A version of this review appeared in the online version of The Age, August 30, 2012.
It is perhaps not by coincidence that The Expendables 2 is getting its Australian release just before Father's Day. This is a film for the archetypal Dad – the kind who works all week, drives his kids to sports practice on Saturday, and once in a while likes to put his feet up and fantasise about killing everybody.
As some will remember, the Expendables are a group of super-tough mercenaries played by Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren and other mostly superannuated action “stars,” who spend their time flying around the world listening to classic rock and slaughtering the local henchmen in great numbers. This new adventure takes them to eastern Europe, where their mission involves retrieving a stolen batch of plutonium while avenging the death of one of the group.
That's all that need be said about the plot, which serves as an excuse for bloody mayhem on the one hand and extremely awkward interludes of male bonding on the other. This time round Stallone has handed over directing duties to the British journeyman Simon West, whose action sequences are competent but lack the mad, punishing impact of those in the original.
Stallone does, however, get a credit for co-writing the script, which is peppered with characteristic dopey touches, from wisecracks such as “Rest in pieces!” to a deep and meaningful confession from token young guy Liam Hemsworth about the time somebody killed his dog. Worst of all is an extended cameo by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has not only dwindled physically but has lost whatever skerrick of comic timing he once possessed. His full-scale Hollywood comeback can only be awaited with dread.