The Expendables 2
Better paced than the first outing but just as cheerfully uneven in quality. You have to admire the sheer dimwittedness of the MacGuffin (the coordinates of a a vast store of plutonium within an abandoned Russian mine) but it’s not as if anyone will be watching for plot logic.
As before, well-known and not so well-known action stars are wheeled on to blow shit up and, to a greater or lesser degree, interact with each other. Some of the resulting scenes are predictably torturous, as limited acting skills compete for viewer derision. And, almost without exception, the attempts to throw stars each others' classic lines fall completely flat.
As with the first film, the Stat comes out of the proceedings looking like the most competent actor in the crew (I’m not including Liam Hemsworth, who isn’t in it for very long). Both Bruce Willis and Arnie are again saddled with roles that work against their strengths and their (limited) presence feels out-of-place and forced. Again, Dolph turns out to be surprisingly funny (his choice of last meal particularly so). Stallone and the Stat are revealed as fashonistas, sporting matching headwear throughout; first flat caps and then berets.
It’s the new additions that impress the most. Chuck Norris cameos into the movie out of nowhere, self-consciously playing up his one-man army persona to hilarious effect (I don’t think I’ve ever seen an entire Norris movie, and I suspect this is all I’ll ever need to see). Jean Claude Van Damme, meanwhile, has an absolute ball as the bad guy, sporting a tattoo of Satan’s goat and behaving thoroughly reprehensibly every time you see him. Which is far too infrequently; he only has a couple of scenes before it’s time for a final big slam down with Sly. I’m sure Expendables 3 will be just as predictable and cheesy but it will need to work hard to find new additions offering such amusement.