[Screen It]


(2012) (Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham) (R)

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Action: When one of their own is killed during a seemingly simple job, a group of mercenaries seek revenge only to find an unexpected threat from a villainous adversary.
After his crew ends up unknowingly rescuing another mercenary, Trench (ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER), during a hostage rescue mission, mercenary team leader Barney Ross (SYLVESTER STALLONE) gets a new assignment from his shady CIA operative contact, Church (BRUCE WILLIS). It seems that a Chinese plane went down in Albania carrying a safe that the CIA doesn't want to fall into the wrong hands, and if Barney and his team can retrieve it, his $5 million debt to Church will be forgotten.

The only catch is that technical expert Maggie (YU NAN) will replace departed member Yin Yang (JET LI) and thus join Barney's otherwise all-male crew that includes Lee Christmas (JASON STATHAM), Hale Caesar (TERRY CREWS), Toll Road (RANDY COUTURE), Gunnar Jensen (DOLPH LUNDGREN) and new kid on the block, Billy "the kid" Timmons (LIAM HEMSWORTH).

They find the safe and retrieve it, only to have Jean Vilain (JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME) and his nefarious crew intercept them. The villain takes the safe's content -- a blueprint to the location of five tons of weapons-grade plutonium -- and kills one of Barney's team before departing. From that point on, and with the aid of Trench, Church and lone-wolf mercenary Booker (CHUCK NORRIS), Barney and his team set out to stop the villain and get revenge on him and his men.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Our reviewing policy for films that aren't shown in advance to critics is that we'll only provide a paragraph or two about the film's artistic merits or, more accurately, lack thereof. After all, life is too short to spend any more effort than that on a movie that even the releasing studio knows isn't any good (which is why they hid it from reviewers before its release).

At one time, actors such as Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and the like were anything but expendable, at least at the movies, as they routinely pulled in all sorts of international box office money to their action-oriented offerings. Many years after their heyday, someone figured why not have them -- and other more recent action stars such as Jason Statham and Jet Li -- all appear together in a single action flick.

The result was 2010's "The Expendables," a misfire of an interesting idea that nonetheless grossed north of a quarter of a billion dollars worldwide. That sort of money talks and thus we now have the inevitable sequel, the imaginatively titled "The Expendables 2." With most of the gang returning, Schwarzenegger and Willis get slightly larger parts, Jean-Claude van Damme has been brought in as the villain, Chuck Norris plays off his newfound cult status and Simon West ("Con Air") takes over the directorial reigns from Stallone.

Why then is this offering, where plenty of bullets and knives fly, fists and feet land hard blows and things get blown up real good such a boring action pic? The answer lies with the script that seems more interested in throwing in one-liners revolving around the performers' pasts, while West and company confuse frenetic visuals and editing with genuinely gripping action sequences. Yes, it's tongue-in-cheek and over the top, but it's also far too bland for all of its fury. "The Expendables 2" rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed August 17, 2012 / Posted August 17, 2012

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