Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

The Expendables 2: Bigger, badder and older than ever

Yu Nan, left, joins Terry Crews, Sylvester Stallone, Randy Couture and Dolph Lundgren in a scene from The Expendables 2.

Frank Masi/AP

2.5 out of 4 stars

The Expendables 2
Written by
Sylvester Stallone and Richard Wenk
Directed by
Simon West
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Yu Nan

The Expendables 2, like the unnumbered original, not only recycles a cadre of once-iconic coots – Arnie S., Sly Stallone, Bruce Willis among them – but kindly reissues an invitation to play that most entertaining and competitive of Hollywood sports: Who's got the best facelift? The slickest dye job? The buffest Botox?

Along the way, said coots, augmented by Chuck Norris along with relative youngsters like Jason Statham, defy their years with some vintage butt-kicking, all shot without recourse to any newfangled CGI.

Of course, the result is forgettable, but at least it's efficiently and breezily forgettable. What's more, there are laughs too and here's the best part – one or two of them are actually intentional.

Story continues below advertisement

First frame: Nepal. Olive-skinned baddies are torturing hooded figure. Coots to the rescue. Stuff blows up. Rescue effected, hood lifted, escape made – on armoured trucks slicing through the jungle, on speed boats skimming over water, on an aged plane propelling through the air. Being a coot myself, I'm exhausted. Then the opening credits roll.

So it's back to the U.S. of A., in a bar for a bit of banter, until Willis pops up to give the coots their next assignment. They're joined by Maggie (Yu Nan), 'cause she's "combat proficient" and pretty, not to mention half anyone else's age. Oddly undeterred by that chronological chasm, Maggie bats her eyes at Sly, who pretends not to notice (or is too myopic to see, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt). Then they all head off to Albania to meet Jean-Claude Van Damme's ultra-cool villain, a badass in dark glasses.

Villain gets down to homicidal biz by killing a raw innocent, which, for reasons unknown, prompts Sly to wax philosophic on the fate of once-iconic coots in our fickle culture: "Why is it the ones who deserve to die keep on living? What's the message in that?" Oops, sorry, maybe he was talking about the villain. Anyway, in a deep mine left over from the Cold War, there's a vast stash of "weapons-grade plutonium" to be protected from nefarious hands. Alas, that blabbermouth Sly is at it again: "We keep it light until it's time to get dark, and then we get pitch black." Talk about your spoiler alerts – so much for the rest of the plot.

To his credit, director Simon West (in a rare concession to Father Time, Stallone has eschewed double-duty behind the camera in this outing) negotiates the transitions from light to pitch black with competence, if not flair. And you gotta love it when Chuck shows his lifted face. Bystander: "I hear you got bitten by a king cobra." Chuck: "Yes, but after five days of agonizing pain, the cobra died." In fact, all the coots seem comfortable in their surgically tightened skin – to a grizzled man, they're savvy screen veterans and surprisingly non-pathetic. And no one can deny that the golden oldies score harmonizes perfectly with the golden oldies.

The exception, I'm sad to report, is Arnie, who seems pale and distracted, no doubt still pining for the bloodier action of politics, perhaps looking out at that Romney fellow and thinking, "There but for a birth certificate go I."

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author
Film critic

Rick Groen is a film critic for The Globe and Mail. More


The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Please note that our commenting partner Civil Comments is closing down. As such we will be implementing a new commenting partner in the coming weeks. As of December 20th, 2017 we will be shutting down commenting on all article pages across our site while we do the maintenance and updates. We understand that commenting is important to our audience and hope to have a technical solution in place January 2018.

Discussion loading… ✨