Stallone and his carnage crew are back for more firepower and flippancy in the hyperactive sequel The Expendables 2. These aging and rollicking renegades deal mainly in rocking the boat…not rocking chairs! The heart and soul behind The Expendables 2—much like its pulsating predecessor—is plain as the trigger on a semi-automatic shotgun: it is about testosterone and the past/present action stars that want to take a grand impish wink at the genre that made them household names in action-packed entertainment.
Basically, The Expendables 2 is a self-deprecating actioner that does not pretend to be something other than what it is at its core—an explosive guilty pleasure of empty-headed adrenaline aimed at the masses mesmerized by the movie’s giddy gun-power gumption. Although mindless and boisterous, The Expendables 2 does have some playful kick to its manufactured mayhem. It is an obvious ode to the exaggerated action-oriented cinema that has made iconic symbols out of Stallone and his gun-toting gang.
Director Simon West (“Con Air”) conjures up a raucous round-up of delirious destruction amid chaotic chuckles and wisecracks. In many ways, West’s follow-up instalment is more inviting and bombastic than the Stallone-directed original that started up this band of bad boy oldsters. Screenwriters Richard Wenk and Sylvester Stallone oversee an excitable script that does not constitute any logical or comprehensive heft. Nevertheless, The Expendables 2 is visually erratic which makes the piercing popcorn element all the more stimulating.
Revered leader Barney Ross (Stallone) and his matured mercenaries Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundren), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Ying Yang (Jet Li), Toll Road (UCF’s Randy Couture) and youthful newcomer Billy the Kid (Liam Hensworth) are back in the fold as they are dispatched by covert CIA operative Church (Bruce Willis) to go on a rescue mission to Nepal using their specialties in weaponry and combat. Church acknowledges that these ragtag ruffians are quite unconventional but also realizes how effective they are in their manic methods. Added to the collection of these male menaces is pretty techno-tart Maggie (played by Chinese actress Yu Nan).
Interestingly, Ross rival Trench (Arnold Schwartzenegger) is also summoned to help out Church and his hired wrecking crew. Things get very personal for Ross and his rabble-rousing associates when one of their men are viciously killed forcing the hell-raising heroes to dictate justice on their terms. The individual responsible for such a heinous act is bad apple Vilian (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and equally twisted sidekick Hector (Scott Adkins).
In addition to avenging the death of one of their comrades, Ross and his bunch must prevent the diabolical Vilian from other disagreeable behaviour—mainly enslaving the locals to dig for ominous plutonium that can spell disaster for the entire world. Naturally the inevitable showdown nears when Ross and Vilian collide as they settle the score face to face. First, the fury of gunplay, bombs and other slaughterhouse sensationalism must dictate the proceedings where The Expendables 2 feels good about its cartoonish craziness and collisions.
Occasionally, The Expendables 2 is in danger of overstaying its welcome with the novelty of grenade-loving geezers playing “blow up-and-blast out” while leaning on familiar catchphrases and hoping that the audience continues its love affair with the corrosive kookiness. Well, luckily the no-frills and nonsensical noise-making static hits the right chord more often than not.
Regardless of the imagined gimmick where these AARP-qualified wreckage warriors go ballistic in the name of nostalgia and past cinematic reputation, The Expendables 2 still maintains a high-octane cheekiness that registers aptly with audiences that cherish the over-the-top smash-and-bash cinema that is the fabric of escapist American moviemaking.
Admittedly, it is a comical rush checking out Stallone and his creaky contemporaries still causing havoc on the big screen. In particular, 70-something Chuck Norris is a notable riot as a one-man terminator (sorry, Arnold S.) whose penchant for scattering bodies almost seems effortless.
Whatever drives these furious fossils to seek and destroy, the high-spirited hedonism in The Expendables 2 is makeshift lunacy at its colourful absurdity.
The Expendables 2 (Lionsgate Films)
1 hr. 43 mins.
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwartzenegger, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Liam Hensworth, Yu Nan, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Scott Adkins
Directed by: Simon West
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: Action Adventure
Critic’s rating: ** ½ stars (out of 4 stars)