Film review: The Expendables 2By Kim Francis
August 15, 2012
Remember when The Expendables came out?
With a dearth of credible modern action heroes, the prospect of a screen ensemble including some of the greatest action stars of all time was really something to get audiences salivating.
Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Lundgren, Li et al in one butt-kicking action flick? Are you kidding me? Erm, yes please!
And despite some reservations about how writer-director Sylvester Stallone would pull it all together, The Expendables delivered – and was met in cinemas with clapping, whooping audiences, lapping up the one-liners and adrenaline-pumping action.
Can we expect more of the same from the follow-up?
Well, yes and no. Stallone hands directing duties to Simon West, whose experience directing tongue-in-cheek Nic Cage actioner Con Air and video game-based hit Lara Croft: Tomb Raider makes him the go-to guy for seizing the reins. As you may expect, the initial impact of seeing these former action stars for the first time together on screen can’t be replicated, and The Expendables 2 loses a degree of its appeal as a result.
But, Stallone and West have identified and dissected all the elements that made the first such a success, re-assembling and amplifying them in the sequel for a surefire hit. They’ve expanded the cast and crowbarred in a dizzying array of one-liners and hugely enjoyable banter to make a sequel that they clearly believe to be bigger and better.
Also ramping up the action, the film jumps straight into a high octane rescue attempt sequence from the get-go, before revealing the latest mission for this elite team of ageing mercenaries – a task assigned by Mr Church (Bruce Willis).
It should be easy but they don’t bank on the brutal Jean Vilain (Jean Claude Van Damme). When one of their number is killed, revenge is front of mind for Barney Ross (Stallone) and his team but it’s a tough task. One, however, that can be achieved with a little help, including intervention by a certain lone wolf…
With plenty of light-hearted dialogue interspersed with the action, including lots of ribbing and sending up of each other’s screen personas, The Expendables 2 is great fun.
While it misses the gravity of the gruff but sensitive Mickey Rourke, it benefits from Van Damme’s badass baddie, as well as the presence of Chuck Norris and beefed-up roles for Arnie and Bruce.
Fight scenes, however, may leave you feeling ever-so-slightly short-changed. They’re shot and edited a bit disappointingly – they can be disorientating and don’t always show enough for some appetites, but then the body count is massively high.
Though the film’s force is unavoidably deadened, there’s a chemistry between these action stars that still throws up pinch-yourself moments.
Seeing them all in the same shot doing what they do best, teasing each other for being old, or swapping catchphrases is such a thrill. If you loved the first, the second will be a blast.