The Expendables are back and this time they are “back for war.”
“Track ‘em, find ‘em, kill ‘em” is about as deep as the story goes, but despite this lack of narrative development, The Expendables 2 proves that you can never beat a classic – by which we mean the team of classic action heroes, not the film itself. The pre-credit sequence that opens this sequel sets the film up as a testosterone-fuelled extravagant action movie where the heroes succeed by wiping out their enemy, whilst completely destroying everything around them, and still managing to walk away unscathed.
This time round Barney (Sylvester Stallone) must pay off his debt owed to CIA Agent Church (Bruce Willis), which leads Barney and his team of A-list action heroes including; Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Toll Road (Randy Couture), Maggie (Nan Yu); a new recruit sent by Church, and Billy (Liam Hemsworth), to Eastern Europe on a mission to retrieve a box, the contents of which are kept under-wraps. However, the mission soon becomes personal after one of the gang is killed by their Russian adversary, Villain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and his right hand man Hector (Scott Adkins). The Expendables are hell-bent for revenge, leaving a trail of destruction behind them.
When you think you have seen it all, with the massive explosions, rippling muscles of our hyper-masculine heroes and excessive machinery, Sergio Leone plays on the soundtrack and non-other than Chuck Norris (who plays Booker), the superhuman man who can single-handedly take down an entire army of men, enters the scene. This scene alone with the self-referencing joke that Norris tells is reason enough to see this film.
This over-zealous action packed macho movie will satisfy any fan of the genre with its ironic, self-reflecting humour and one-liners given by the cast. The Expendables 2 has learnt from the mistakes of The Expendables as director Simon West ensures it does not take itself too seriously, but rather leans on the fantasy, built from the actors’ past careers, that these action stars are indestructible and, therefore, does not try to develop broken and troubled identities for them. Instead, it has fun with the fact that most of the cast are old classic action heroes that are a little past their prime, but nonetheless are embedded in our movie history and have become identifiable through their renowned catchphrases and past movies.
Unfortunately though, as in the first instalment, Arnold Schwarzenegger (who plays Trench) and Willis have little screen time and newcomer Liam Hemsworth, despite holding his own amongst these veterans, does not last long in the narrative. The narrative also features some rather awkward moments of acting and bucket loads of macho cheese, but if classic action heroes blowing up stuff and killing people is what you came to see then you will not be disappointed. The Expendables 2 becomes all about the testosterone-fuelled hyper-masculine image which creates a spectacle out of men.
The Expendables 2 meets expectations, but does not surpass them. However, with such an extravagant cast it does not need to. It is a film worth watching just for the fun of it.
Written by Shirley Welton, who also blogs at Beyond the Edges of the Frame.