“You wanna man up? I’ll man you up.”
They’re back and this time it’s personal. This awfully generic tagline fits with The Expendables 2, which sees figurehead Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) once again at the forefront of the highly skilled gang of combat badasses. After a standard rescue mission in Nepal, Barney is confronted by his CIA handler Church (Bruce Willis) regarding a new mission in Albania. Objective? Retrieve a critical piece of information that is located in the rubble of a crashed plane.
The mission sounds easy and performs as such until the group realizes that they are not the only ones who are looking for this piece. Opposition comes in the form of Jean Villain (Jean-Claude Van Damme), who is after the information for selfish purposes. Things take a turn for the worst when one of the Expendables is executed, and the baddies make off with the content in the safe. Being witnesses to this senseless killing of one of their comrades gives a new alteration to the objective: Kill Jean Villain, and whoever associates with him.
After my disappointment in the first, I was a little skeptical of the sequel. With the first, all I wanted was some addicting, occasionally humorous, and violent/frenzy action from action stars of yesteryear mixed with well-known ones from the present. While that wasn’t really achieved, The Expendables 2 rectifies many of the previous issues and as a result is much closer to the type of film each installment of this franchise should put out.
Much like the first, the story is just as bare bones this time around. The good guys must take out the bad guys, who have done despicable wrong to one of their crew members. Thrown in is some stuff about plutonium and changing the balance of power somehow, but it is as dumb as it sounds. This time however, the scarce plot is a lot more intentional instead of aiming way too high and being overly serious. It is predicable, and shows its hand clear in who is going to die early on. So yes it is flawed, but it knows this fact this time around, which is actually part of the fun.
The story just exists for the sake of the action, which is the way it should be this. Right from the start the movie jumps into an extended action scene, and it is as furious as you would want from an opener. There is a bit of a longer lull that occurs early on before the next notable action occurs, and this is kind of a bummer. Really, the first half, while action-featured, is not necessarily action-packed. Once the second half arrives though, nothing but glorious and unbridled mayhem comprise the rest of the movie. It is as entertaining as one could expect, both action wise and humor-wise.
Stallone is removed from the directorial chair this time, replaced by Simon West. West may not be a well-renowned director, but appears to have a better grasp with putting together a better looking film and lighter tone. So many of the scenes this time are captured on a wide scale, not confined to strictly enclosed spaces and/or dark and muddled environments, effectively showing what these stars do best. He also opts for more humor throughout the movie, which is actually funny and delivered at the right times. Sometimes the dialogue is flat-out awful even if intentional, but some of that is part of the joke.
All of the originals are back again, but more attention is given to the whole gang as opposed to a bromance between Stallone and Statham. It sure isn’t character driven and I wasn’t expecting it to be, but all feel like an important piece to the crew. The originals are good, but the expansion of characters to The Expendables are even better. The first teased us with Willis, Sly, and Arnie in the same room, which was OK but wasted in actuality.
Seeing all three this go around wasting people left and right and exchanging famous one-liners in a hilarious manner is an action movie lover’s dream, and you can tell all three had an amazing time with this. Even Chuck Morris stops on by at convenient times, poking fun at himself and adding to the larger-than-life spectacle. Getting these legends all in the same room delivering justice is almost worth the view itself, and doing it against Jean-Claude Van Damme takes the intensity level to 11. Van Damme’s character is pretty generic, but he’s so charismatic that it will hardly matter.
In short, The Expendables 2 is everything the first should have been: Heavy on the action, light on the tone, and referential in what it is trying to do. Can’t ask for much more from an action film giving homage to the 80’s.
Photo credits go to collider.com, listal.com, and hollywoodreporter.com.
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