*. I liked it better than the first one, and for uncomplicated reasons. It has more explosions and more fights. There are also more in-jokes, though none of these are very funny. As Stallone puts it in one of the promotional featurettes, people are coming to see a movie like this “for the baggage.” Which is an odd way of putting it, but you know what he means.
*. The baggage this time out includes Jean Claude Van Damme as a silky-smooth, almost fey villain named Vilain (a plus) and Chuck Norris as . . . Chuck Norris, again (always a minus).
*. I realize he’s a genuine martial arts bad-ass, but how the hell did Chuck Norris ever make it as a movie star? Being an action hero is a low threshold to pass, but he honestly can’t act at all.
*. Sticking with Norris, just what is he doing in this movie anyway? This has to be one of the most improbable cameos ever, as “Lone Wolf” Booker appears to be just traipsing around Albania killing off bad guys when he runs into the Expendables.
*. It’s a curse of all these films (by which I mean comic book movies) that they gain weight as the franchise rolls downhill, mainly by picking up all sorts of star cameos to go with their bloated budgets. Personally, I would have rather seen more of Van Damme and cut Norris’s character out entirely.
*. According to one of the producers the desire here was to “go back to basics” with an “old-fashioned” action movie. So more of the same as the first film, but with more production value.
*. Could anything be more painful than listening to Billy tell the tale of his battlefield loss of innocence? I cringed throughout that entire scene (and his earlier scene with Stallone outside the bar, which is another “one of the rare ‘acting’ scenes in the movie,” according to director Simon West). I kept hoping they were going to inject some kind of Tropic Thunder-style satire or irony into his tired war story. But no.
*. Poor Chris Hemsworth. He must have died a little bit inside when he read that part. Thor has better lines. Much better lines.
*. According to West’s commentary, blanks for a .50 calibre run $6 each. He says they went through $25,000 on this movie just for blanks. For some reason I found that interesting. What a monumental waste.
*. Why does the team spend so much time tracking the missing box and then trying to find out where Vilain is? They know he’s going to the mine because the computer drive contains a blueprint to the mine and says where in the mine the plutonium is. Since I assume the location of the mine itself is common knowledge (it’s kind of big), this makes you wonder why somebody else isn’t stopping him.
*. Vilain has to shanghai more and more local villagers to dig out the plutonium . . . because they’re doing all the digging by hand? They have no machinery? They have no tools whatsoever? Even picks? Come on.
*. According to Norris, the Sangs “are the lowest forms of scum.” How many forms of scum are there?
*. I don’t know why the team mock the women of the village for shooting at them and missing “by a mile.” I mean none of the bad guys in these movies ever comes close to hitting them.
*. How do the Albanian women know how to speak English?
*. Are there two entrances to the cave? That seems highly unlikely, but Vilain drives out after the main entrance is blown up. I guess they didn’t need that bridge after all!
*. Why does Barney cut Vilain’s head off? A trophy? Proof that he’s dead? I don’t see any point to that. And yet Arnie and Bruce both consider it a “nice touch.” I feel like I’m missing something. Decapitation of dead enemies isn’t something ’80s action heroes did. I can’t remember ever seeing it happen.
*. What undoes it all is the same problem I had with the first movie: the unironic presentation of ancient clichés, set in a predictable plot that clomps along without a single curve or twist. There’s just nothing new here at all. Could we have had another shot of the gang spread out across the screen as though posing for a movie poster? I didn’t think that was good tactics. It’s typical of West’s style though, which seems as though he’s directing for the trailer.
*. In addition, I noticed some of the editing is off in the fight scenes. At one point in the final airport battle you see two bad guys just waiting, with guns in their hands, to be taken out. And finally the one-liners and in-jokes have absolutely no snap to them at all.
*. For example, when Willis reveals his gift of an old airplane to Stallone, Stallone says “That thing belongs in a museum.” Now tell me you weren’t waiting for the follow-up to that one. Which is, of course, Arnold saying “We all do!” Chuckles and grins all around. Good one, Arnie!
*. West calls this “the best line in the movie.” Really, there’s nothing else to say.