The Expendables 2: Movie Review
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, Dolph Lundgren, Jean Claude van Damme, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, Bruce Willis (no room for anyone else)
Director: Simon West
Once more unto the breach, my friends. Once more, for these ageing action stars of yore.
Having successfully blown up a lot of stuff (and the box office in the process) in the Expendables back in 2010, it was perhaps no surprise that Sly and his mercenary team of stars from the 80s would return again. (Sly and the Family Stallone, anyone?)
This time around, it's a bit more of a personal quest for the group.
When CIA operative Church (a relatively non-smirking Willis) commands Barney Ross (Stallone) and his unit to extract a safe from a shot down plane, the group duly heads out to pay off their debt.
But what they don't realise is that sneering sunglasses wearing bad guy Jean Vilain (Seriously???) is also after the contents of the safe - and when he takes out one of their own, the Expendables' thirst for retribution propels them to seek revenge.
And that's really it for plot.
Except for plenty of explosions, big guns being shot and crowd pleasing cameos (if you're a fan of the 80s action genre), then the Expendables 2 doesn't do anything more than what it sets out to.
bigger, louder and packed with more explosions and mayhem than ever before, but it doesn't half feel a little soulless as it goes about its plot.
This ageing action thriller is surely aimed at giving the 80s action stars some cred and show that they can still do it with the best. However, it ends up feeling more akin to an episode of The A Team populated by your slightly embarrassing parents, who are determined to show they can still do it, via some grunting, running and generally smacking down whatever they can to demonstrate they're still in shape.
It's incredibly dour with a bit of self deprecation here and there but not enough to carry it off; sure, there's cheese aplenty and cameos to tug at the toughest action hero heart as it enters its final furlong - and there's also risible dialogue throughout. Even with the addition of a female to the mercenary group seems like a shallow attempt to shake the dynamic up and get a few women into the auditorium.
And yet, despite railing against these ideas, I can't quite tell if the film deliberately chose those intentions or whether those involved are such geniuses of the genre that we've all had the wool pulled over our eyes.
Arnie's rolled out like some geriatric deus-ex-machina, and spends his little on-screen time stealing all his scenes, shooting everything and dispensing various catchphrases from his past (no sign of Hasta la vista, so maybe we should be grateful); there's a great use of the Sergio Leone theme from the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, though the person who shows up afterwards is not who you'd expect, Liam Hemsworth gives an utterly ludicrous and laughable speech about how, despite the horrors of war, it was the killing of a camp dog which forced him out of the forces (and thus, being a bit vulnerable marks him for death); and even Stallone looks a little weary and tired as it wears on. Crowd pleasing cameos ensue and ultimately, the film's final set piece ends up at an airport, doling out more carnage than a security scanner would ever prevent from happening. Even the final smackdown between a vengeful Ross and wry Vilain lacks the punch-the-air-in-glee denouement you'd expect from such a confrontation you've been teased with over the past 100 minutes.
Despite all the macho gung-ho testosterone on show, and with all of the formulaic plot constraints and constant bombardment of explosions, and people being shot to bits (after dispatching one guy with guts and gusto, Stallone tells his victim to "Rest in Pieces"), if you check your brain at the door and fancy a piece of retro action which comes with a large side order of cheese and explosions, has little coherence and originality, then the Expendables 2 is the perfect night out for you.
Bear in mind though Arnie's final line - when his pals are given an ancient plane to fly off into the distance, and is told that it "belongs in a museum", the Governator smirkingly nods before announcing that "We all do."
Though with a third Expendables outing slated to go into production and with box office anticipation still high for these OAP mercenaries, that seems highly unlikely to happen.