If you missed The Expendables, the basic idea is: Take a load of old actions stars, throw in a few newer ones (for the kids) and make an old school action film with knowing nods to the cheesy elements of the genre. It was mostly a forgettable action romp. In my case, I remember a big explosion on a dock type area and Sly not kissing “the girl” which, was quite a relief.
It did alright so why not do it again? There are mostly two ideas for sequels: Expand on the original idea with a new original story in the world you’ve created (Aliens, Dark Knight) or, the same again but more so, turn everything up to 11. The latter is the most favoured route and the one The Expendables 2 decides to take.
Big breath, starring: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Bruce Willis, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris. Quite a list and some others you may know. Liam Hemsworth plays “Bill the Kid”, the new guy and *Spoiler alert* the new guy dies! I realise the shock must be overwhelming but try to continue reading. Also, thrown in for good measure is, gasp, a girl! Played by Nan Yu who does her best with what she is given. Nan’s character is no wilting flower however that needs to be protected. Oh no, she can look after herself.
Plot? Some completely irrelevant stuff about nuclear material and revenge when *Spoiler alert* the new guy dies but, let’s face it, it’s a flimsy base for what we want to see and that is action. Stuff getting blown up. Cool and crazy kills. We want the ammo budget to be enough to feed a small nation and the kill count to be that of a small nation.
It starts big. A tried and tested method of grabbing the audience. Pull ’em in with the big opening set piece and then ease into the story, rinse repeat a few times and end credits. The Expendables 2 delivers on the big opening, the action is all go. The action is good. It’s not long after this big opening that Jet Li has the good sense to jump. Literally. He jumps out of a plane and says he may never come back or he just might. Jet Li talking or his character? Maybe both. I think this is a shame as Li always seems quite a dry actor and would have suited the dialogue well. More on that later.
Anyway, he exits before the lull, where the main plot is laid out. Really there isn’t any more more to be added than I’ve already said, nuclear stuff, bad men. Then we’re ready to kick off again you think but no, the lull continues. *Spoiler alert* The new guy dies which gives us the revenge plot point and, thankfully, a reason for some action. Which comprises of increasing the ammo budget and Chuck Norris who appears to have aged the best of the old action stars. Chuck does a Chuck joke. Which I think was pulled out of a hat or maybe Chuck picked it (in which case it was great ;)). Then finally, a little more silliness before the big ending. *Spoiler alert* The bad guy dies!
You may have noticed I’ve focused on the action a lot so far. First, with the possible exception of Willis there is not a great deal of acting prowess here, this we know. Couple that with some appalling dialogue and you can appreciate why I focused on the action. It’s seems as if there was a competition to see how many cheesy and/or past work referring lines they could fit in. I think they may have broken a crowbar or two to get them in. Sure, one or two will make you laugh, if for no other reason than how bad they are but even a great comedy actor would have trouble making them work. It knows it’s doing it and that is the purpose but then it wants us to care when *Spoiler alert* the new guy dies etc.
The best way to watch this would be with no dialogue and skipping about 35 minutes in the middle. It’s the lack of commitment to being serious or silly which stops The Expendables 2 from being a good action flick. Probably a product of trying to please everybody. The audience that wants the occasional cheesy line and probably the writers/actors who wanted it to have a deeper meaning. Hence, I think, the oft used line of “Be a man” or derivations of.
2/5 (Being a man means being able to cry)