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Kieran’s Rating: 7/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 7/10
(3 reviews total)
Back in 2010, fans of action cinema were salivating over the prospect of some of the greatest action heroes of ’80s and ’90s coming together for the first time in The Expendables, but it took itself too seriously to win approval from the vast majority. The filmmakers listened to this criticism in putting together The Expendables 2 and director Simon West injects a big dose of self-aware humor that the series needed.
After a successful mission Nepal to rescue a Chinese billionaire, the mysterious spy Church (Bruce Willis), demands Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and The Expendables pay him back for their shenanigans in the first movie and get a case from a clashed plane in Albania. However, a ruthless mercenary and criminal, Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) awaits them. He plans to sell several tons of former Soviet plutonium and enslaves a population of local men to mine it.
The winning feature of this sequel is the action sequences, which is the source of the film’s new-look sense of humor. It starts with the pre-title card sequence and includes written gags on their vehicle (with an acknowledgment of some of the actors’ real-life right-wing views) to the fun of Jet Li fighting with a frying pan. The action is delightfully violent with plenty of head explosions and blood packs. These fun and well-edited set pieces offer plenty of variety. There are shoot-outs, martial arts combat scenes, and feats of pure physical strength.
The Expendables 2 has sealed West’s return as an action director. Sadly, some of the actors do not get a chance to shine in the physical front; some of the roles were really just cameos. The CGI was sadly weak, and there is a little too much self-referencing near the end, but it’s mainly in an old-fashioned and fun action movie type of way. At times, The Expendables 2 is weirdly meta, acknowledging Dolph Lundgren’s real life education and pre-acting career and playing off the rivalry between Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Even Brian Tyler’s score plays homage to some of the film’s stars.
The heart of the movie is still the relationship between Stallone and Statham, which is full of banter, wit and overall great chemistry — it feels as if they have been working together for years. They have their moments to shine as individuals as well as a pair and even Statham has his own rival to go with the Stallone one in the JCVD rivalry. Despite being one of the most recent action stars of the bunch, The Stath is one of the best characters as he’s fun and gets a chance to show off his fighting skills.
There are plenty of clichés in the sequel, including foreshadowing of the death certain characters and the villains are evil for the sake of being evil. JCVD and his crew and needlessly ruthless and there are a elements similar to first movie with an outside force taking control of a region. But the advantage of JCVD as a villain is he is a real, imposing threat to the Expendables.
While there is a more tongue-in-cheek tone, West still keeps a gritty look and the cinematography uses deliberately dull colors in order to do so. Early in the second act the movie drags a little and is slightly aimless, but once the action picks up it is easily forgiven. West’s direction is a little workman like, but this was the approach this series needs: the audience just wants good scenes and that nostalgic feeling from the glory days of action films.
There is a macho culture of friendship within this movie as it centers on comrades who had been fighting together for years, but Yu Nan, playing Maggie, mixes things up as a tough woman who can handle herself as the brains of the outfit. It is refreshing to see a woman in this type of film not being a damsel in distress, but the weird faux-romance female characters have with Stallone continues in this movie, though luckily we do not see the 66-year-old bump uglies with a woman half his age.
Earlier this year, Chuck Norris announced that The Expendables 2 was going to be PG-13, but because of the beautifully gory violence an R-rating was ensured. Still, there was one weird aspect to the film: no swearing.
The Expendables 2 will supply fun action sequences, some cheesy jokes and has the sense of humor and self-awareness the first movie needed. Fans of the stars and classic ’80s-style action cinema with get their money’s worth. Rating: 7/10
Simon thought: “The Expendables 2 is an improvement in every respect over the original. The action is crisper and more professionally rendered, the humor is far more abundant (as are the number of noteworthy action legends) and a sense of fun that was nearly missing from the first is upped five-fold here. My biggest qualm in our second outing is that the stakes seem extremely low, not because of the specific mission these mercenaries are undertaking but rather that they seem even more immortal than ever and are able to slaughter gangs of 50 men with a single clip of ammo. Now of course in classic action films the baddies can never shoot an accurate round, but a little bit of blood and grit on the side of The Expendables would have been welcome. That being said, The Expendables 2 still feels smooth – wrinkle-cream smooth – and yet again shows these geezers have life in them yet.” Rating: 7/10
Steven thought: “Stallone and co. listened to the criticisms of the first film, as The Expendables 2 is just a good time. It starts off with a pre-title sequence that would best be described as a Bond opening on steroids and then delivers a story that while still a bit haphazard, at least makes you root for the good guys and against the bad guy — a.k.a. care. Speaking of the bad guy, having Van Damme in the role alone serves to up the ante. The humor works and the sense of camaraderie is there between the stars, though it is oddly meta, to the point where you don’t see characters but rather the action stars portraying them. Not every Schwarzenegger line needed to an homage to his best one-liners. Anyway, the action is still over-the-top — like video game shooter with all the cheats turned on over-the-top — but this time you’ll be invested in the outcome.” Rating: 7/10