Director: Simon West
Writer: Richard Wenk (screenplay & story), Sylvester Stallone (screenplay), Ken Kaufman (story), David Agosto (story), David Callaham (characters)
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Nan Yu, Liam Hemsworth, Scott Adkins
The Expendables are pulled into another seemingly easy job by Mr. Church (Bruce Willis), but when one of their own is killed during the mission, the team goes on a quest for vengeance.
Back in 2010, The Expendables was released with much anticipation and hype. The film was heavily marketed as one that would finally team up the 80’s and 90’s action icons of Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, among other major action stars. Needless to say, the original film was less than impressive and, in hindsight, was incredibly underwhelming, both in terms of action and story. Still, the movie did make a decent amount of money to warrant a sequel.
Fast forward two years later and Stallone returns with The Expendables 2 and more big names along for the ride. Would this sequel live up to the even higher expectations placed upon the film after promises of bigger roles for Schwarzenegger and Willis, along with the big names of Van Damme and Norris joining in on the fun?
I am happy to say that this film is a massive improvement over the original, and in the context of action films, it delivers everything you want from it. Helming the project this time around is Simon West, and though I’m not a huge fan of his previous works—with the minor exception of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider—he does an exceptional job with this sequel. He elevates the action to another level and really doesn’t pull anything back for this movie. The first ten minutes of this movie alone trump anything Stallone did in the original film and it sets the tone for this sequel. I am just really thankful that Simon West actually pulls back the camera to see the action going on and doesn’t over emphasize the the use of shaky cam.
Action is what this film delivers and in abundance. The opening sequence did set the tone for the movie and it is a wild and fun ride. It’s not enough to have the big action stars just be a part of this movie. They all need to have something to do, and if there’s one thing Simon West was able to do, it was to fully utilize the entire cast, giving each of them an equal share of screen time with their own moment to shine. Though some of the more minor names do wind up being nothing more than simple side characters, they are what liven up the movie during the film’s slow parts. Sure they’re terrible actors and their dialogue is cheesy, but the combination of those two factors make for an entertaining and laughable time which is what I would expect from a movie looking to emulate the classics from the 80,s. None of them ever feel forgotten and they each add a little something to the movie.
Probably the best addition to this movie is Jean-Claude Van Damme as the bad guy. The biggest fault of the original film was that the villains assembled for the heroes to face were just not up to par. The villains didn’t feel up to scale or up to the task of taking on these big names. Thankfully, this time around, there is a bad guy that is bad ass enough to have that big one-on-one with Stallone. Van Damme himself looks like he’s having the most fun playing the bad guy in this film because he is your over-the-top and ruthless villain. He is that necessary villain that is near the epitome of evil that it feels necessary for a team like the Expendables to be called in to fight them off.
With all that said, I still can’t say this a movie for everyone. This is a movie for the action junkies and no one else. If you’re expecting something smart or ground breaking, you’re looking in the wrong place. This is a movie for a specific demographic, so be wary of that when going into the movie. It is dumb fun and nothing more. Some may be disappointed by some of the performances just for the shortage of screen time, while others may just find the writing of this movie to be unbearable, but again that’s your loss if you’re expecting something more from this movie. A good example of this would be Chuck Norris’ entrance scene which, to some, may be the epitome of poor film making, but to me, it was just a riot of fun to watch.
For what this movie is, it is a fun and thrilling way to end the summer. It is a pure action movie to its core and nothing more than that. Never expect anything else from a movie that includes this type of cast, but if you are going into this expecting something great, in the proper context you will have a great time. I love this movie and it’s a great way to cap off the big summer blockbusters. It’s one of those movies you’ll want to watch more than once with a large group of friends, so grab your buddies and have a good time.
GO Rating: 4/5