The Expendables 2


No story for old men

Stallone, Statham, Schwarzenegger, Willis, JCVD, Norris… it’s a wonder the expanded Expendables 2 cast can fit their names on the poster, let alone their big faces.

Incoming director Simon West (Con Air) and team have a similar problem: how to cram the endless craggy cameos into something approaching an actual story?

It’s an uphill struggle, and after a promisingly combustible opening – all battering-ram humour and exploding heads – the film heads south faster than an ageing wrestler on a zipwire.
Tasked with recovering a plutonium Macguffin from a made-up Eastern European country, Sylvester Stallone’s band of merry mercs (including new recruits Liam Hemsworth and Nan Yu) fall foul of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s villain, imaginatively named Jean Vilain, and vow revenge.

What follows is a plod through familiar action-movie locations (an abandoned mine, an abandoned village, an abandoned army base) in search of what’s really missing: the action.

Jet Li bails out disappointingly early (to the quip: “Now that’s what I call Chinese takeout!”), Chuck Norris raises an indulgent smile, rather than the tempo, while a sour Stallone shoulders some of the worst dialogue (he co-scripted) of his career.

“That’s how we deal with death. We keep it light, until it’s time to go dark. Then we go pitch black. You understand?” he says to Yu, who clearly doesn’t.
The original had its flaws – like the entire second act – but the hits looked like they hurt and the cast looked like they were having fun.

Here they’re merely poking it, with creaky lines preceding even creakier fight sequences, and the characters talking as if they know they’re in a terrible movie.

“You’ve been back enough!” Bruce chides Arnie, who responds with an equally weary in-joke.

An early sequence shows Stallone’s seaplane groaning with excess baggage before it eventually takes off. If only the film were as successful.


“Sometimes it’s fun to run with the pack,” counsels self-confessed lone wolf Chuck Norris. For the most part, you’d be well advised to choose the opposite direction.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • FBJRider

      Aug 13th 2012, 11:14

      The worst part sounds like Jet Li leaving early. Martial arts always make a film better.

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    • McSerious

      Aug 13th 2012, 11:21

      Except you also said the first one was awful which just about everyone action fan in the world disagreed with, so I'm gonna go right ahead and look forward to this.

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    • apo1978

      Aug 13th 2012, 12:36

      @McSerious - I'm an action fan and I thought the first one was a missed opportunity to be honest. Sounds like they've dropped the ball again....

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    • joker16

      Aug 13th 2012, 16:15

      Well, I loved the first one so I guess I'll just discount this review. It seems incredibly hypocritical of critics to pick and choose when they are going to forgive an action film for all its flaws and just praise it as "fun, turn your brain off entertainment" (The Raid, Fast Five) and when they completely condemn it as "stupid" and "plot-less" (The Expendables). I'm not a fan of the action genre, but I have always loved Stallone because he's the only guy who really knows how to do it (the last 20 minutes of Rambo are about as impressive as any action film I've seen).

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    • blankitsan

      Aug 14th 2012, 12:38

      i think everyone is going to ignore negative reviews they re well expected these movies are mindless fun and action stars packed together and nothin more more than enough for lots of people:)

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    • macfetters

      Aug 14th 2012, 16:36

      firstly i hate people who slags off action films just because of story telling or some other detail didn't match to their taste, like this matt glasby who reviewed this film. I couldn't care what he thinks of it and for one, i will still watch the film and buy it when it comes out in a few months time as i loved the first one. Its rare to see big action films and with famous names which you will never get today or in the past. These films are rare and to make a 3rd one just proves how big and great this film is. Anything with this amount of names in one film will be great to see and those who wants to ruin it for other fans of action films should not bother giving reviews and stay quiet, as your not doing any favours. People has their own mind what they want to see and slagging films off doesnt work.

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    • GarthMarenghi

      Aug 14th 2012, 22:13


      This may be one of those wrong-headed reviews like Dan Jolin's one-star 'Taken' effort for Empire. He took issue with the film from a political stance - it representing Americans indiscriminately killing foreigners for entertainment. That's true, but Taken is also a tonne of fun. I suspect this view here of The Expendables 2 is more accurate:

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    • jackiejormpjomp

      Aug 15th 2012, 13:18

      First, who cares what a critic thinks of a shoot em up action flick? Second, if it does matter to you there are some pretty glowing reviews for Expendables 2 by some other legit reviewers (Hollywood Reporter, Slant, Variety to name a few). But like I said it doesn't really matter. The first one was a big hit and with the big names like Bruce and Arnie (plus Norris!) getting in on the actual action this time I predict this will be a HUGE hit. I think Stallone wont lose any sleep if it doesn't have much of a presence at award season.

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    • prime43

      Aug 17th 2012, 21:55

      So, it's pretty good then. Considering most good action films get rubbish reviews.

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    • whysoserious416

      Aug 18th 2012, 10:30

      Just a heads up to everyone here who read this: Don't listen to this drama-loving, good storyline guy. Guys like matt glasby put down good action movies all the time. When the avengers came out it got 3 stars by critics And when deatly hallows two came out last year it was put down and only got 2 stars. But guess what: Both are in the top 15 of the 50 highest grossing films of all time! So keep an open mind about this movie. Cuz it looks good!

