In 2010, The Expendables left more unanswered questions than The Tree of Life, causing the entire world to beg, plead, and bargain with Sylvester Stallone to give us a second one. Oh, wait. That's not true at all. It was a full-scale action epic that did next to no work outside pyrotechnics to make you love the characters, because you already love them. And it turns out that "Sly" is a more appropriate nickname than we ever thought, because his plan worked so well he's back again, this time with even more action stars you didn't even know you missed. But you did.
There's so much muscle in this movie that it leaves room for barely anything else, which is fine, as long as you don't think too hard about it. We didn't go to see Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Jet Li and Jason Statham stir our intellects, did we? Nah. The new additions to the movie include Liam Hemsworth as Billy the Kid, Chuck Norris as the Lone Wolf, and Jean Claude Van Damme as Jean Vilain (who makes this movie finally feel like a real assembly of badasses). There are tons of gross kills, tanks rolling over people, walls getting knocked down, gunfire and knifework. But past the post-modern chuckles of conservative ex-governor Arnold ripping the door off a Smart Car, they really skimped on anything resembling even the simplest kind of story that made these guys stars in the first place.
Mr. Church (Willis) forces Barney (Stallone) and his rag-tag band of misfits to do an easy job that turns out to be more than they bargained for. When Jean Vilain and his baddies intercept the important thing Church was really after, he slashes some throats and takes off. The Expendables have to follow him, because it's literally in their contracts. Along the way, they're getting chased while trying to find Vilain. There's a complete lack of double-crossing and complications--they pretty much just seek the bad guys and find them. You never worry about them not achieving the goal.
There are a couple of things that yanked me out of the movie faster than you could say "I'll be back." One of the reasons we even got this sequel is that the first film did well money-wise, and 40% of its audience was female. So why would they make choices in the sequel that seem really misogynistic? I'm never one to cry "sexist," but having an all-female town of vigilantes who can't shoot to save their lives is a little puzzling. Yes, haters, I get why it's funny and I chuckled. But combined with the fact that Maggie (Nan Yu) does very little except ask Sylvester Stallone about his feelings a lot (to contribute to the paper-thin character development we already discussed that we don't need), my head cocked quizzically to one side.
And speaking of quizzical looks, my eyebrow now has a permanent arch having now listened to almost every character quoting their famous films, or someone else doing it for them. It's like when your grandmother says "Those are totes dope" when she's talking about your new Nikes in front of your first boyfriend. We could have used exactly five less of those references…all except the Chuck Norris one. Because we all know we can't get enough of those. Like how Chuck Norris isn't going to wait for the box office reports, he's just going to go stare at a movie theater and the worldwide revenues will grow out of sheer fright.