Say what you want about the crap hair, zits, unrequited love and daily regimen of confusion, but if you were an action movie-obsessed early teen in the 1980s, you lived through the golden age. Every week it seemed there were at least 20 new beat-em-ups in the video shop and plenty of us can still remember the sheer joy of legging it home to watch Rambo: First Blood Part II, the mouth-agape awe of seeing the poster for Invasion USA for the first time in the spring of 1986, the shape-throwing marathon that followed a viewing of No Retreat, No Surrender or, best of all, managing to lie convincingly about your age and get into a screening of Die Hard or Predator - and then having the cheek to hide in the cinema for another go. You just don't get those thrills from an iPhone.
So when it was announced that some ass-kicking icons of that era and some younger muscle were being brought together for a film that would've induced panic attacks in a generation of misfits back in the day, many of us expected that The Expendables would take its place among the classics of the genre. It didn't - too rushed in some places, too cheap in others and lacking the wow factor overall. But having pulled in $274m at the box office on a budget of $80m, this granddad's army was destined to reunite for a sequel (hips and knees permitting) and with it came the hope that everything would be put right in the follow-up. Hurts to say it, but the grown-up in you will probably think that Stallone and co could've done a lot better here.
Once again, Barney Ross (Stallone), Lee Christmas (Statham) and their brothers in arms are waist deep in blood and bullets but whereas the first movie took place in one of those makey-upy South American countries so beloved of The A-Team, the sequel is set in Albania. There, the death-or-glory desperadoes are on the hunt for a crashed plane and the contents of an on-board safe. Billed as an easy job by client Mr Church (Willis), it is of course anything but. Soon Barney and co are squaring up to a cartel-for-hire who all have a thing for leather jackets and are led by a sunglasses-wearing psychopath who loses rather than gains menace when he takes off the shades. Failure won't just cost the Expendables their lives but could lead to the deaths of countless innocents. Pressure's off, so.
Stallone vacates the director's chair for Con Air helmer Simon West; Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme are brought into the mayhem and Arnie and Bruce get tooled-up this time 'round but the problems from the first movie continue through to the second. There's next-to-no suspense and a lack of good gags in the script. The line between fast-paced and too-silly is crossed too often. Some legends don't get enough screen time and the one-on-one showdowns with the baddies are disappointing. Adding to the problems is the fact that the best set-piece is at the start of the movie and a bewildering decision to overlook the film's best location for a body count bonanza - a Temple of Doomesque mine - in favour of a brand-spanking new airport (in what we're led to believe is an on-its-knees area). When you find yourself concentrating on those kind of holes instead of the ones made by bullets, an action movie hasn't done its job.
If you're still going to go, there are more of those exploding CGI torsos from the first flick, a couple of nice in-jokes and a genius-but-too-short sequence involving a smart car, but for the CVs and histories of those involved this should've been Citizen Kane with Glocks, knuckle dusters and scraps to tell the grandkids about.
Memo to the bean counters: get The Raid director Gareth Evans in for the third instalment. He's a man who delivers genius with a lot less money and a lot more imagination and can make anyone feel like they're 14 again.