The Expendables 2

Posted: August 22, 2012 in Film reviews

Directed by Simon West. Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and an awful lot of other people!

On the heels of Avengers Assemble comes another big budget ensemble, one featuring a cast of actors who no doubt in real life each have an ego the size of Tony Stark’s fictional one.

The follow up to 2010’s The Expendables, The Expendables 2 begins with Stallone’s Rag tag group of mercenaries rescuing a Chinese billionaire somewhere in Nepal, with a huge battle that’s big on spectacle, and somewhat low on plot. The film in general has a lot of holes, and nowhere are they more evident than in the opening section, where characters miraculously seem to move through time and space as if they had access to a teleporter. Still it’s kinda fun, and all the plot holes are worth it for the surprise that turns up mid rescue.

After the battle, and after dropping off Jet Li who sadly isn’t fated to be in the film for more than ten minutes, Stallone and co decamp back to the USA for some well earned R&R. Of course they aren’t allowed to rest for long before Bruce Willis’ shadowy CIA operative turns up and blackmails Stallone into going on a mission to recover ‘something’ from the safe of a crashed plane. An easy mission…apparently….

Of course it’s anything but, and soon the Expendables are engaged in a very personal mission to get revenge on the appropriately named Jean Vilain (see what they did there) played by Jean Claude Van Damme.

Ok first things first. This is a bad film. As I’ve said there are a lot of plot holes in it, and quite a few things make little sense, for example at one stage Stallone makes it seem like they’ve been after Vilain for weeks, maybe longer, yet in reality it’s probably barely a few days.

Then there’s the dialogue. At times the film attempts to inject some pathos into proceedings with some monologues about the horror of war…one sincerely hopes Stallone wrote these to be intentionally hilarious, because they’re funny as hell.

In fact the entire film is hilarious…laughable in fact…but thankfully in a good way! Because for all its faults, and it has a lot, the film has such gusto that one can’t help but be swept along with it. Although how much you enjoy the ride really might depend on your fondness for cheesy 80’s/90’s action films, and your ability to suspend your disbelief that a bunch of, let’s be kind, older gentlemen, can still kick arse with the best of them.

For me it was worth it to see Schwarzenegger, Willis and Stallone standing side by side blazing away with automatic weapons. And that’s even before we get to Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren and the rest.

In some respects the cast of thousands is a bit of a failing. As has been said Jet Li doesn’t hang around, and certain other characters waft in and out, some staying longer than others. Bruce and Arnie, unfortunately, are just along for cameos again, although thankfully both men are in this a lot more than they were in the first Expendables, which is a plus point. Willis grounds the film (as much as a film like this can ever be grounded) by virtue of being the best actor in it, whilst Schwarzenegger has lost none of his screen presence, and the ‘big three’ bounce off each other well. Statham pulls his weight, but seems to go missing at times, possibly because amongst all of them he’s the one with the busiest career, and the film misses him when he’s not there. Lundgren, as in the first film, is probably the funniest thing in it, although the introduction of a certain Chuck Norris runs him a close second. Terry Crews and Randy Couture are back as well, although I hate to admit I still couldn’t tell you which one is which, which is saying something when one is white and the other black. Liam Hemsworth stars as the youngest member of the group, and Yu Nan is something of a revelation as Maggie, the only female Expendable, and for a young woman surrounded by a bunch of older, very large, men, she never fades into the background, and I hope she’s back for Expendables 3.

This leaves Van Damme, who’s an above average villain. The downside is that he’s really the only villain with any personality. He has a henchman who’s a bit boring, and an army of goons who are really just there as targets for the Expendables, and the film could have done with a few more old school action stars on the bad-guys’ side.

All in all though, this is a far more enjoyable film than it has any right to be. If you like old school action films, if bad dialogue makes you laugh in a good way, and if you like your films to feature an explosion at 2.5 second intervals, then Expendables 2 is for you.

Is it any good? No. Is it ridiculously enjoyable? Hell yeah!

 

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