Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Terry Crews in "The Expendables." (Frank Masi / Lionsgate )
Mirroring his character in "The Expendables 2," the movie's star and co-writer, Sylvester Stallone, has assembled an all-star team of aging action heroes -- including Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jason Statham -- for an explosion-filled mission and sequel. And though the second film, true to its title, doesn't seem destined for the annals of cinema, many movie reviewers are saying that it does provide some good old-fashioned action and humorously corny one-liners.
The Times' Betsy Sharkey ranks "The Expendables 2" as "slightly better" than the original and says it "turns out to be kind of a kick." The film certainly doesn't take itself too seriously, as "the camp factor has been ratcheted up considerably and the action is even more over the top than in its 2010 predecessor." Helping the cause are Simon West ("Con Air," "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider") stepping in as director (Stallone directed the first film), Richard Wenk co-writing the "cleverer script," and cinematographer Shelly Johnson delivering "a vintage postcard look."
In the end, Sharkey writes, "what gives 'Expendables 2' its charm is the film's unabashed nostalgia for the genre's best B-movie moments."
REVIEW: 'The Expendables 2' is a kick
For the New York Times' Neil Genzlinger, it's Chuck Norris who saves the day: "Norris arrives just as the blood baths and leaden dialogue are beginning to grow tedious, and his deadpan self-parody is pretty darn funny. More important, it gives you permission to laugh at the rest of this mindless movie, which is the only way to choke it down." In other words, Genzlinger says, "the movie is pleasantly dumb fun if you watch it with the right mind-set."
USA Today's Claudia Puig agrees with Sharkey that "this time the fearless crew of mercenaries is more fun to be around." Though the first film "took itself too seriously," Puig says, the sequel "is more entertainingly cartoonish." Audiences can expect "a stupendously high body count," "an especially loud sonic assault" and a few "priceless" one-liners. And action connoisseurs will no doubt take comfort that Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme (who plays the villain, Vilain) are still mangling lines as thoroughly as ever.
Not every critic has been swayed by the film's antics, however. Rafer Guzman of Newsday acknowledges that "'The Expendables 2' is a fun-loving throwback to the gloriously bad action films of the 1980s." But, he asks, "Why couldn't it be a throwback to the good ones?" The film's major gag "is how lame it dares to be," Guzman says, and director West "gives the movie a jokey, sloppy, straight-to-video feel." The cast doesn't fare much better, save Van Damme.
Likewise, the Wall Street Journal's John Anderson calls the film "a lumbering vehicle" and asks, "does it all have to be so tedious?" The hyper-violence and sheer volume are "overkill," Anderson adds, although on the plus side "many of the inside jokes are pretty funny."
The ultimate appeal of "The Expendables 2" might well depend on one's taste for camp and carnage. But it could be just the fix for anyone feeling nostalgic for the action flicks of the 1980s -- or of 2010.
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