When CIA spook Church (Bruce Willis) sends the mercenary team The Expendables, led by Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), to reclaim a device for him, that device is then stolen by Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and it’s up to Ross and crew to recover it and exact revenge.
If you liked The Expendables, you will love The Expendables 2, plain and simple. This is a no-holds barred action extravaganza that surpasses the first film is almost every way. The explosions are bigger, the body count is higher, and the disintegrating body parts are gorier. In other words, this is the film that the first one should have been. This is testosterone fueled film making at it’s finest. Just don’t go in looking for much of a story. This is all about making things go boom in the biggest, most extravagant way possible. This is ’80’s action film making brought into the 21st century, and boy did we need it.
Directed by Simon West (Con Air, Tomb Raider), there isn’t much more you need to know about the plot that I didn’t summarize in the opening sentence. After one of their own is killed by Vilain (I won’t spoil who it is, but if you think hard, you can probably guess just by watching the commercials), this becomes a revenge mission. It is less about recovering the device and the potential world destruction than it is about payback. And the film makes no bones about it.
Once again, the film stars Sylvester Stallone (Rocky, First Blood), Jason Statham (The Transporter, Snatch) Dolph Lundgren (Rocky 4, Red Scorpion), Jet Li (The Mummy: Curse of the Dragon Emperor, Hero), Terry Crews (Idiocracy), and Randy Couture (Redbelt, Cradle 2 the Grave) . Li’s role is significantly smaller this time around (and no, he isn’t the one who dies). It also adds newcomers to the franchise with Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games) and Yu Nan (Speed Racer) to the cast, as well as Chuck Norris (Way of the Dragon, Missing in Action). Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s (The Terminator, End of Days) and Bruce Willis’s (Die Hard, Pulp Fiction) roles are also expanded and they are given things to kill and blow up in this film. Jean-Claude Van Damme (Bloodsport, Time Cop) plays the villain named Jean Vilain. Charisma Carpenter (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) returns for a quick cameo as Statham’s fiance.
If you are looking for a high brow action film, you really need to look somewhere else. Established by the first film, and embraced by this film, this is all about overly muscled super-men killing many times their number without ever taking a scratch. Think Commando times 100. And this film does it with all the style and grace you would expect; that is to say none whatsoever. This is all about making action film fans, and ’80’s action film fans in particular, smile. And I did. From the glorious, over the top opening to the cheesy one liners that these old timers sprout in the middle of shooting someone, I smiled and laughed and felt like a teenager again. I think this may have
been the most fun I have had in the theater this year (so far). Between this and Ted and The Avengers, I have had a lot of fun this summer. (Sorry, The Dark Knight Rises. While you were a great film, you weren’t grin-inducing fun-ness.)
One of the best things about the movie is the sheer amount of humor. While not over blown, these guys pick fun at themselves and their careers. They sprout one liners with reckless abandon, and the introduction of Chuck Norris and the proceeding dialogue between Norris and Stallone is worth the price of admission alone. Norris, Schwarzenegger, and Willis almost steal the show. Willis and Schwarzenegger have a great catch-phrase bit of dialogue swap near the end that was quite simply one of the funniest things I have seen all year. If you are an action fan, you will find so much to love here that you will have a geekgasm.
One of the greatest things about this film is that every action star is given a chance to shine. They are (mostly) all given a scene to fight much like they do in their respective films. Schwarzenegger just wades in guns a-blazing. Jet Li is given a martial arts fight sequence. Statham is given a fast and furious (did I mention fast) knife fight scene. Norris, well, you just have to see it. It is incredibly funny. Van Damme gets to do some Van Damme-age to Stallone, while Stallone gets to pull out some of his Rocky boxing chops.
Surprisingly, I found myself choked up a bit in the aftermath of the aforementioned death scene. Stallone once again proves that he can act, a fact that is often forgotten in the dearth of these action roles. The man is a good actor. Plain and simple. When he pulls it out of retirement, he can move you, as he proved to me here and in Rocky Balboa.
While I have been gushing about this, I have to say that I found very little here to dislike. I was grinning from ear to ear almost the whole film. It doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, the addition of more humor is especially agreeable to the franchise, and a little bit more character growth is gladly accepted. Like I said earlier, though, it is not high-brow entertainment. This will not be winning Oscar’s. If you dug the first film, you will most certainly fall in love with this one. I just can’t wait to see where The Expendables go next . . .
*** 1/2 out of ****