Director: Scott West
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Yu Nan, Liam Hemsworth, Jean Claude Van Damme, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Chuck Norris with Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger
Plot: Barney’s (Stallone) team is sent by Church (Willis) to pick up some cargo from a downed airplane, a mission that sends Barney on a brutal quest for revenge against mercenary, Vilain (Van Damme).
The Expendables is the kind of movies that goes over most of the audience’s head. It is meant to be homage to the old action movies of old that made most of the cast famous. Sure, the first was criticised for being an unimaginative action, but Stallone wrote it to come across as that. To get his point across, Stallone goes all out for the second instalment of the Expendables and it definitely helps the cause.
The plot is once again unimaginative, but this is done on purpose so Stallone can get to the core action quicker. The Expendables are sent to get a Macguffin (this is movie talk for random object to get plot moving) and in doing so, they end up meeting your typical nemesis figure (Jean Claude Van Damme goes for melodramatic and probably ends up with the best performance of his career). Something spoilerific happens and it launches a vendetta to not only stop Van Damme’s plot to sell plutonium, but to kill him in as brutal a way as possible.
From the opening sequence, Stallone ramps up the action. We get explosions left, right and centre, nameless thugs being mown down and hilarious quips from all of our favourite heroes. Sure, you could argue it is making the same mistakes as last time with a strong emphasis on blind action, but by piling on the violence and humour you cannot help but enjoy the film. The opening sequence doesn’t even really do anything for the overall plot. It just lets you spend some quality time with all your favourite action heroes, especially some fantastic marital arts from Jet Li.
Stallone knows that the main reason we are here is to see our childhood heroes kick some ass. With limited story, we get more time with them fighting. Jean Claude Van Damme shows off his trademark flying kick, Jason Statham has the gritty one-liners and we even get a Chuck Norris gag from the man himself. Sure, sometimes there is a bigger focus on certain heroes. By the end of the film, Stallone is the only character worth watching for a long time and no one is still quite sure who Randy Couture is. As for Willis, Schwarzenegger and Norris, anyone that watched the first film already knows that they will only be appearing for a few moments. This much is true, but at least this time their limited appearance involves them doing some killing. There is a fantastic scene, where Willis, Stallone and Schwarzenegger, the three greatest action heroes of the 90s stand side by side, killing endless amounts of enemies. It is the kind of scene we picked up this film to see in the first place.
What about the new faces? Liam Hemsworth is surprisingly good here. He is the young man on the team and gives an emotional monologue at the midway point of the film. In a cast full of hulking heroes that aren’t really asked to act, it is quite good to have a three-dimensional character at one point of the film. The other newcomer is Yu Nan, as the stock female character on the team. She does a much better job than her predecessor, never becoming the typical damsel in distress. She kicks ass and a romantic subplot is only hinted at, rather than becoming a distraction. Sure, the actress does a good job, but in a cast full of big names, you kind of want a big action movie star to be on the female team. Michelle Rodriguez or Angelina Jolie. Maybe even Zena’s Lucy Lawless.
There isn’t too much else to comment on here. Stallone gives us exactly what we ask for. A cliché-ridden action movie with little substance but lots of explosions and humour. Sure, some might not be able to cope with the logic-defying action sequences (the scene with a plane and a mine caused some groans during the viewing), but if you just want a brainless action with a slice of nostalgia then Expendables 2 is your perfect film. Yippie Ki-Yay Motherf****
Final verdict: You might feel stupider after watching it, but otherwise you will not regret spending another film with the Expendables.