Last night at 10:15 pm I went to The Expendables 2 because I was dumb enough to put it to a vote. Here's your review, jerks!
IT’S HARD NOT TO FEEL SORRY for the bad guys in The Expendables 2. With the exception of their villainous leader, who is named Jean (the lead villain's full name, actually, is "Jean Vilain," because he is played by Jean-Claude Van Damme), all of The Expendables 2's bad guys seem to be poor and slow and untalented, and all of them live in some particularly crappy part of Albania, and none of them have very good guns, and none of them are very good at shooting these guns, and one suspects the only reason they’re even working as henchmen is because in this particularly crappy part of Albania there aren’t any other jobs. At all. AND THEN then the Expendables show up—Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, and, in glorified cameos, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis and Chuck “Ironically Hilarious, Real-Life Dickbag” Norris, along with some dudes nobody gives two shits about, like Terry Crews and Randy Couture—and all of these guys have really good guns, and crazy mercenary skills, and they like to make terrrrrrible jokes every time they kill somebody, which they do a lot, because all these unfortunate Albanian bad guys are inept at everything except exploding in bloody geysers of tripe. Bad guys’ heads disappear in puffs of bloodmist thanks to massive sniper rounds; giant holes are blown through bad guys' sternums, letting bright sunlight stream through; entire armies of bad guys are shredded into globs of splattered pulp merely because they are severely outclassed and remarkably outspent by some relatively rich and remarkably ancient American men who lumber around and look like constipated scrotums. When the Expendables show up to fight, it’s less a fight and more a massacre; The Expendables 2 isn't an action flick so much as a slasher movie in which a dozen serial killers gleefully dodder around slaughtering entire populations of beleaguered Southeastern Europeans.
So! I kind of enjoyed The Expendables 2, partly because it's just weird, and partly because I went in expecting it to be boring and depressing and awful—there was a time when Schwarzenegger, Willis, and Stallone were a proud triumvirate of action heroes, but as the first Expendables proved, those days were long, long ago. If the first Expendables was any indication, a movie gathering all these guys together is great in theory, but in practice, it's just a bloodier, slightly less leathery Sex and the City 2.
Maybe it was my subterranean expectations, but The Expendables 2 did seem a bit goofier, and a good amount more fun, and certainly more self-aware than the original did—it’s clumsy as hell, but it at least tries to cash in on the ludicrousness of its concept. (Fully 70 percent of Schwarzenegger’s lines are tone-deaf repeats of his catchphrases from The Terminator and Terminator 2 ["I'll be back!" he says, then adds, an hour or so later, "I'm back!"]; when Norris shows up, he’s accompanied by Ennio Morricone's theme from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and then he awkwardly says some dumb Chuck Norris Fact; I will remind you that Jean-Claude Van Damme's villain is named "Jean Vilain.") On a minute-by-minute basis, it's doofy and sloppy and lazy, just like the script—major characters appear and disappear with no explanation, the plot dimly shuffles from one loud action sequence to the next, and in the interest of character development, a single trait has been shoehorned in for every Expendable: Crews is a foodie! Lundgren is a genius who went to MIT, but he's also a fucking moron, sometimes, for some reason? In the first five minutes of the movie, Jet Li proclaims “See you later, alligators!” and then jumps out of a plane. He is never seen again. Bye, Jet Li!
(Speaking of expendable Expendables: There is one new character who is clearly and literally expendable in The Expendables 2, as proven by the fact that he is expended within 20 minutes of the film's beginning. I won't spoil anything, but okay, fine, here's a spoiler: He's the one who makes everyone else in the cast look even slower and even older than they already are. It's shocking that all these old dudes would find a way to get him offscreen as quickly as they can.)
The Expendables 2 is the sort of movie that shows you a cityscape with the Eiffel Tower in it and then feels the need to put “PARIS, FRANCE” at the bottom of the screen. It’s the sort of movie where Willis and Schwarzenegger cram themselves into one of those crappy little Car2Go cars, and Arnold rips off the passenger door when he opens it (because he's strong!) and then Willis kicks off the driver's side door (because FUCK A DOOR) and then Arnold says something like “This car is as big as my shoe!”, which is a joke. Chuck Norris’ beard looks as if it is painted onto his face, which it probably is. Stallone appears to have a legitimately difficult time forcing his mouth to make the sounds that are the building blocks of human language. There are a lot of explosions, and there is even more Botox. Everyone looks like they’re about to fall over all the time, or forget why they're there and what they're doing. Van Damme inexplicably leaves his sunglasses on all the time (even in an underground plutonium bunker!) because when he finally takes them off at the end GAAAHHHHH WHAT HAPPENED TO VAN DAMME’S EYES THEY LOOK LIKE REPTILOID EYES. And about 50 million hardworking Southeastern Europeans who were probably just trying to make a few bucks so they could feed their hungry little families get their goddamn intestines blown out of their stomachs and splattered across the ground by a bunch of old men who like to shoot really big guns at foreigners. These old men don’t really seem all that sure about what they’re doing, or why, but they clearly have an unquenchable thirst for both blood and jokes, especially if those jokes are about cars the size of shoes. Then they all fistbump, and have a beer in honor of that one expendable Expendable, whoever he was, and then they sing a song and fly off into the Albanian sunset. Also, they don't have sunsets in Albania, so it's just kind of a vague grayness that they fly off into. The end.
ADDENDUM: Some find it a telling exercise to examine the trailers that play before a particular film—the thinking being that this is a fairly effective way to glean what movie studios and movie theater owners think of the people who would pay to see that particular film. So, without comment and in order, I present to you the trailers that the Pioneer Place Stadium 6 in downtown Portland, Oregon, played before The Expendables 2.