Late in The Expendables 2, soldier for hire Barney Smith (Sylvester Stallone) and his crew of anytime/anywhere warriors come across an armed adversary, who they simultaneously pulverize with bullets until he resembles Hamburger Helper. Smith admires his handiwork and quips, “rest in pieces!” If that sounds especially tasteless or off putting, this movie isn’t for you. On the other hand, I saw this with my wife and my Dad, and we were howling with laughter during this and many other scenes. Hilarious in ways both intentional and accidental, this bigger, far dumber sequel rarely takes itself seriously and, if you can look past the buckets of gore, is kind of charming.
It plays like a violent western, filled with old but still capable gunslingers and lots of verbal jabs both self referential and at its own expense. Even with plenty of spectacular explosions and mayhem, the biggest special effect remains the novelty of seeing this large group of action movie superstars working together.
The characters all have silly names and possess as many corny one-liners as they do rounds of ammunition, but the “actors” (I use the word loosely for some of the cast members) are clearly having a blast and enjoying one another’s company. Stallone still has great chemistry with Jason Statham, and Dolph Lundgren is better used this time (out goes all the pathos, which is replaced with goofball jokes). Jet Li is on hand for an amazing battle involving kitchen utensils, then vanishes for the rest of the movie and Randy Coutre and especially Terry Crews (who’s proved elsewhere he’s especially gifted at comedy or drama) are underutilized.
As with the last entry, seeing Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the same movie next to Stallone offers a nostalgic and cinematically historic kick for action fans; while their roles aren’t exactly fleshed out, they both have a lot more to do this time around. As the recent additions to The Expendables, newcomers Liam Hemsworth (far better here than in The Hunger Games) and Nan Yu, the lone female in the bunch, add considerable charisma and appeal.
I waited this long to mention the plot because it’s so unimportant: a despicable villain named Vilain, played by Jean-Claude Van Damme, is exploiting men, women and children in an effort to hollow out a mountain to realize his master plan. The story steals from both Three Amigos! and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and, scene after scene, lacks logic of any kind (I’m still trying to figure out why Stallone crashes his plane for seemingly no good reason). However, no one who comes to see this will care about the story.
The first movie peaked during the first hour, which never topped the gasp-inducing Schwarzenegger/Willis/Stallone encounter and the awesome Stallone/Statham airplane ambush. The sequel is crammed with action and entertainment value from the start but really delivers the goods during the extended climax; set in a tiny airport, it features both the former “Governator” and John McClane verbally roasting one another and a Stallone/Van Damme battle as earth shaking as the Batman/Bane matches from last month. Van Damme effectively nails his despicable character, a bad guy so vile, he almost never takes off his sunglasses.
I’m not sure if I liked the sequel better than the first, as I missed Mickey Rourke (whose soulful monologue was one of the best things in the first movie). On the other hand, the follow-up does have Chuck Norris… an actor so awesome, I had to re-type his name three times, as my spell check auto-corrected him as Bearded God of Thunder.
The Expendables 2
★ ★ ★
Rated R / 102 Min.