16 August 2012 | DICK STEEL
A Nutshell Review: The Expendables 2
The mercenaries are back! And if the response from the box office is stellar, I suppose The Expendables can build upon a formula that's established through the two films to date, that somehow follows how James Bond would have done it, with its longevity inspiring similar treatment. There's the opening big bang action sequence, followed by Bruce Willis' shady CIA operative Mr Church coming on to provide Barney (Sylvester Stallone) and his team a challenge they cannot refuse (by way of blackmail). Technology and weapons go down to bare basics with loads of guns, knives and brass knuckles, with room for a female companion somewhere, against a mob boss played by somebody well known.
The Muscles from Brussels Jean-Claude Van Damme had agreed to step into the shoes of the villainous boss called erm, Villain, and shows he still got the moves with his signature roundhouse kicks. His plan is to make billions through mining weapons grade plutonium from a mine mapped out by the CIA, and together with lackey Hector (Scott Adkins), snarl in cocky fashion for the most parts, with Hector doing most of the dirty work of enslaving villagers to do their dirty bio-hazardous work. I guess egos got put aside when both got signed on to play villains amongst hundreds of faceless goons who are plain fodder when the Expendables come knocking, no thanks to a personal vendetta being set up early in the movie, giving Barney just cause for tracking, hunting, then killing.
Don't expect The Expendables sequel to be any brainier than the original of course, since nothing is cerebral here, and anything that exhibits a little bit of ingenuity, or brains, get mocked at. Just look at how Dolph Lundgren's Gunner Jensen got treated throughout as a mad scientist equivalent. It's really all about the bigger the guns, muscles and explosions, with the first scene establishing just how our heroes would plough through their adversaries - with ease like hot knife through butter. There's plenty of CG blood, gore, decapitations of various appendage done in a myriad of styles, they're all dumbed down to somewhat cartoony violence - where no matter what the faceless goons throw at The Expendables, nothing sticks, with vice versa accuracy the other way round. You may balk at scenes involving high caliber weapons literally ripping through a hole in someone's body or blowing up heads to smithereens, but it's the way the heroes become executioners, all without remorse.
Directing duties are given to Simon West, and in all honesty, he ensured a better way to shoot all the action, that is a leg up from how Stallone decided to do it, which was a blurry mash of clashing bodies in extreme closeups. Here we get to see who does what, with some incredible stunts filled with movie logic loopholes, you'd fare better if you leave your inhibitions at the door, and enjoy this action film for what it is. The screenplay by Richard Wenk and Stallone doesn't leave any room for character development, except for the continued buddy bromance between Barney and his right hand man Lee Christmas (Jason Statham). And their crew also got pared down with Jet Li appearing in just the first two scenes, with the team made up most of the time by Barney, Lee, Gunner, Hale (Terry Crews) and Toll (Randy Couture), with Yu Nan replacing Li as the token female and Chinese character who balances brains, guts and brawn.
What this outing now had, is plenty of jokes. It doesn't pretend to be what it's not, and junks seriousness, ever willing to trade in laughs at every opportunity. There are enough corny one liners here, and action set ups, that parody the action careers of Stallone, Willis and Schwarzenegger combined, the trio whom most audiences are really here to watch gracing the same screen together. And let's not forget good old Chuck Norris as Booker, with a tip of the hat going in the direction of the countless of Chuck Norris jokes that get a leg up when told by the legendary man himself, with his Booker having a reputation of being much of a lone wolf, coupled with a knack of appearing when needed, and given the abilities of all his action film roles combined.
The story centers on a vendetta to be settled between The Expendables and Villain, and being a personal one too, with a handful of emotional scenes for Stallone to flex his acting chops a little. In what would be an uncanny coincidence, Stallone himself had to battle personal loss during the promotional tour of this film with the passing of his son. Despite having his crew made up of veterans of action roles past, Stallone continues to show that he has a fun-filled, violent action franchise that's picking up traction, and has enough legs to warrant more films to come, especially when more names like Snipes and Eastwood have been bandied around as potential inclusions. Action fans, this is something that you won't want to miss, especially if you've grown up in the 80s and 90s!