An even bigger and far more ridiculous sequel to an already ridiculous film, ‘The Expendables 2′ is a lot of fun, and perhaps surprisingly immensely satisfying to boot. I enjoyed the first flick for what it was, but the idea of the movie was perhaps better than the execution. Here, everything has been bumped up a notch, and the results are rather enjoyable. It’s still a big budget B movie, but the fun of taking as many action heroes from the 80′s and giving them giant guns and letting them loose while the camera rolled is done in a far more fun way this time around. There’s more muscle, more stars, more violence, more jokes, and less plot, but somehow that’s a winning formula for co-writer/star Sylvester Stallone and director Simon West (Stallone turned over the reigns to West, and though I generally prefer the former’s directing to the latter, it proves to be a very good choice). This is not a movie to be taken seriously in any way, but simply one to be enjoyed, and in that regard I have absolutely no complaints about it. If you don’t like this sort of shoot-em-up formula then you need not apply, but if this was a sequel you were hotly anticipating…well, this is your lucky day, or should I say weekend (hell, your lucky month if you wait a bit and take it in at a matinee next week)? Your action movie prayers have been answered.
The bare bones of a plot is even simpler this time around. For Barney Ross (Stallone) and his team of mercenaries, they’re tasked with a supposedly easy job for the mysterious Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) after a rousing prologue which reintroduces us to a rival mercenary named Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Ross, along with old friends Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Toll Road (Randy Couture), and Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) move out with new hire Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) and a woman named Maggie (Nan Yu) that Church sends with them to pick up a package. Seems simple, but a villain aptly named Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) takes the item and murders one of the Expendables. Thus begins a mission of revenge where the surviving members of the team must take out Vilain and his gang, of course getting some more help along the way this time from Church and Trench, plus a visit from a mysterious friend (Chuck Norris). It’s all very silly, but it’s a lot of fun and exactly what you want from an action movie like this.
You can’t ever say that the acting is particularly good here, but everyone is having a great time and it really does show. Mickey Rourke didn’t come back, but he’s not especially missed, particularly with Willis and Schwarzenegger mixing it up a lot more than last time (though Schwarzenegger completely forgot how to deliver a line while governing the state of California). Sylvester Stallone is still the main character, and his performance is fine. His back and forth with Jason Statham is amusing once again, while Terry Crews and Dolph Lundgren have their moments. Randy Couture mostly is in the background, and both Liam Hemsworth and Jet Li have less screen time than their counterparts, so their performances are more limited. Nan Yu is bland but fine, and Jean-Claude Van Damme chews the scenery just as you’d expect him to as the bad guy. Chuck Norris is essentially playing himself in an extended cameo, but it leads to a really funny punchline. The cast also includes Scott Adkins as a generic baddie, but obviously he’s forgettable when paired with these guys.
No one is going to mistake Simon West for a master filmmaker, but his direction here is a very solid match for the material. Whereas Sylvester Stallone was very fond of shaky camera work while directing the last installment, West just lets things play out in classic action movie fashion. It’s clearly modeled on 80′s action flicks in every way possible, but that works well here. He doesn’t help his actors out, but you’ll barely notice. As for the script, Stallone again has partial scripting duties (though this time he co-wrote it with David Agosto, Ken Kaufman, and Richard Wenk as opposed to David Callaham last time around). There’s no semblance of trying to create a well rounded story here, and somehow it makes things work even better. The first movie thought it had a good plot, whereas here the film knows it doesn’t and actually has a bit of fun with it. The character building is atrocious, but almost all is forgiven when the bullets begin flying. Let’s be honest though, if character building is that important to you, you’e not seeing this flick to begin with.
I think it’s safe to say that you probably already know if you’re interesting in seeing ‘The Expendables 2′ or not, but I can easily recommend it to anyone who’s somehow still on the fence. It’s pretty ridiculous, but it’s a lot of fun and a real good time at the movies. Don’t expect to think one bit, but you’ll probably smile a great deal. I know I had a better time than I thought I would, so take that for what it’s worth. This isn’t great art, but ‘The Expendables 2′ is as effective at achieving the goals it sets for itself as any other film this summer. It know what it is, and it never feels ashamed of that fact. I applaud ‘The Expendables 2′ for embarking on this particular mission and embracing its satisfying B-movie soul! In almost all regards, this is the type of sequel that we hope for as cinephiles…one that improves on its predecessor in every single way that it possibly can. Short of becoming a completely different type of movie, West and Stallone have achieved that with aplomb. If you’re willing to turn off your brain somewhat, ‘The Expendables 2′ could be just what the doctor ordered before the Oscar season begins kicking into gear during the next month or so. Sit back and enjoy the ride!
-Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!
Tags: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, liam hemsworth, sequel, Sylvester Stallone, The Expendables 2