The roll call alone for “The Expendables 2” must have taken 20 minutes. There are, like, a dozen former action stars in this thing.
But once they got beyond the “Hello, my name is ____,” the rest is pure shoot-‘em-up, bang-bang, many bad guys dead.
After an opening smash-and-grab rescue operation where Jet Li makes his single brief appearance, Church (Bruce Willis) persuades the remaining ancient merchants of death to take on a cake-walk job for a quick score and an easy-peasy paycheck — or so he says.
But when one of the team is brutally murdered —WHAT? — the whole scenario turns from payday to payback. These men don’t take kindly to the untimely death of one of their own. In fact, they can turn quite mean and nasty in their old age.
Fortunately, they’ve brought enough firepower to light up the Fourth of July — that’s so they can make their deep, disgruntled, mumbly voices heard.
So it’s off to Albania to exact revenge against an old nemesis, Vilain — accent on the “ain” — played ruthlessly by none other than the Muscles from Brussels, Jean-Claude Van Damme.
It seems he’s interested in locating 5 tons of enriched plutonium, hidden away in an Albanian mine. He forces the nearby villagers to dig despite the high levels of radiation that are quickly killing off his workforce. “Who cares?” he says. “When we run out of men, go back for the women and children! Make them dig!” Yep, he’s a very bad man with a very heavy accent.
Fortunately, the Expendables are hot on his heels, but not before getting some cameo combat assistance from a one-man army who describes himself as a “lone wolf.” Any guesses? He’ll have to get in line on this movie.
Everybody gets a handful of minutes in the film, but all of the action goes through the team leader, the Italian Stallion point guard, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), who passes quickly to another teammate eager for his moment to shine.
Is it violent? Oh, yeah. The body count may be in record territory.
Is it funny? Yes, they each poke fun at each other, actually using some of their signature lines from their old movies.
Trench (Schwarzenegger) is the most gratuitous. He rides Willis like a circus pony. Even manages to throw in a little “Yippee ki-yay” for the John McClane fans.
This movie is so entrenched with gruesome battle scenes, followed by these wink-wink moments, I call it the “cringe and giggle” factor.
Honestly, as a pure movie, “The Expendables 2” is big, dumb and deadly. But as an homage to these former great movie icons (a few of which look like they escaped from an action-star rest home), it’s priceless. Depending on your perspective, go accordingly.