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The Expendables 2

Year: 2012
Studio: Lionsgate
Director: Simon West
Writer: Richard Wenk/Sylvester Stallone/Ken Kaufman/David Agosto
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Jet Li, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, Liam Hemsworth, Nan Yu, Scott Adkins

I was sure there'd be a joke in here somewhere about the leads all being over the hill, just like Schwarzenegger's quip in The Last Stand that he feels 'old'. As it happens, The Expendables 2's self-referential gag also comes from Schwarzenegger, as he responds to a comment about a plane belonging in a museum by saying they all do.

By the time he says it right near the end of this lazy, unfocused, dogs breakfast of a movie, I couldn't appreciate it for the wry irony it intended, it was just true. And if the reviews of A Good Day To Die Hard emerging as I write this are true, then Arnie was speaking for the whole sorry, old, tired pack of 80s action superstars.

It might have been forgivable that they all look like they quickly let go of their walking frames for a minute to pick up a big gun for a take, but the entire movie is just as tired and bored with itself as the senior citizens in the cast.

The original The Expendables had energy and tone. As writer and director, Stallone knew and loved the genre he was operating in. He knew the silliness was glorious, but he approached the glorious silliness seriously. In the hands of action movie hack Simon West, this pallid effort is too embarrassed and disinterested in itself, so every note falls falsely.

The first film very smartly managed to avoid the pitfall of referencing how silly it was. This film has no such deftness. Not only are the jokes stupid to begin with (like the angel-like figure of Chuck Norris turning up at opportune moments with the resources of an artillery battalion), they make you realise how stupid the whole enterprise is because nobody present believes in what they're saying.

The script, about the Expendables reclaiming some secret Macguffin from a crashed plane in Eastern Europe, is tepid, nobody interested in delivering it coherently. The acting across the board – from newcomers like the all-too-perky Asian heroine to a bored-looking Schwarzenegger and a munchkin-voiced Norris – seems like a costume read through.

And when Willis and Schwarzenegger join the action at the climax, there are so many bad quips about their past careers thrown about. With so many quips about 'I'll be back' and 'Yippee ki-ay', it's like a comedy skit about the Expandables rather than the film itself.

Van Damme comes out unscathed, relishing his role as the murderous villain, and Jet Li has the sense (or luck, maybe scheduled on another film) to bow out early, airdropping out of a plane after the first mission never to be seen again.

Hollywood retirement homes beckon guys, and you're way overdue for it.

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