Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Nan Yu, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Liam Hemsworth, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Director: Simon West
Running Length: 103 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (6/10)
Review: It would be easy to dismiss The Expendables 2 as brainless fodder for men that wore out their VHS copies of Bloodsport, Cobra, Commando, and countless other action films of the 80’s. Actually, that’s the very reason it should be embraced. It’s big, loud, and kinda dumb looking – much like most of aged punch-‘em-up heroes that populate the cast – and it’s not all that bad. Well yeah, it’s bad but in the same way that Velveeta is bad…meaning it’s oh so good.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of 2010’s The Expendables, thinking it to be a poorly made and overly hyped trash fest that was beneath even the likes of Stallone. The film was too dark and bet the bank and lost on its one gimmick of bringing together a pile of familiar faded faces. Stallone wrote and directed the first one which I think was another mistake…because it seems the man can’t multitask.
Thankfully, for the sequel Stallone settled for just co-writing and starring in it and that allows the film to breathe a bit more and favor some of the ensemble members. Director West (Con Air) knows his way around a film like this and easily navigates his cast around. No one in the film is known for their serious acting so it’s just a lot of scene chewing and men with guns doing their thing. Crews, Lundgren, Couture, and Li are all second bananas to the likes of Stallone and Statham who have perfected their blithe back-and-forth banter.
Willis and Schwarzenegger popped up as cameos in the first film and their roles have been beefed up here. Schwarzenegger has more time on his hands now that he isn’t running California and Willis needs to fill in his quota of appearing in at least ten films a year. Some nice callbacks to previous films they’ve starred in is pleasant but does zap your mind back to these better films one time too often.
Norris shows up for a glorified cameo and takes a few nice potshots at his fanbase, demonstrating that the onetime Walker Texas Ranger has a good sense of humor. Much has been made about Van Damme’s villainous role (not the least bit ironically named Villain – Vill-Ane) but he too shows up for precious little screen time. Van Damme gets a few round off kicks in before going mano-a-mano with Stallone for a fight that’s more enjoyable than it should be.
The lone female presence is from Chinese action star Yu who isn’t given much to do. I kept waiting for her to have a special talent or do something of interest but she’s tough-girl eye candy for the men until the film tries to awkwardly shoehorn in a romance between her character and Stallone’s. Like the original film, trying to instill a romance for Stallone seems incredibly phony and has zilch to do with the plot. It’s actually good that Yu is here because the testosterone level is so high that even a soprano might leave the film singing bass.
Ah…to the plot. It’s your general mash-up of nuclear weapons and machine guns and many, many killings by automatic weapons. In fact, the movie achieves its R rating for its violence alone…there’s not a single F-bomb that I can recall and the language is mostly in the PG-13 category. I had read that the film was shooting for a PG-13 (on the wishes of Norris!) but finally added more blood and gore to take advantage of an R. The bloodshed is pretty comic and looks totally CGI-ed after the fact…like a big screen version of Street Fighter.
Is a viewing of The Expendables 2 worth it? I’d say if you’ve seen the original then you should try this one out because it’s better and much more entertaining. Also, if you remember the days of sleepovers with Van Damme films and Sega Genesis this is the movie for you. All others are best advised to see if their nostalgia factor can sustain two hours of grunting men and fake-looking violence.