The Expendables 2 (2012)

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A better rip roaring shoot ’em up than the first film promised, at least here the explosive action looks and feels more real and there’s more of it in better heavy offerings. It’s a cringey, or perhaps cheesy movie with some of the lines and action stars plodding about but they’re is humour in patches and I cannot deny that I enjoyed it, however much I know that should pain me to say.

This follow up finds leader Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his rag tag group of muscled cronies enter Nepal to rescue a hostage. After this Ross recieves a ‘I’ll make it even’ deal/mission from Church (Bruce Willis) to retrieve an object from a safe in Albania. Upon finding it however his team are faced with the villain of the piece, aptly named Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) who wants the item to find and use a heck of a load of plutonium for evil gain.

The thrill of this movie series really comes from the sight of seeing thundering greats from movies like ‘Terminator’, ‘Rocky/Rambo’, ‘Die Hard’, ‘The Transporter’ etc and I believe that they could use more of each member of the Expendable group. This 2012 movie in particular focuses a lot more on Sly as a character and he features prominently in most scenes. Jet Li is severely underused thanks to him filming elsewhere but that’s a shame as it gets rid of a differing pace and style of fighting. The best addition is in giving Arnie more to say and do and he pretty much steals the spotlight in any appearance he gets. The one liners he kicks out are spot on and actually funny whereas quite a few of the others said by Stallone or others are probably intended to be humorous but are try hard or just not funny. The inclusion of two big stars of days gone by in Chuck Norris and JCVD is awesome though and even though Norris serves as a deus ex machina, there’s a right laugh out loud moment in him bringing up a Chuck saying in him being better than a cobra. Van Damme is a great baddie for this movie and his high kicking style makes for a cool showdown later on and you just know he’s bad when he walks about with shades on, doesn’t care about a village of children and women being used to pull out plutonium and uses a knife when setting rules of no weapons. Each character is obviously clear cut in being pushed cliches of the type they are playing but there’s no real harm in that aside from being simple and predictable.

Action sequences in this are better handled and done more frequently, the opening scene getting into and out Nepal is a feast for the eyes as we see more and more unfold in letting the Expendables expend so many lives around them. The showdown as mentioned is a good little moment that clearly comes near the end of the movie and it’s as shadowy and atmospheric as it can be in a pumped up no brainer movie such as this. There is a lot of swallowing reality here to believe the fantastical world we’re shown as we see the ageing team easily dispatch fleets of younger more utilised people. The way Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) plucks knives from anywhere is maybe a step too far as we see him throw a knife and then have one again. Clearly they’re the good guys so they have to win, correct? Yep, but it would be great to see them have a struggle at least as there is never a time when you feel any of them are in danger, you know they’ll get out by throwing like one or two punches. It’s a movie of boom, we’re big and bold and let’s show you that over and over.

I’m going to stupidly like this film more just because the names of the characters still make me smile. They’re so bad they’re good, like being drawn from hats on a table and put together to make silly obvious filmic names. We get things like Lee Christmas, Jean Vilain and Yin Yang to hilarious titles like Toll Road and Hale Caesar. It’s a film with these names that makes you know what to expect in terms of writing when they pen names like the above. The script dually handled by Stallone and Richard Wenk does the job and in fact there is more of an interesting, if I could inappropriately use that word, plot, if I could also use that word too. You don’t expect a well rounded story in a film like this, especially after seeing the first movie so it’s a pleasant surprise to see this one take on a good vs evil plot with grounded momentum that you can easily engage in. The plot at times is very forced, one point is where Ross motorbikes down to his parked plane for no reason at all apart from it’s in the script so he has to as that’s the only way for him to bump into a hiding Mr Church on his plane. The end has a nice sweet touch for such a manly film though as we see a box being delivered to a woman, I won’t say anymore in case you haven’t seen the film.

There’s a lot of joy to be had in this sequel, most of it coming from the stars using themselves as points of reference to make funnies. I look forward to the next installment thanks to this film and hope that Schwarzenegger is just as brilliant in number 3 as he was in number 2. It can be incredibly cheesy and the nostalgia of seeing all these faces can sometimes lose its gleam but you can’t help but like the madness of it all.

An excellently junky action movie with enough explosions, fighting and stars to keep you amused even when you know you shouldn’t be.

6/10

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