Sam Strange Remembers: THE EXPENDABLES 2

Last time it was for the ladies. This time its for their secretly gay husbands.

As most of you already know, the whole idea of The Expendables is less about telling a story than putting a bunch of tough guys together to watch them shoot things. It doesn't really matter what they shoot, how bloody the bullet effects are, or whether you even understand their placement on a battlefield. So long as they're shooting and somewhat recognizable, we're good. This isn't The Avengers or anything. It's more like a beauty contest.

That means as a filmmaker I can kind of do whatever I want story-wise. The first Expendables movie was specifically designed to please women. That's why the men were all spiritually lost and facing existential dread while simultaneously dealing with betrayals from within. Jason Statham was unsure whether or not his girlfriend was being faithful.

This time I set my focus more on making a film for secret homosexuals, which is not the same thing at all. The guys in this movie are all buddy-buddy to the max. The last movie's betrayer is totally forgiven and even hugs his old nemesis goodbye at one point. Male to male relationships drive the story. There's a girl, but it turns out in the end that she was Jet Li the whole time. A burgeoning friendship kicks the plot off and several old friendships close it out. Jason Statham has his girl, but her phone calls keep interrupting his precious guy time.

There are a lot more Expendables to go around this time, too. Sylvester Stallone is still back as Asian Biker Barney Rubble. Stallone has had a kind of career resurgence playing old versions of beloved characters. We kind of pretend Barney is another of these aged characters, but the fact is he's just an aged Stallone. Barney likes skull imagery, smokes big, fat, (hard, juicy) cigars, wears berets and shoots his gun like an old school gunslinger. Also his throat sounds like Mordor.

Jason Statham is back as the hot stud, Mary Christmas, who we'll all just pretend we know from 1980s action films as well. Mary has one of the biggest stories in this film, not because his girlfriend keeps calling him, but because his role as Barney's right hand man is being threatened by this new sniper Expendable played by Thor. His character name is also Thor.

Jet Li plays a lady in this film. Don't look at me. That was the only way he agreed to return. So he starts out as Jet Li, has a frying pan fight, literally drops out of the film, and shows up as a completely different character who now has the hots for Barney. Gunner hits on her a lot, but she rebuffs him because Flied Lice (Jet Li's character) and Gunner are old enemies.

Gunner is played by 1990s action megastar Kurt Cobain. As a recovering herion addict, Gunner might be the most interesting Expendable. He kind of wanders through scenes acting sleepily insane with the potential to suddenly kill everyone on accident. Kurt Cobain comes from Sweden and can supposedly speak many languages. If he keeps practicing, English might someday be one of them.

Then we have a couple Expendables most people have never heard of. To be quite honest, I can't say for certain if they're even actors or what. They might just be really tough looking crew members. One's a big black guy who would probably make a pretty kick ass movie in the modern idiom all by himself. Then there's this other guy. He has a messed up ear or something? Guys like this are good for movies because you can kill them to raise a story's stakes. If you wanted to. I saw no reason for it.

When we first meet these Expendables, they're in this country call Villainvania where everyone is a blandly ethnic clone with the brain of a suicidal chicken.The Expendables' job is to kill as many of these people as possible. Their secondary objective is to save the guy who hired them, I think.

Instead they save a character named Al Beebak (Arnold Swartzeneggggger). See, Expendables 2 expands the badass pallet to include other hypathetical Expendable teams. Supposedly these teams mix and match. Way back in the day, Barney and Al used to be bunk mates on some other Expendables team (headed by a too-old Telly Savalas.) They may or may not have fallen in Expenda-love. That Barney falls hard and he falls often.

After saving Al and returning to civilization, Barney is contacted by the Expendable industry's head contractor, Church, played by Bruce Willis in full-on cameo mode. Church wants Barney and his men to return to Villainvania to get some computer thing. They get the computer thing but only just befores being ambushed by Villainvania's biggest badguy: Villain (played by John Clawed Van Damn).

John Clawed Van Damn isn't an Expendable but he is a 1980s action star. Unlike a lot of these older guys, John Clawed is only getting more and more handsome and intelligible. If you came to this film to see an interesting performance, this was the best we could do. So pay attention.

John Clawed holds Thor hostage and demands Barney and his men lower their weapons. Barney says no. John Clawed puts a gun to Thor's head. Barney looks angry but agrees. Thor finds this very confusing, "Wait a minute," he says. "Aren't we called The Expendables? Just let the guy kill me, dude."

Next John Clawed asks Barney for the computer thing. Barney says no. John Clawed puts a gun to Thor's head. Barney looks angry but agrees. Thor finds this even more confusing, since the computer thing holds the fate of the human race and he's just one mildly handsome young guy. He signed and "Expendable" death waiver and everything.

Jason Statham carries the computer thing to John Clawed but rebelliously drops it on the ground. John Clawed demands Barney tell Jason Statham to pick it up. Barney refuses. John Clawed puts a gun to Thor's head. Barney looks angry but agrees. Jason Statham looks angry too, but does what he's told.

Then John Clawed asks everyone to dance like ballerinas while making Hippo noises. Barney says no. John Clawed puts a gun to Thor's head and... well you get the idea. It goes on for some time and become more and more degrading with each iteration.

Finally, after using his threat on Thor's life to both damn the world and win an afternoon of Shadenfreude, John Clawed kicks a knife right into Thor's heart, robbing him of his life, Barney of his new love, and Jason Statham of his latest romantic rival (that was supposed to be his job). So now The Expendables are Expenda-pissed.

Their plan for revenge is to kill everyone. They get started on it right away. But after a while, the people of Villainvania start trying to kill them back and they soon find themselves pinned down without bullets. Barney shoots his last shot, and the next thing they know, all the bad guys are dead, proving that God is on their side.

Turns out they were right because soon after Jesus Christ walks onto the battlefield, revealing himself as the guy who killed everybody. It turns out Barney and Jesus Christ also used to be on an Expendable team and also may have been in love. Jesus Christ doesn't want to hang out with The Expendables really, so he sends them on their way. But not before killing a five more bad guys, six stray dogs, and five women who chose to wear jeans rather than skirts.

This leads The Expendables to Villain's main hideout. They fight but get trapped in a cave. Luckily, Al Beebak shows up at the last moment to save them. Then they get stuck in a rapidly filling grain silo. Luckily Church shows up at the last moment to save them. Then they get trapped at a distant relative's wedding. Luckily Jesus Christ shows up at the last moment to save them. It would appear the brief bit of cultural relevancy he found in his earlier scene tasted sweet indeed.

So for the next fifteen minutes, everyone shoots guns. We never see what they're shooting at. We just see them firing weapons. If you squint,

it looks as cool as you thought it would back in the 1980s.

After all this, Barney has a big fight with Villain, which he wins. It doesn't really matter. None of this really matters. If there's an Expendables 3, I want to set it at a body building tournament and it will just be a shitload of old people flexing. It might as well continue going downhill. Nothing will ever top this:

(three stars)