[Review] – The Expendables 2

2 Sep

Title: The Expendables 2
Year: 2012
Director: Simon West
Writers: Richard Wenk and Sylvester Stallone, based on a story by Ken Kaufman, David Agosto and Richard Wenk, based on the characters by Dave Callaham
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
MPAA Rating: R, strong bloody violence throughout
Runtime: 103 min
IMDb Rating: 7.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 66%
Metacritic: 51

Back in August of 2010, as you are no doubt aware of, a movie called The Expendables came out. It was a gloriously silly affair brainstormed by Sylvester Stallone, who wrote and directed it, as some kind of high-octane homage to the action blockbusters of decades past, as he recruited a slew of who’s-who of action stars well past their primes like Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke and, of course, himself to create this team of mercenaries that gives the film its title. That movie was made for about $80 million, and it ended up making nearly $275 million worldwide, with audiences loving seeing those old faces doing some ass-kicking yet again. Obviously, that meant a sequel was pretty much inevitable.

Like clockwork, nearly exactly two years later, The Expendables 2 is being released, and seeing as to how it’s spent the last two weeks atop the U.S. box office, you may be right on target to expect a third installment in 2014. This time around, new faces that older action fans would love were added to the mix, including Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, who had cameo appearances in the first film, were given meatier roles in this one, plus Liam Hemsworth was added to the cast as the new blood.

The film itself is pretty much just as silly. We have our team of mercenaries going on a revenge quest against this super villain played by Mr. Van Damme, and just so you realize how throwback these films are, the villain’s name is Jean Vilain, not even kidding. Now, I actually liked the first film, I gave it a B-, mostly because it definitely delivered on its promise of good old-school action fun, it provided this B-movie type of entertainment and had a bunch of older dudes just having fun kicking ass. This sequel, by the way, is actually a better film.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, is not as though this one has a decent plot or has any kind of character development in it, because on that side of things it’s just as bad as its predecessor, but these films never once even suggest that they care about that stuff. No, this film is all about the stuff an old-school action aficionado would like to see, big and violent action scenes, and this one ups the ante regarding that. The other stuff that I thought this one really nailed, was the kind of cheesy humor these films specialize in, especially because it wasn’t afraid to look in the mirror and be amusingly self-depreciating. This movie is just way more fun than it should be, take that as you may.

I was just really into it. This, much like the first one, is the type of film that you’ll only get into if you go see it in the right frame of mind; if you think you’re about to watch something of actual quality you’re bound to be disappointed. Instead, you have to be like the film itself, and learn to embrace the nostalgia for this B-movie sort of crap and have fun with the “America, fuck yeah!” kind of moments that can only happen when you have Sly and Arnie and Chuck fuckin’ Norris blowing shit up.

This time around Mr. Stallone has handed over directing duties to Simon West, a man who, having made his directorial debut in 1997 with Con Air, knows a thing or two about handling big action ensembles. And it’s not as though Mr. West has to do much as a director; the formula was established in the last film and he can’t mess with it. So we get all that we got the last time around, except this time it’s bigger and badder and just more campy and over the top.

We start off in Nepal in a rescue mission, and then Bruce Willis comes along with the new mission, which, much to the expendables’ chagrin, forces them to take a woman with them to help them crack a safe. It’s all about one of those cheesy 80’s movie plots in which the villain wants to get his hands on plutonium and they go to Bulgaria and, you know, things blow up and such. The plot doesn’t matter here; I know that, you know that, and the people who made this film sure as hell know that, so this is all I’m talking about it.

In this cast of washed up stars so many are priceless. Mr. Willis, for instance, makes the most out of his screen time delivering his lines in such a dry manner you can’t help but love the guy. But the MVP here really is Chuck Norris, the man that, ever since appearing in Dodgeball, became something of an internet sensation as countless jokes were made about him, glorifying him as this indestructible dude. The man is 72 years-old, his prime was in the mid-nineties, and he hadn’t even appeared on-screen for seven years prior to this, and yet every time he’s on screen here he kills it, delivering these hilarious deadpan responses that definitely show you he’s well aware that’s he’s become the punchline of great jokes, and he’s more than fine to cash in on that. I loved him here.

That hilarity is a big part of this movie, because it’s what allows you to take this whole thing as a huge elaborate comedy of sorts. Granted, I’m super sure that more than half of the things you’ll be laughing at here weren’t intentional jokes, but still, the fact that these guys were okay with making light of themselves is all the permission you’ll ever need. And before you know it, The Expendables 2 actually becomes one of those very rare sequels that’s better than the original. Say what you want about it, but it’s a damn good time at the movies and it never once pretended to be anything more than that. I’ll gladly check out a third one.

Grade: B

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