The Expendables 2 is mindless, senseless action featuring a bunch of ageing action movie stars. And it’s absolutely great.
I wasn’t totally taken by the first Expendables. Sure, it had some good moments, but I felt that the balance was missing. It was more of a two-hander between Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham, rather than the group action film that was promised – and the best moment was the all too brief scene featuring Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, Stallone appears to know what worked and what didn’t – regrouping, recharging and delivering the ultimate in “male pattern badness” – and boy does he deliver.
The plot is simple: Barney Ross (Stallone) and his group of Expendables are sent on a mission by Church (Bruce Willis), in what appears to be a routine mission to Eastern Europe. Things go wrong, when they meet Jean-Claude Van Damme’s villain, Jean Vilain. Vilain kills one of the crew (not Terry Crews, he lives) and takes off. That’s when the Expendables decide to “track ’em, find ’em, kill ’em”.
It’s a simple plot, which is the set-up for some great old school action, ridiculous one-liners and great screen chemistry. It’s obvious that everyone is having a blast. Sure, the plot is senseless and the dialogue is ridiculous – but everyone knows this and they play along accordingly. Chuck Norris appears at the midway point, ratchets up a death toll of higher than most 21st Century action movies, spits out a ‘Chuck Norris Fact’ and disappears, only to reappear later to kick even more ass.
Schwarzenegger manages to say almost every combination of the phrase “I’ll be back”, relishing every minute of it. Meanwhile, Bruce Willis hasn’t smirked this much since The Bonfire of the Vanities. He’s barely able to keep a straight face as he stands beside Schwarzenegger throwing out witticisms as fast as they fire bullets. They fire a lot of bullets.
Dolph Lundgren, saddled with a pitiful role in the last instalment finally gets the chance to shine, making fun of his real-life intellectualism, as well as his on screen persona. Statham, has a smaller role this time around, but he still manages to get enough moments to shine, However, Jet Li, bails from the movie (literally) within minutes leaving the door open for Yu Nan to enter and steal Stallone’s heart. It’s Terry Crews and Randy Couture who are given the least to do, with even Liam Hemsworth showing that he’s more than Thor’s little brother.
Van Damme appears to be loving his return to the big screen , giving audiences the type of sneering bad guy that you just don’t see on screen anymore (see Die Hard 4.0 for details, or lack thereof ). He’s perfect, and maybe Hollywood will take notice of this and cast him in more villainous roles in the future.
Director Simon West stages some great action, building on each set-piece until the climax, which is the collective dream of a million action movie fanboys. Seeing Stallone, Willis and Schwarzenegger standing side by side firing machine guns is worth the ticket price alone, and if you come out of The Expendables 2 dissatisfied then you are either too snobby to enjoy it, or just too damn young to have been there when this type of movie ruled mainstream cinema.