Sylvester Stallone is a genius. Yes, I said it. No one can argue that his move to take washed-up action stars from the 80s & 90s and place them all together in the same film as a tribute to the commie/terrorist-butt-kicking movies of that bygone era was NOT an inspired act of cinematic brilliance. He’s done it again with The Expendables 2 and he has even one-upped himself by bringing on even more aged action-stars in search of a career boost.
No one, including the stars of this extremely entertaining action flick, would ever consider The Expendables franchise to be high-art, and that’s exactly what makes it so much fun. Everything is tongue-in-cheek and although there are plenty of laughs at the expense of these old-school action heroes, the narrative still plays as serious as any 80s Arnold Schwarzenegger or Chuck Norris action film, in a loving nod to the genre that made these men stars.
So let’s break it down, you’ve got Stallone (who Whedon needs to call if Samuel L. Jackson ever skips out on his Nick Fury duties), Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, newcomers Liam Hemsworth and Nan Yu (the Expendables only woman star) all up against Jean-Claude Van Damme who plays the villain named “Vilain” (no, that’s not a typo.)
So the story in a nutshell is that Stallone owes money to Bruce Willis, so to repay the government agent he must take his crew to collect “something” from a wrecked plane in Albania. The thing turns out to be a digital map of an underground bunker where the Soviets have stored tons of plutonium. Vilain ends up with the information and sets to recovering it for nefarious purposes, but not before killing one of the Expendables – which you know is a very bad idea. (Yes, I know I’m not mentioning the characters’ names. But for this film, why bother?)
The fight is then on to get revenge for their slain comrade, save the world (plus some Albanian villagers along the way) and see who can get in the best one-liner. Now there are plenty of opportunities to roll your eyes at the absurdity of The Expendables 2, and if you are rolling your eyes reading this review, then I’m certain this is not the movie for you. But if your favorite celluloid hero’s name starts with Sly, Chuck, Arnold, Bruce or Jean-Claude – then I am sure you are going to love every minute of this film.
The Expendables 2 is directed by Simon West who is an action-movie veteran in his own right, having both Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Con Air on his resume, and though he does an adequate job helming this picture, it’s missing a little of the “something-to-prove” spark that Stallone brought when he directed the first film.
There is already talk of an Expendables 3 and I’m all for it. Expendables 2 is a brass-knuckled fist full of explosive old-school action fun that knows what kind of movie it is and knows why fans love it. There is something to be said for experience.
Just for fun and through the magic of YouTube, I looked up this old Chuck Norris bit from Good Guys Wear Black, the first Norris film I ever saw (way back in 1978 – yes, I’m old.) Enjoy!