Of course it’s garbage.
Sylvester Stallone’s maudlin throwback to the meathead era of pre-CGI, un-caped crusader days when manly-men delivered terrible one-liners while laying waste to foreign countries on hilariously limited budgets gets an unnecessarily glossy do-over in this sequel to 2010’s surprise smash. I happen to have grown up renting this kind of crap on VHS at my local video store every day after school, so there was never any chance that I wasn’t going to love this picture. But I realize such antediluvian customs are foreign to these crazy kids today, as well as to more refined, sober adults who actually enjoy “good” movies. Your personal mileage may vary.
Stallone returns with his plastic surgery-catastrophe crew of rapidly aging, direct-to-video all-stars (including Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture and Jet Li) as a rascally gang of over-the-hill mercenaries pressed into duty by Bruce Willis’ sinister CIA agent to keep some Russian plutonium from falling into the hands of dastardly Jean-Claude Van Damme, who we all know is the villain because his last name is Vilain.
Van Damme delivers a surprisingly credible lip-smacking turn, such a badass that he roundhouse-kicks knives into people’s chests—which spells bad news for Sly’s young new recruit Liam Hemsworth, so sensitively pining for his fiancée in Paris while wearing big fuzzy sweaters that his character should come with an expiration date at the end of the first act. “Find ‘em, track ‘em, and kill ‘em,” Stallone growls, kicking off the next 90-odd minutes of splattery carnage, jukebox oldies, bloody revenge and awful jokes.
The rotgut appeal of the first Expendables had a lot to do with Stallone’s low-rent filmmaking style. Nothing like this had made it to actual theatres since the heyday of Golan and Globus. Alas, he’s handed off the reins here to Con Air director Simon West, who puts far too much of a slick Hollywood polish on the proceedings.
And yet my heart was filled with joy, probably just to watch icons of my youth run around blowing shit up, shredding extras with automatic weapon fire and stealing each other’s catch-phrases while generally behaving like in-jokey Internet memes of themselves. Disgraced former governor and special guest star Arnold Schwarzenegger spends so much time repeating a certain trademark that I cheered when an exasperated Willis finally bellowed, “Okay, you’ve ‘been back’ enough already!”
Like I said, garbage. But my favorite kind of garbage.