damme, Willis

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