Two years ago, Sylvester Stallone parlayed the momentum of his comeback successes of “Rocky Balboa” and “Rambo” into the start of a new franchise, “The Expendables”. Featuring a virtual who’s who of aging action stars, “The Expendables” dealt up a heaping portion of carnage and camaraderie and proved to be surprisingly enjoyable movie. It was also successful enough to warrant a sequel.
For the return engagement, Stallone recruits additional semi-retired movie heroes (Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris), and expands the roles of pals Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. But would it be enough to support an already thin concept?
Fear not, “Expendables” fans, “The Expendables 2” more than delivers on its B-movie promise of bullets, blood, and bromance.
Barney Ross (Stallone) is back in action and once again leading his paramilitary unit into mercenary duty. The entire team returns: Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) and Toll Road (Randy Couture). They’ve also added some fresh blood to the team… an eagle-eyed sniper they call Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth). Collectively they waste no time in getting into the thick of things; the movie opens with a raid on a heavily fortified compound. The Expendables roar in on armored transports and begin shooting, stabbing and blowing stuff up. Within five minutes the body count is approaching triple digits.
Eventually Ross and the team cross paths again with Mr. Church (Bruce Willis), who comes to collect his due in the aftermath of the last mission he enlisted them for (the last movie). Church wants the Expendables to travel to Russia and recover the contents of a safe from within a downed airplane. Ross is forced to comply, and also reluctantly agrees to bringing a safe cracking expert (Nan Yu) along on the assignment. The team is quickly able to successfully recover the contents they sought, but they’re ambushed before they can return them to Church.
The team that ambushes them is led by Jean Vilain (I kid you not, the villain’s name is Vilain), played by Jean-Claude Van Damme. Vilain is a terrorist and slaver who is attempting to recover a cache of nuclear grade plutonium the Russians buried in a mine at the end of the Cold War. Once he crosses paths with the Expendables though, a showdown awaits, as they’re not the kind to forgive and forget.
It’s not complex, it’s not complicated. But people dont watch “The Expendabales” for the plot. People watch the Expendables to see muscle-bound dudes with big guns shooting anonymous, generic bad guys to shit. And there is plenty of that to be had. The team chases after Vilain, and numerous armed and unarmed conflicts await. There are explosions and automatic weapons and throwing knives and hand to hand combat.
Bad guys get “expended”. By the scores.
In between the combat sequences, there’s scenes of two sorts. Bonding and hamming it up amongst the team, and Stallone acting world-weary over the burden of being the world’s greatest mercenary. Popping up occasionally in order to contribute to the copious kill count are Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chuck Norris. They also up the ball busting quotient in the film, as if the Expendables crew needed help in that regard. All the stars trade nudges and asides as they allude to their former movies and slip in famous lines. If anything, the movie may be a little too “wink, wink” at times. I swear, during Norris’ scenes they practically name drop or reference everything you could think of associated with him, right down to the Internet meme about how invincibly tough he is. For the most part, it’s fun though, I got a chuckle out of it, especially a catch-phrase trade-off Schwarzenegger and Willis exchange late in the film.
Between the camaraderie of the cast and characters, our pre-existing affection for these stars, and the fact that this series sates your blood lust like no other, this is a movie that was highly amusing and easily recommendable. Part nostalgia trip, part testosterone high, always enjoyable, “The Expendables 2” serves up high quantities confectionary carnage that’s sure to please fans of the original.