* * *1\2
Directed by: Simon West
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris Arnold Schwarznegger, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Jet Li, Liam Hemsworth, Charisma Carpenter, Randy Couture, Nan Yu, ALSO Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Scott Adkins
"Let's wrap this up" - Vilain
Barney Ross, Toll Road, Hale Caesar, Gunner, Lee Christmas, Yin Yang and of course TRENCH are back for another round of explosively awesome, over-the-top entertainment you just have to love. This time around, The Expendables are sent into Eastern Europe to get information leading to tons of Cold War-era plutonium. The last thing they want is for this to get into the wrong hands. Towards that end, they recruit a young new Expendable, Billy the Kid (Hemsworth), a youthful veteran of the war in Afghanistan. As if the team wasn’t powerful enough, when Church (Willis) assigned this mission to them, he also sent along the highly competent Maggie (Nan). But things get complicated when they run into super-evil baddie Vilain (JCVD) and his equally nefarious sidekick Hector (Adkins).
These two jerks are forcing an entire town to work in their plutonium mines. Without giving away any spoilers, let’s just say something happens that causes The Expendables to want REVENGE! And these are some dudes (and Maggie) that you DO NOT want on your bad side. Expendables away!
We were overjoyed to see the triumphant return of The Expendables. Thankfully, it was done right, which is rare for a sequel - but perhaps this isn’t any ordinary sequel. The writers stuck to the formulas that worked from the first film - what we would call “vehicles and oldies” (i.e. motorcycles, planes, trucks, etc. and songs such as Rare Earth’s “I Just Want To Celebrate” and The Rascals’ “It’s A Beautiful Morning”, among others) - but they smartly didn’t just rest there and they made new improvements such as a young Expendable and a female Expendable. Plus, to the delight of the audience, everything is just BIGGER. Bigger guns, bigger explosions, bigger action setpieces, and a massive body count. Plus we get more Trench and Church than ever before. So it would be like a master pastry chef making one of his classic cakes, but adding more frosting. You can’t hope for better in a sequel.
While most missions into hostile territory shun violence unless it is absolutely necessary, what’s so great about The Expendables is that they execute their missions with the maximum amount of violence. Just look at the opening raid (which both films have - but this new one is better. For example, their truck says “Bad Attitude” and “Shock and Awe” on it. So there). But this amount of ultra-violence would be a lot tougher to take if the film didn’t have a healthy dose of humor.
We said everything is bigger this time, and that includes the laughs. There are a lot of truly funny moments, and the men involved even mock themselves at certain points. It looked like everyone involved was having fun, and that sense is extremely infectious and winning. Van Damme surely relished being the baddie, which he rarely portrays. He was perfectly cast as the arrogant Eurotrash guy. And seeing Stallone and JCVD fight - on the big screen no less - was a treat.
Most action movies have one good one-liner, if you’re lucky. The Expendables 2 is chock full of them. And Stallone continues his streak of giving his characters great names - the “kid” in the movie is “Billy the Kid” and again without subtlety, the villain is named Vilain. As far as Nan Yu’s character, Maggie, we think Stallone might have gotten her confused with Maggie Q. Or possibly Maggie Cheung.
Of course, the whole thing is a complete adolescent male fantasy blown up on the big screen. But that’s the genius of The Expendables. It taps into the male brain in an extremely effective way. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. As an added bonus, the take-away message of the movie is that “Violence DOES solve problems”.
Which happens to be true, but is considered politically incorrect in today’s wimpy climate. So the movie has guts, brains and heart, and has plenty of “YES!” moments to boot. And the fact that The Expendables are getting REVENGE just sweetens the deal even more. Now that we’ve given the movie its due props, we have to mention two minor quibbles. The usage of CGI during some of the bullet hits makes it look like a video game at times, and some of the in-jokey humor goes too close to the irony edge for our liking.
But it’s all in good fun, and, taken as a whole, those small grievances pale into nothing. If the movie didn’t deliver, those complaints would have more merit, but it does deliver, so, we’re more than willing to let them go.
It pretty much goes without saying at this point, but we LOVED The Expendables 2. We applaud everyone involved for doing 99% of everything right, and unquestionably delivering the goods that fans want. It’s a proud moment for the cast, for the crew, and for America. Long live The Expendables!
Also check out reviews from our buddies The Video Vaccum, Explosive Action, and Freddie Young.
Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett