The Expendables 2 – Film Review
TITLE: The Expendables 2
STARRING: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger
DIRECTOR: Simon West
STUDIO: Nu Image, Millennium Films, Lionsgate
RUN TIME: 103 min
RELEASED: August 17, 2012
By Eric Stuckart
What could I possibly say about a movie like The Expendables 2 that most people haven’t figured out already? To put it lightly, reviewing a film like this is more of a formality than most, because the readers out there that want to see it (as well as those who don’t) already know the answer to that question.
Seriously, it’s one of those films that should be a fairly easy decision as to whether you should see it or not. Did you grow up loving the Stallone and Schwarzenegger films (and all the ones just like it starring lesser known macho men) of the ‘80s? Do you like action movies where the bad guys get shot up in a gloriously gratuitous fashion, typically involving muscles, guns, and explosions, or a combination of the three? Did you like the first movie? If the answer to any (or all) of those questions was yes, then you should have a pretty good chance of liking this movie.
Taking place sometime after the events of the first film, Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) enlists Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his group of merry men for another job, this time in Albania, that only a group like The Expendables could handle. As is usually the case in a film like this, things go wrong, at the hands of the villainous mercenary Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme). Yes, the villain is named Vilain. And he’s villainous. Seeking revenge, Barney and company hunt him down, uncovering Vilain’s plot to unearth five tons of plutonium in order to sell them on the black market. From there, I think it’s pretty obvious how a film like this pans out.
Fortunately, a movie like The Expendables 2 relies just as much on how they get there as they do the climactic showdown between the two opposing forces. I wouldn’t want it any other way, really. With the amount of star power running through this film at even higher levels than it was last time around, once the setup is in place pretty much the entire film is one big orgy of guns, explosions and people dying.
For the most part, it appeared as though a lot of what didn’t work was dropped from the first film. Sure, there was a bit of downtime here and there to give some of the characters a little more depth, but it was handled in a way that didn’t come across as hamfisted this time. However, in a film like this, a little cheese is good, and the stars never forget that. The overly serious tone was scaled back in favor of allowing the actors to jokingly quip about everything from their age to subtly making fun of each others’ more infamous movie roles. Hell, even Chuck Norris, who has a couple of short but sweet scenes in the film, manages to make a joke about himself that should sound all too familiar to anyone who knows a few of his internet meme jokes that used to spread like wildfire a few years back.
While it isn’t as vulgar, and the action is much less soaked in the annoying CGI blood that permeated throughout the first film, I think that it was a better film for it. There’s a much greater emphasis on practical effects and corny one liner humor that makes it feel more like the good old days of these actors, and you could tell that they were having fun. Rather than a bunch of action heroes from yesterday trying to make a modern explode-a-thon, they did what they did best. Plus, to see Schwarzenegger back in action was awesome, even if he’s starting to get up there in years.
After thinking it all through, I think I liked Expendables 2 more than the first one, even if only just a little. I like the more humor-infused approach than the first one, whose occasional humor was more of the “bros one-upping each other” variety, and I think that Jean-Claude Van Damme was a much stronger bad guy than Eric Roberts’ rogue CIA operative was in the first film. The sequel might have lacked a couple of the badass moments that the first one had, but it made up for it with a better story, more badasses, and an even better fight at the end.
Front page image and interior stills courtesy of Lionsgate.