The Expendables 2 (2012) / Action-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for strong bloody violence throughout
Running time: 103 min.
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Nan Yu, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Liam Hemsworth, Scott Adkins, Bruce Willis, Jet Li, Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Director: Simon West
Screenplay: Richard Wenk, Sylvester Stallone
Review published August 18, 2013
The Expendables 2 continues the formula of The Expendables by stocking the cast with current and former action stars, this time upping the names to Jean-Claude Van Damme (Street Fighter, Timecop) and Chuck Norris (The Octagon, Breaker Breaker), plus expanded smaller roles for Bruce Willis (Red, Cop Out) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Around the World in 80 Days, Terminator 3). It's self aware and meant primarily for those who've regularly feasted on the action flicks of the 1980s, and part of the fun of an Expendables film comes in hearing these stars spouting familiar catchphrases (Arnie repeatedly refers to being "back", for instance) or performing their signature moves.
However, if you're coming in to the series without that requisite knowledge, you're likely to wonder just what people would see in The Expendables that they would make another entry, as they are mediocre at best. The action is good, with plenty of firepower and carnage on display at regular intervals, as well as some choice moments of hand-to-hand combat. But the acting is terrible, bordering on unintelligible much of the time, the lines delivered are groan-inducingly cheesy, and the plot is thin and not nearly interesting. The primary reason to watch this at all is for the jokey, wink-wink, nudge-nudge chemistry of the all-star cast.
The aforementioned scant plot sees Barney Ross (Stallone, Rambo) and his group of mercs on a mission to secure a top-secret box, only to see that box get into the wrong hands, stolen away by the nefarious and dangerous Jean Vilain (Van Damme). Turns out that the box contains the location of a hush-hush plutonium mine in Eastern Europe, which Vilain intends to use to further his terrorist ways.
The Expendables 2 isn't a good film, but it's better effort than the first, which, if you gave the first entry a passing grade, will mean this one will likely meet well with you. Part of the reason for the improvement is not only the higher budget, but also in replacing Stallone with Shane West (The Mechanic, Tomb Raider) as director, who isn't as interested in being as viscerally gory as Sly, but widens the scope of the impressively mounted battle sequences to look like a real war zone. Stallone remains not only the star, but also retains a screenwriting credit. Perhaps the best move made in this flick is to make one of those big action stars the main villain, as what we really want to see is Stallone and Van Damme go at it in an epic action finale one on one.
It's a mix of action and comedy, plus b-movie exploitation with a much higher budget. It's not as tight as it could or should have been, with a lackadaisical delivery and more than a couple of lulls, but at least it doesn't break the two-hour mark given the need for all of its stars to have moments to shine. If you like these stars and are looking for a few low-grade yuks and high-octane explosions, this will sate those urges. However, if you're looking for a great action movie, Stallone and company aren't interested in giving you that here. More of a cartoonish novelty than an honest effort to thrill, The Expendables movies live up to their name.
-- Followed by The Expendables 3
©2013 Vince Leo