When Sly (Sylvester Stallone) compiled a cast of 80s action stars and proto-80s tough guys together to collectively flex their muscles for The Expendables, I don't think anyone expected that it would pack the punch that it may have two decades earlier. While the flawed original felt like a road test to get these iconic personas together, The Expendables 2 is fully operational.
The Expendables 2 sees the boys (Stallone, Statham, Li, Lundgren, Cotoure, Crews, and Hemsworth) back together and repaying their debt to Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) for the carnage they wreaked out in the first film. When they're ambushed by a terrorist group led by Villain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and one of their team is murdered they must exact bloody, explosive vengeance.
There's light and satire that's immediately embraced that makes this exceptionally fun watching. The ‘one-liners’ are obvious but amazingly cheesy - they're universally naming it to claim it. In the original, the moments that resonated was getting to see the icons share the stage. To quote the gospel according to Chuck Norris re: these usually lone wolves - "sometimes it's good to join the pack." The balance of seeing the action titans (Sly, Bruce, Arnie, Chuck Norris, JCVD) interacting quenches the thirst better than the original. The violence, the machismo, the brutally is heightened appropriately for the sequel.
It's more of the same from Stallone, Statham and the core group. Watching the chemistry between an aged Arnie and Bruce Willis was a highlight. Make no mistake; JCVD is legitimately excellent in this film. He's a self-aware villain and yet he doesn't trivialise his antagonist perspective.
There's an attempt to give meaning and context to the violence that is tonally oxymoronic. These brief and bizarre socially conscious moments are so bad that they instantly make you laugh. The direction from Simon West serves its purpose without imposing a 'style' onto proceedings.
The Expendables 2 is the exact right dosage of brutal action dished out by ginormous gents, past their prime; and importantly - they know they're past it. It pokes fun at the action films that my generation were weaned on. The Expendables 2 is that 80s mothers milk, fortified (and aged) into whiskey - and it's a fun to drink in with friends.
[rating=3] and a half
Directed by: Simon West Written by: Richard Wenk (screenplay/story), Sylvester Stallone (screenplay), Ken Kaufman (Story), David Agosto (Story) Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Liam Hemsworth, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Randy Coutoure, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris
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