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Grumpy old men 

Washed-up action stars shoot things in 'Expendables 2.'

click to enlarge 'EXPENDABLES 2': Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Terry Crews star image
  • 'EXPENDABLES 2': Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Terry Crews star.

"The Expendables 2" is a big, dumb, loud waste of your summer, unless you consider time and money as totally expendable as well. If it were a burger, it would feature nine oily beef patties slathered in mayonnaise and bacon grease, all piled on stale white bread. As a concert, it would just be amp feedback and strobe lights in your face. If it were reincarnated as a doctor, it would cut out your lungs to cure a bout of hiccups and then sever your spine to mute the pain. "Too much" here means just getting started.

Ostensibly it's the action movie to follow up the action movie to end all action movies except someone really ought to have called an end to it. Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture and Jet Li all return as a pack of mercenaries who shoot anyone they can't blow up and knife anyone they can't bomb. Bruce Willis is a government somebody who tells them to go on a mission. Arnold Schwarzenegger is back (oh, and how he'll remind you of that fact) as a character whose only reason for existing is to be played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Jean-Claude Van Damme, a no-show in the first movie, plays a villain named Vilain who enslaves Albanian villagers and forces them to dredge weapons-ready plutonium out of an abandoned mine. Chuck Norris arrives out of nowhere to shoot lots of bad guys and to make Chuck Norris jokes.

The combined age of these gentlemen is approximately 2,000 years old, yet they annihilate wave after wave of goons and gunmen as if they were spry 22-year-olds. The exception is poor Liam Hemsworth, a good-looking young ex-soldier with a future and a French nurse girlfriend waiting back home. He makes the mistake of telling a revealing, ennobling personal anecdote to the rest of the crew during a quiet moment early in the film — and, well, not to play spoiler or anything, but you're not surprised that he's soon trying to talk through a knife in his sternum. The gun-slinging mummy brigade does not consider him expendable after all, and they work very hard to kill everyone who had anything to do with handsome Hemsworth's chest infection.

Director Simon West holds this mess together with the cinematic equivalents of duct tape and baling wire. The action sequences positively flicker with edits, turning from one explosion or fire or motorcycle crashing into a helicopter straight to the 900th faceless thug getting his face exploded by bullet showers. The grunt-length, accent-thick dialogue deserves subtitles. The score avalanches along with heavy brass and shrill strings, punctuated by the occasional classic American rock song.

Aside from the soundtrack, there's not a single moment of real beauty in this hulking, clunking barge of a film. Between its drab locations, dim lighting and ever-present haze, "The Expendables 2" is irredeemably ugly. Student documentaries shot before anyone reads the instruction manual come out looking technically more appealing. The special effects — blood, explosions, even stinkin' planes flying — look like they were rendered by a first-generation PlayStation on whatever shoestring budget remained after pouring slush into the ensemble cast's retirement accounts. Spare the ticket price. If you're really so keen on transferring your wealth upwards to a bunch of old, rich, famous white men, there's an election in a couple of months that should perk you right up.

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Film Details

The Expendables 2
Rated R · 102 min. · 2012
Official Site: theexpendables2film.com
Director: Simon West
Writer: David Agosto and Ken Kaufman
Producer: Avi Lerner and Kevin King Templeton
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Terry Crews, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Liam Hemsworth, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Bruce Willis

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