The Expendables 2

By Cory Haggart

Mailed on August 22, 2012

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Dear Brian Wentzel
Key Armourer

Dear Brian,

The movie opens, the gunfire begins, and I can already see problems. You have a star-studded cast of machine guns, rifles, pistols, and hand weapons, wielded by their equally-famous action hero counterparts, and there is no discipline, no control. Everything you, the person responsible for arming these muscleheads, should stand against. As a fan of guns and action, even I know "spray and pray" is the wrong approach in almost every situation. You just make a huge mess and accomplish nothing.

In that first sequence your .50 caliber heavy machine guns and rocket launchers make the bad guys practically explode. That's probably pretty accurate. But then the assault rifles join in, and they make guys explode. Then the submachine guns do. Then the pistols. Even punches. To the untrained eye, these sleek embodiments of testosterone may all seem similar. But as connoisseurs, we know each has unique characteristics and ideal theatres of combat that make them truly shine. Too bad this movie just treats these icons, both machine and man, all exactly the same.

Take, for example, one of the stars, the Noveske Rifleworks Diplomat with M68 Aimpoint red dot scope and Surefire M900 weapon-light fore-grip (used by Jet Li and Sylvester Stallone). This is a very compact, precise, and reliable weapon. Built for moving fast in tight corners, it gets quickly discarded for a frying pan in close combat, and later its shooter just stands in the open, spraying away at armored targets hundreds of feet away. Did you ever step in and say "Hey, you are doing it wrong"?

Then there are great big guns like the AA-12 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Benelli M4 Super 90 (Terry Crewes). Firing them non-stop at distant henchmen in body armor is pointless. Then there are modern classics like the HK416 (Bruce Willis), G36C (Chuck Norris), M4A1 (Randy Couture), and UMP45 (Dolph Lundgren) that just sort of wander around, shooting off indiscriminately and without joy.

The plot itself is set in motion by a stupid misuse of the Barrett M107 sniper rifle (played by Liam Helmsworth), which is sent up alone, without a spotter, in unknown terrain. This inevitably goes badly, and the fire team has to seek revenge to alleviate what must be guilt for such terrible tactics. It turns out to be part of a larger plot to turn five tons of secret Russian plutonium into the most abused weapon of them all.

To your credit, there are some better, more intimate moments, performed by knives, brass knuckles, and fists. Those are pretty special, with notorious human weapons like Jet Li and _Unstoppable II's _Scott Adkins bringing the film's best fights. The most suprising scenes involve even more exotic weapons, like a jump-knife-kick to the heart (Jean-Claude Van Damme) or a sturdy thurbile (Jason Statham). There are even some emotions (mostly Nan Yu), which seem to disarm the human characters almost immediately. Still, as soon as the bullets start flying in earnest, it's back to Heckler & Koch for most everyone.

You do give a great summary of the conceit of The Expendables 2 in your choice of handguns: making a desperate case for old-fashioned tools that have already had their day. I'm referring, of course, to the Custom Kimber Gold Combat IIs and that short-barreled Colt Single Action Army (played by Sylvester Stallone). You have to force their continued relevance amidst today's firepower with implausible success. You simply can't kill a man at 50 yards, shot from the hip, while running, with one of these things. Lying about it will alienate anyone who cares.

It would have been so much more interesting if the realities of the weapons and the actors were given more than a quick and dismissive nod. But the people who make the movie make the rules, and they clearly have a different idea of fun. A lot of people won't like this movie because it's murderous, loud, poorly written, and a little bit boring. But being a weapons guy, I wonder whether this really loaded your chamber, either. The more you know about all these amazing guns, held by all these fun actors, the more it seems the movie turns against for its own selfish goals of pretending to be relevant.

Gunning for you,


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