Release Date: August 17th, 2012
Director: Simon West
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Liam Hemsworth, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, Dolph Lundgren (etc)
2010’s The Expendables was too good to be true. As members of the cast were gradually announced, 80s action lovers everywhere couldn’t quite believe it was happening: Stallone, Lundrgen, Willis, Schwarzenegger, ERIC ROBERTS?! It was going to awesome. As it turned out, the finished product was… okay. Arnie and Bruce were in it for about 5 seconds, and the rest of the film felt a bit tired and po-faced. It was more Daylight than First Blood; more Collateral Damage than Commando. However with the roster expanding to include Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris, and with the promise of more Schwarzenegger and Willis screen-time, there was reason to get excited about the sequel. The resulting film is funnier, bloodier and even more ridiculous than its predecessor. In short: it was a blast.
In terms of plot, there’s not much to tell. The gang are re-hired by Church (Willis) to retrieve some blueprints from a safe, when they are ambushed by Van Damme and his cronies. After some (spoilery) events take place, they kill half the population of Albania in order to get back to Van Damme. What ensues is an hour of bloody carnage and one-liners, with some genuinely funny moments in between.
A few of the characters shine in particular. Statham has fun with his dialogue (‘I now pronounce you… man and knife’) and has great chemistry with Stallone, who despite having a face like a half baked ham these days, still manages to exude some charisma. Dolph Lundgren comes back to steal every scene he’s in (who’d have thought?), and Chuck Norris’ small role garnered the most laughs in the cinema. It’s also great to see Van Damme back in a cinema release again, with his roundhouse kick and ‘unconventional’ take on the English language both thankfully present. Jet Li however is criminally underused and is only in it for the first 10 minutes; and Crews and Couture don’t have much to do other then stand around and look hard (which isn’t hugely taxing).
It was great though to see Willis and Schwarzenegger having more screen-time this time round, but while Bruce sailed through his part (as he does), everyone’s favourite Austrian killing machine and ex-politician seemed, well, completely lost. It was like watching a man in a Schwarzenegger suit continually press the ‘I’ll be back’ button on one of his internet soundboards. With the amount of helicopters in the film he could’ve at least shouted ‘GET TO DA CHOPPA!’, but alas the dialogue in his case was supremely unimaginative (and badly delivered). Still, it was great to see him back on-screen, and in one Commando-esque sequence he helps to lay waste to thousands of soldiers without taking a single hit. Welcome back, Arnold: you have been missed.
There has been criticism levelled at the pacing, with the half an hour after the introduction being largely expositionary and relatively unexciting. Despite this, the film overcomes its initial shortcomings to provide a gleefully stupid experience that revels in all the right factors. Silly, cartoonishly violent, and unbelievably loud, The Expendables 2 might be dumb, but it sure as hell knows it, and knows more than anything how to please its core audience.