The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


August 24, 2012

Benji Tunnell: ‘Expendables 2’ an island of misfit action stars

JOPLIN, Mo. — I tried to prepare myself for “The Expendables” this time. I wasn’t ready two years ago, and I paid the price.

This time around, I decided that I would have to pummel my brain into submission, to neutralize all intelligent reasoning and to cut that already frayed tether to reality. So, before embarking for the theater, I first listened to the entirety of the Nickelback catalogue, followed up by a marathon viewing of “Jersey Shore” and chased with selected readings from “50 Shades of Grey.”

Only after this pop culture lobotomy could I be certain that I was ready for the trail that awaited me. After wiping the drool from my chin, I made my way to see “The Expendables 2.”

This time around, Sylvester Stallone has expanded his crew of has-been and washed up former action stars, trying to add in cast what the movie lacks in plot. Returning are Stallone as Barney Ross, Jason Statham as Lee Christmas, Jet Li as Yin Yang, Dolph Lundgren as Gunner Jensen, Terry Crewes as Hale Ceasar and Randy Couture as Toll Road.

Also returning, with expanded roles this time, are Bruce Willis as Church and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Trench. Joining them in this outing of the movie stars time forgot are Chuck Norris as Booker, Jean-Claude Van Damme (looking rather serpentine) as Vilain, Liam Hemsworth as Bill the Kid and Nan Yu as Maggie.

If, in reading both that collection of actors as well as the pun-tastic character names, you’re still excited, then this is probably the movie for you.

Barney and his crew are recruited by Church to recover a hard drive that contains the location of a mine where cold war stashes of plutonium are being stored. Tagging along is age-inappropriate love interest for Barney in Maggie, a safe cracker tasked with opening an absurdly complicated safe that changes combinations every 120 seconds.

When the crew is ambushed by Vilain and his group and one of the team members is killed, Barney drags the gang along in a ludicrous plot for revenge.

There are so many things wrong with this film that it is hard to decide where to start, but I believe that I’ll start with the maddeningly absurd plot. The entire premise of this mission is the hard drive with the map to the mine, yet when Vilain steals the drive, he immediately returns it to the mine, where his crew of slave laborers is already extracting the plutonium, thus entirely negating the need for the drive in the first place.

Vilain has enslaved the males of the local populace to do his grunt work, but when they begin to break down because of fatigue, he sends his men out to capture the women and children as well, rather than using the small army of several hundred men to actually do the work in a faster and more efficient manner.

Then we see Barney and his gang effortlessly track down the bad guys with no clues and no direction. When the Expendables get pinned down in an abandoned Russian town by forces who would have no idea that they were there, they are rescued by Chuck Norris, playing off of the reputation that the Internet has created for him over the past several years, single handedly defeating not only the enemy soldiers but their tank as well.

In this moment, we get to hear Norris deliver a painfully stilted and unfunny Chuck Norris joke, allowing for the full meta-ness of the film to take effect.

Once again, as in the first, the violence is over the top, computer generated blood flying on every shot. What the film lacks in actual development it tries to make up for in explosions, bullets and grunting. Almost every actor is hulking in mass, and I assume that the cost of HGH must have accounted for a large part of the overall budget.

I had someone tell me that as long as stuff was blowed up good and they had cheesy one-liners, he would like the movie. Yet even that doesn’t do it.

The writers’ idea of cleverness (Stallone included) was to take signature lines from each actor and put them in the mouths of some of the others. Those that don’t have signature lines have to make do with awful dialogue.

Everything about the movie is cartoonish, from the plot to the violence to the chemically inflated bodies of the actors. Age, plastic surgery and HGH have allowed Stallone to create a caricature of his former self, and judging by the looks of the rest of the cast, he isn’t alone.  

“The Expendables 2” is a sad excuse for Stallone and many mostly irrelevant actors to attempt to recapture long lost fame. It is the island of misfit action stars, where the old and bulky go to die.

Text Only
  • 071814_whiskeydicks.jpg Stretching out: Whiskey Dick's can do more in a bigger downtown location

    For the Whiskey Dick's owners, it isn't a matter of what's in a name but more of a place where everybody knows your name.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • 072514_LIVEWIREcar.jpg Livewire's new video debuts on Billboard (w/VIDEO)

    The song is currently on Billboard's Top 40 charts for Texas Music and Texas Regional Radio Report. It is the latest release since the band's first full-length album, "Livin'," which was released in 2012 with Way Out West Records.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Film-Hollywoods Ape M_Cast.jpg Benji Tunnell: Great CGI, solid writing make 'Apes' a near-perfect blockbuster

    A couple of weeks ago, we saw "Transformers 4," a big, computer-driven blockbuster film that was symbolic of all that is wrong with filmmaking today.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • polyphony.jpg Marta Churchwell: New Mexico marimba group returns for concert Sunday

    They're back. Polyphony Marimba, the Santa Fe, New Mexico, band that wowed the crowd with African music during a Downtown Joplin Third Thursday last summer, received such a response to that performance that they're coming back on Sunday.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • River Regatta 2013.jpg Dave Woods: Nevada regatta makes for a birthday escape

    In just three weeks, I'll spend my 50th birthday floating down the Colorado River with 35,000 of my closest friends.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo 1 Slideshow 1 Story

  • 071814_pickin trimmin.jpg New festival focuses on short independent films

    As Jack Truman saw his films play in festivals around the world, one lingering thought persisted: He wished that such festivals existed in his hometown area.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 071614 Glory Days_72.jpg Glory Days Music to resume weekly in-store concerts

    The staff at Glory Days Music have been working their business as usual. Musicians demonstrate guitars, drums and other instruments. Music is sold; lessons are taught. But something has been missing.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • mug_joe-hadsall-112613.jpg Joe Hadsall: All the hidden secrets in "Weird Al's" "Word Crimes" video

    I sincerely believe the "Word Crimes" video will become the most important song in history, and the most mandatory-to-watch video in schools across the country.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • mug_joe-hadsall-112613.jpg Globe Phone Test: Concept is clever, but transitions tricky with Asus PadFone X

    It's kind of embarrassing to point this out, but "Candy Crush Saga" is one of the best ways to illustrate how well the Asus PadFone X, a smartphone and tablet combo really works.

    Anyone who has more than one device will understand this situation completely: Let's say a player fires up "Candy Crush" on his tablet computer and really digs the game. A lot. So much so that he downloads it to his smartphone.

    Only there's one problem: All the progress made on the tablet is stuck on the tablet. The smartphone has a completely separate path of progress, meaning the player has to play each level twice. This makes progress through the game twice as long. (This problem can be fixed by signing up for the game on Facebook, but no one really wants their Facebook friends to know they spend so much time crushin' candy.)

    The Asus PadFone X is the dream solution to this nightmare of a problem.

    Available exclusively from AT&T, the device is actually two devices. A standalone smartphone can be plugged into a tablet computer, meaning the owner can take his pick of how he wants to play the game, and all the progress he makes is saved on one device's hard drive.

    AT&T loaned us a device that we tested for more than two weeks -- didn't like having to send it back -- and we found a lot of its qualities and quirks.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tantric tours in support of latest studio album

    "37 Channels," the latest album from Hugo Ferreira's band, features a lineup of guests including Hinder's Austin Winkler, Shooter Jennings, 3 Doors Down drummer Greg Upchurch, Uncle Kracker guitarist Kevin McCreery, Saving Abel guitarist Scott Bartlett and Leif Garrettt.

    July 11, 2014