Right, the plot of The Expendables 2 is…., erm…..
Well, they’re either going into difficult situations to free someone or rescue something important, but then later on they have a bigger issue with going after Jean-Claude Van Damme whose character’s name I didn’t catch during the film, but the credits simply list as “Villain”. Not sure if that’s a name with a French accent, as I think I might’ve heard, or whether they just couldn’t be bothered to name him.
There’s another reason why they all hate him and want to exert payback, but while lots of reviews, and even the Internet Movie Database in the synopsis, have given it away, I’m not going to here.
Let’s get one thing cleared up first of all. This sequel is better than the original. It’s still not perfect, but it’s better, and I put that down to the directing being in the hands of Con Air‘s Simon West, not Stallone, who ruined the first film by relegating the great action scenes to the first ten minutes and the last half-hour.
Simon doesn’t get let off completely, though, because while there’s a superb opening 20 minutes, there then follows around 30-40 minutes of slowness albeit with some wisecracks – and there are many great ones in this film, but once that’s out of the way there’s not much stopping the film from being a solid piece of entertainment.
However, while we know from Van Damme’s description that for the plutonium he’s nicked, “6lb of it is enough to change the balance of the world… imagine was 5 tons would do.”, that he’s the bad guy, it’s a great shame that for all his talk and threats, he doesn’t even let off a bit of this sensitive material! You do feel rather conned that we’ve not seen a mega explosion go off as a result of this.
Taking the cast in turn, Sylvester Stallone reprises his main role as Barney Ross, giving some good wisecracks but you realise that his plastic surgery really is not doing him any favours and there’s nothing that can stop his speech from being very slurred or just not particularly audible. Jason Statham, as Lee Christmas, has a couple of big fight scenes all to himself, one of which is in a church, but then similar can be said for Jet Li‘s Yin Yang, who only gets one scene because – 20 minutes in once the opening fight is all over – he calls it a day and leaves. Why even bother to turn up? Seems very odd for him to get third place in the credits, too.
Dolph Lundgren‘s best moments, as Gunner Jensen, come in his poor attempts to woo new Chinese addition to the line-up, Maggie (Nan Yu), and that lady shows it’s nice to see some new talent brought to the screen when you might’ve expected them to drag Michelle Yeoh into the proceedings instead. Terry Crews (Hale Caesar) and Randy Couture (Toll Road) don’t particularly stand out, expect for Crews’ weapon basically being, what would be classed in Doom terms as a “BFG”, and young soldier-cum-mercenary Liam Hemsworth, as Billy The Kid, looks about 12 but with a beard.
Thankfully, Bruce Willis (Mr Church) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Trench) get a lot more to do this time, trading not only insults, but catchphrases to surprisingly good effect, and Scott Adkins is worth a mention as Hector, Van Damme’s main henchman, who’s a real bar-steward and does enough to make his mark – especially in a scene below ground which is very reminiscent of Christopher Walken’s in one of the later scenes in A View To A Kill, but there’s also a very welcome cameo or two from Chuck Norris as Booker, a self-confessed ‘lone wolf’, who pops up now and again when you’re least expecting it.
Also, thankfully, like the first film, Charisma-free Carpenter makes another ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it’ appearance as Lee’s girlfriend Lacy. In fact, she’s clearly only there to give reason to some later banter between him and Barney.
Go to page 2 for more thoughts on the film plus a look at the presentation and the extras.
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.