Director: Simon West
Runtime: 95 minutes
Sylvester Stallone is a senior citizen. And he’s not too old for this shit. The Expendables 2 is a glorious summer guilty pleasure – unapologetically badass, it sets out to accomplish just the thing it does: a classic shoot em’ up with a slight critique of global capitalism. Just like this cast, I will evoke another bit of 80’s pop culture – this ain’t nothing but a good time.
Following in the same formula as the first, although Stallone turns over the directorial reigns to Con Air‘s Simon West, much of the cast returns. Back in full throttle, they are having as much fun as we are. The flick opens as they shoot up a village in an unnamed Asian country to take on a botched mission – rescuing both a Chinese billionaire and Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Then The Expendables, a ragtag group lead by Stallone’s Barney Ross have downtime, that is until they don’t – this is no Nicole Holofcener movie. No less than Bruce Willis comes knocking and with one last favor, they are even.
And so the team – featuring Statham, Lundgren, Crews, Couture, the new “it” boy Liam Hemsworth, along with Yu Nan as a combat trained code breaker Maggie – pack it up and fly over to Bulgaria to retrieve a package from a plane crash for Willis’ Mr. Church. But no so fast – we’re only 20 minutes in. And thus appears a psychopathic rival mercenary simply named Jean Villain played by none other than JCVD – the Muscles from Brussels himself. Here is a flick that cuts right to the case – or in its case, the carnage.
The action delivers what you expect and does so with the glorious camp and occasional wit of an 80’s blockbuster picture, nostalgic, sure. It’s above all fun to see these guys still wandering around, a band of mercenaries – some of which these days have been relegated to direct-to-video and that weird bargain DVD bin of your local CVS. Here it works as a first-rate, balls to the wall action flick, often nostalgic itself – for that mission, the women left behind, etc.
To be fair I don’t remember much of the first Expendables outing – possibly due to its tedious nature, but as it should be, as a boy’s night out involving beer and wings. Within this ethos the sequel works perfectly, occasionally slowing down for moments of reflection and wit — captured in a moment at the very end of the film when Schwarzenegger’s Trench gives Ross a vintage airplane to fly home in. Ross comments, “its looks like it belongs in a museum” – to which Trench counters “we all do.” Here is a film that knows exactly what it is, and like these gunners, hits its target. Oh, and Chuck Norris just shows up randomly once in a while.
The Expendables 2 is now in wide release.
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