Movie Review: The Expendables 2

I hadn’t seen either Expendables movie two nights ago, but now I’ve seen them both. It’s certainly quite a lot to take in over 48 hours. The Expendables 2 came out in Australia last Thursday.

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Starring:
Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Director:
Simon West (Con Air, The Mechanic)
Rating: MA15+
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Wow. No matter how you look at it, the fact that The Expendables 2 is even a movie at all is pretty cool. Sylvester Stallone, who directed the first movie, deserves some fairly raucous applause for bringing together all those action heroes the first time around, crafting a rather enjoyable, if openly cheesy, movie in which to fit them. But his achievement as producer of the sequel is arguably greater. The Expendables 2 streamlines the action formula from the first film, cutting out the unnecessary and packing in more of the ridiculous. The result is a movie that knows just how stupid it looks and runs with this self-awareness in a startlingly effective way.

The “plot” of the film picks up quite close to the end of the last story, with Bruce Willis‘ “Church” chasing up a gaping loose end from that narrative. He has a new mission for Stallone‘s unit leader Barney Ross and his slightly altered team of expendable warriors. It involves a standard high-tech MacGuffin and a damsel without a hint of distress (Nan Yu). The team comes up against a new villain named Villain (Jean-Claude Van Damme hamming it up nicely) and his bearded assistant, who just won’t stop kicking the dog. Something bad happens and then all hell breaks loose. Things explode and a lot of bullets get fired.

The details don’t matter, and the greatest triumph of The Expendables 2 over its prequel is that it realises this. There is far less attempted plotting going on this time. When characters are talking it’s mostly to spout pun-tastic and/or piss-taking comments that revel in ludicrousness. There are some moments where the quiet time stretches long enough to draw attention to some vacuous characterisation, but these are much rarer than in the first Expendables.

Most of the cameos from the first film return in the second, with expanded roles that are a true guilty pleasure to watch. One particular exchange between Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger is absolutely priceless, but it is topped by the much-hyped appearance of Chuck Norris, who proceeds to make a Chuck Norris joke about himself soon after his wonderfully scored entry. Such a moment could only work in a film like this.

The Expendables 2 is not exactly a Hollywood great, but it is very good at achieving what it sets out to do. Don’t go to see it expecting a deep plot, multi-dimensional characters or any acting of note. Expect instead lots of over-the-top violence and explosions, as well as some of the most gloriously cheesy one-liners in recent movie history. Expect fun. In fairness, that is all a movie with character names like “Hale Caesar” and “Toll Road” can ask of you, and in fairness, it gives it in spades. I would not mind one bit if another sequel comes along.

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THE VERDICT

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Good:
Plenty of bang for your buck, delicious one-liners, next to no pretense
Bad:
Still weak in its longer quiet moments
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515/110A M A Z I N G

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