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    • Hadouken76

      Aug 18th 2012, 15:04

      Yeah, but Transformers 3 and the last 3 POTC movies are also in the top 15. The Highest grossing list doesn't really speak say much about the quality of the movies. But I get your point, there is huge amountt of snobbery towards action films. Isnt that what the movies are about? Entertaining the masses? As long as they are decent of course. eg: Inception was completely bonkers but got away with it because it was fun. (Little men running around inside your head? F*ck off!)

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    • svetapiatakova

      Aug 21st 2012, 14:37


      @the characters talking as if they know they’re in a terrible movie - wasn't that the whole point of their self-referential jokes? there is a bit of this S&M going on with the viewers: 'we know you know it's bad but you know you are happy to pay at the ticket office'... that's the world we live in. everyone 'hates' the Kardashians but guess what's the most popular realiuty TV show?

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    • FBAAldrin

      Aug 21st 2012, 17:17

      Seriously..what were you expecting ? Something akin to a cross between Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Bourne Trilogy ? I really cannot comprehend how people who fail to understand the genre of the movie they decide to view... This is a movie with over the hill ( well most of them) action heroes of the yesteryears...and even back then..they were not famous for awesome acting prowess nor Oscar worthy stories-scripts...As they were more known even back then for their ham-bone case you forgot ! This is the kind of movie that does not take itself seriously...a popcorn flick where you suspend logic and reality at the entrance..go in with your snacks and beverage..and be entertained for non stop over the top senseless action and laugh at the ridiculous plot and acting.. I started grinning when I saw them roll in with those home made armoured up fancy GPS nor high tech gadgetry for this lot..Just old school thick a*s armoury with zanny signs painted on them..and I kept smiling and laughing till the movie ended... And as far as your comment on the dearth of good dialogues..May I remind you that..Barney Ross is and always was a Grunt..with a good heart but a grunt none the less... What were you expecting ? For him to sprout Shakespeare and Einstein ? This is the problem with the world today...People are just too miserable and fail to see the fun side of things...taking themselves too seriously...all at the wrong moments in the wrong places.. Seriously..TOTAL FILM..I strongly advise you lot over there to send the right man or woman to see the appropriate film before you allow them to write a review...understanding the genre of the film would help.. A the one who wrote this review...while you are at it...why not follow up this article-review with pages on the illogical mecha-dynamics of crashing a plane loaded with ammunition into a cave and not blowing up ? Sheesh..get a life already.

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    • FBCNorth

      Aug 21st 2012, 22:02

      If it weren't for the 'star' power this film would have been straight to home release.

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    • StinkyLomax

      Aug 23rd 2012, 18:48


      Matt Glasby is spot-on with this review. This film is terrible, not because it's an action movie but because it's a terrible action movie. It's strange to me that some commenters have come here to read a film critic's review, and then got upset because it criticises a film. I love a good action movie (Die Hard, say, or Predator), but Expendables 2 is simply not not fun or exciting. I thought the first one was bad, and this one is simply more of the same. The experienced action director, Simon West, doesn't make any difference. The action scenes are dull - exploding military vehicles in wide open spaces and interchangeable muscle-men firing weapons - and the fight scenes are shot in dark shadow, which one would assume was done to cover up the older actors' dwindling athleticism if not for the fact that Statham's scenes get the same treatment. I had hopes that the script might be a little sharper than last time - perhaps Stallone would have the smarts to get a Shane Black type in to polish it up - but unfortunately it's the same maudlin, mundane nonsense as the previous film, full of flat banter, repeated jokes and half-arsed nods towards the characters' old age. There are ten minutes towards the end where the Expendables franchise grasps at its potential, where the guest behemoths all have a cool moment or two within a big shoot/punchout, but for the most part this film fails just as its predecessor did to escape its inherent problem: almost none of the many leads have any discernible talents as actors or even personas. Perhaps if this film had the balls to kill off Couture, Crews and even Li, plus the brains to get a good director and screenwriter, it could have been the super-team action film everyone was hoping for in the late-eighties with maybe even a bonus smidgen of Wild Bunch pathos. As it is, it feels like a feature-length version of one of those adverts where a long-dead movie star is unwillingly CGIed from beyond the grave into a money-grabbing embarrassment made by dullard suits who don't understand the classics they are "homaging".

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    • MrT83

      Aug 30th 2012, 18:47


      Just watched the film yesterday and I thought it was really enjoyable. It's certainly not the best action movie I've seen but it is very watchable and I thought the action when it happens is a bit forced, but since when does it mean it's bad? There are flaws and yes it could have been better hence 3 stars, but what do you expect when sly co wrote it? A masterpiece? I think not. But if you want to go see a no thought movie the. See this because it does what it says on tin. Oh and check out the cheesy chuck Norris legends uttered by the man himself. Priceless.

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