103 min., dir. by Simon West, with Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, and Yu Nan
Unfathomable scenarios, cornball one-liners, and showers of thick crimson blood — welcome back. Upping the ante with the addition of a few more action legends, The Expendables 2 is just what you expect: a ridiculous throwback to a fading action genre with a new age twist. Just as with the first film, it’s almost impossible to express how this fever of violence and bad jokes makes one feel. The Expendables 2 is both moronically sad and simply irresistible at the same time.
Featuring a young new addition that’s handy with a sniper rifle, the boys are still doing their best to kick ass and terminate names. After their recent run-in with a not-so-small military resistance, group leader Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) is approached by Mr. Church (Bruce Willis), the mysterious man who put the events of the first film in motion. Mr. Church is not happy that Barney and his team screwed up that mission. Church is willing to consider it all a wash, however, if the boys help complete a seemingly simple in-and-out job. Sometimes those simple actions turn out to be more complicated than expected, and soon the expendables find themselves on the king of all revenge hunts.
Past, present, and all future adventures for The Expendables are the same thing. A raucous opening and a slam bang ending with a dusting of fun in between, all tied together by a singular simple and fairly faulty storyline. The high level of senseless gunfire and knife attacks can be seen as morbidly sickening. It’s only the film’s self-admitted loftiness that makes any of it acceptable. Most importantly, The Expendables 2 saves itself by turning on a dime, when it almost starts to take things seriously. Whether it’s a silly laugh or an over-the-top fatality, The Expendables 2 brings life back to a dying break in the action, just when you start to question if you’re actually sitting through it.
As with the first film, there’s no reason to look for stand out performances here. The Expendables 2 features some of the most dismal dialogue deliveries in film history. While most of its participants are not your typical award-nominated names, many of them are better actors than people give them credit for. However, I wonder if a note from the director between takes was, “Play it more like a nine-year-old in the school Christmas play.” I’m still not sure if some of it was that bad on purpose or not.
One major gripe I had with the first film was its inability to focus on each character enough, specifically the fact I felt the natural wit and charisma of Terry Crews was underused. Not only does Terry get his due screen time here, most everyone is dealt with on a level playing field. It’s an effect of having their characters groundwork already laid out from part one. Still, it was accomplished while giving slightly beefier roles to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, and adding Chuck Norris, Liam Hemsworth, and Yu Nan to the mix. The best addition though is Jean-Claude Van Damme as the film’s villain. Maybe it’s because I’m just used to always seeing him as the hero, but Van Damme makes one wickedly fun badass, and is only hindered by his inability to properly pronounce the word “challenge.”
No man can resist the primal joy felt as a result cartoony violence. The opening and ending of The Expendables 2 is highly satisfying in a childish way. On the other hand, The Expendables 2 is plain stupid, and only breezes over that fact by purposely being so. Yet, there will be those who can’t see past this, leaving them bitter and angry. Just remember that this is meant to be a roller-coaster ride and all will be fine. All that being said, it’s still one of the hardest films to pin down with a rating.