The Expendables 2: Right, the plot of this film 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.
Oddly, there’s no appearance from Mickey Rourke, even if his role in the first one was marginally bigger than Charisma’s. However, what I did really enjoy is that while at first I was concerned at this film’s rating being a 15-cert compared to the original’s 18, there is still plenty of violence to be found here. The way they get around it is that when it comes to the multiple times where a baddie’s head is shot off, it’s all done with CGI. Same with many of the hand-to-hand combat moves resulting in bloodshed. Stallone used some of this in 2008’s Rambo and it worked very well there.
Overall, as I’ve said, The Expendables 2 delivers where the first film didn’t, but it still has a way to go to fill in the gaps and make it a brilliant action film.
Hence, roll on The Expendables 3 – it’s a dead-cert, although I do wonder who they’ll bring into the mix who hasn’t been in there before.
Running time: 102 minutes
Released: August 16th 2012
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Super 35)
Viewed at: Odeon Cinema, Trafford Centre
Director: Simon West
Producers: Basil Iwanyk, Avi Lerner, Danny Lerner, Kevin King Templeton, John Thompson and Les Weldon
Screenplay: Richard Wenk and Sylvester Stallone
Music: Brian Tyler
Barney Ross: Sylvester Stallone
Lee Christmas: Jason Statham
Yin Yang: Jet Li
Gunner Jensen: Dolph Lundgren
Booker: Chuck Norris
Villain: Jean-Claude Van Damme
Mr Church: Bruce Willis
Trench: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Hale Caesar: Terry Crews
Toll Road: Randy Couture
Billy The Kid: Liam Hemsworth
Hector: Scott Adkins
Maggie: Nan Yu
Pilar: Amanda Ooms
Lacy: Charisma Carpenter
Sophie: Nikolette Noel
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.