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5 Reasons Why “The Expendables 2” Bombed

August 20, 2012

True, The Expendables 2 opened at No. 1 at the box office, but with a relatively anemic $28.7 million—compared to the original’s $34.8 million first weekend two years ago. Considering the second installments of the three marquee stars’ signature action franchises (Sly Stallone’s Rambo, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Terminator and Bruce Willis’ Die Hard) all grossed significantly more money than their predecessors, this has gotta be seen as a serious letdown. So why didn’t the much-costlier Expendables 2 deliver more bang for its buck? Let me count the reasons why.

1. The screen was more crowded than the theaters. The first Expendables was already as swollen as Stallone’s biceps with aging action heroes, but the sequel added two more—Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris—as well as upping Schwarzenegger and Willis from uncredited cameos to full-fledged costars. The result is bizarre billing on the posters (“Also Van Damme”?) and muddled storytelling. After a single thrilling hand-to-hand combat scene, Jet Li literally bails out of the movie, never to be seen again, while Ah-nuld and Bruce contribute more talk than action until the film’s final 15 minutes. Norris doesn’t even appear until an hour into the film, then briefly pokes fun at his own “Lone Wolf” image before fading into the background. Only Van Damme seems to be having any fun, as the villain who’s plotting to sell plutonium to terrorists—unless the Expendables can stop him, that is…

2. Too many echoes of real-life tragedies. I’m not sure America was ready to see guys (even if they are “good” guys) blowing away crowds of people with automatic weapons so soon after The Dark Knight Rises shooting. And the shocking death of Stallone’s son, Sage, casts a pall over the subplot about a young sniper (Liam Hemsworth) whom Sly’s character affectionately calls “Kid” and who—SPOILER ALERT!—gets killed midway through the film. Plus, while it’s not exactly a tragedy, Schwarzenegger’s extramarital scandal probably didn’t help with The Expendables‘ already negligible female appeal.

3. They got the wrong Hemsworth! Sure, Liam Hemsworth was in The Hunger Games (also released by LionsGate), but nobody went to see that movie because of him—and his character, Gale, is kind of a cuckolded loser. For now he remains in the shadow of his brother Chris, who’s built up a muscular box-office body of work with Thor, The Avengers and Snow White and the Huntsman. No wonder Universal’s reportedly thinking of dumping K-Stew from the SWatH sequel—who needs her (and her tabloid baggage) when you’ve got C-Hem?

4. No Mickey Rourke? The Oscar-nominated star added some cool cred to the first Expendables as tattoo artist Tool, but he’s nowhere to be seen this time. Neither is his Pope of Greenwich Village costar Eric Roberts, but his character got killed in the first one, so I guess that’s excusable. Rourke reportedly passed on Expendables 2 to do Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths, but then he dropped out of that movie, too. Funny, he seems like such a stable guy…

5. Not enough Charisma. As Lacy, the unfaithful fianceé of knife-throwing Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Buffy the Vampire Slayer grad Charisma Carpenter added some much-needed female sex appeal to the first film. This time, she’s been reduced to a glorified walk-on, and the film’s female lead is played by Nan Yu, a bland Chinese actress we’re supposed to believe is attracted to Stallone’s Barney Ross, despite the fact that the 66-year-old is literally twice her age. Maybe Sly should retire before he gets asked to do another reboot: Stop! Or My Grandpa Will Shoot!

Did you see The Expendables 2 in theaters this weekend? If not, why not?

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