The first Expendables was a fun riot. The film united some classic 80s and 90s action heroes, with some recent ones, for a guilty pleasure of a film. The only disappointments were that the action scenes were edited too frantically so you couldn’t make out what was happening, and Arnie and Bruce were merely cameos (albeit for one great fun scene).
The Expendables 2 replaces original director Sylvester Stallone, with Simon West (who directed Con Air), and opens with an all out action scene as Stallone’s crew rescue a bound and shrouded captive from a nameless malitia. The action is all shooting, all heads exploding and CGI blood splatter, with very little vested interest (as we don’t know the stakes or the bad guys). This opening does, however, feature Jet Li doing what he does best, and show off his martial arts ability in a well choreographed (if all too brief) fight scene, before he departs the film moments later.
It’s not long before the film’s main mission is established in traditonal exposition heavy dialogue via a briefing from Bruce Willis. The crew acquire a new operative who will help them retrieve an electronic map to a cache of weapons grade plutonium, before Van Damme’s villain (named Villaine) acquires it for himself.
What follows is the usual blend of action and dialogue. The dialogue features character facts, which are actually facts about the actors who play them (for example, Dolph Lundgren’s character Gunner now has a Masters Degree in Chemical Engineering, just like Dolph himself, which makes you wonder if Dolph, like his character, also has issues with drug abuse and enjoys verbally assaulting oriental people). Other lines, such as Arnie sayin “I’ll be back” and then Bruce replying with “You’ve been back enough, this time I’ll be back”, to Arnie’s retort of “Yippee Kayay” is painful, and again suggests these characters aren’t actually characters, but the actors themselves. There’s also a line when Arnie borrows the big gun from Terry Crews and Crews warns him “If I don’t get this back, you’re terminated!”
Disappointingly cringe worthy moments aside, the film itself is still fun enough. Van Damme is great to have back on the big screen. He is clearly having a ball playing the bad guy here, and makes me wish for a return to big screen roles for the guy. He clearly enjoyed working with his on-screen lacky Scott Adkins, and reuniting with Dolph Lundgren, as all 3 actors are together again in Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning.
The action can get a bit repetitive when its just all shooting, but isn’t edited so quick that you can’t make anything out this time. Chuck Norris is pretty much under-used, and is only here to turn up and save the Expendables from bad situations. Statham, though, is still good and has some great moments with Stallone, especially when concerning his on screen unfaithful girlfriend (again played by Buffy’s Charisma Carpenter).
The film has very little plot, poor acting and dialogue, and mediocre action scenes, yet still is enjoyable to watch these classic screen icons back on the big screen. It’s more a film for a post-pub Sat night, where you discuss how old Arnie looks, or the actor’s glory days, whilst dipping in and out of the film’s thin narrative.