Back for War.
To say that I've been looking forward to seeing The Expendables 2 is like saying "I quite enjoy breathing". I needed to see this movie, as my wife will attest to, and it simply did not disappoint. If you are a fan of big, dumb 80's style action films, a fan of the first movie, or somebody who thought the first movie needed to go further, then all you need to know is "go see this film immediately".
The film opens in Nepal as mercenaries are bludgeoning a captive prisoner. Enter: The Expendables - Toll Road (Randy Couture), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Gunner (Dolph Lundgren), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) and Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) to save the day with tanks, missiles, and endless rounds of ammunition unleashed upon enemy forces resulting in CG-gore head-shots (which look pretty good to my eyes, and not obviously cartoon-y - just over the top!), and newcomer Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) sniping from a distance with his 50 calibre rifle. Jet Li even pulls out the martial arts with saucepans like a late 70's Hong Kong film. It's hard to put in words how awesome this opening scene is.
Rescuing their target (and somebody else who was in the wrong place at the wrong time) the team fly home for some R&R. That's when Church (Bruce Willis) shows up demanding that a debt to him be paid by Barney Ross, so the team set out to retrieve a package from a safe in a downed plane. Sounds like an easy pay check but Ross has to agree to take specialist Maggie (Nan Yu) along with him. Of course it all goes terribly wrong when somebody else is after the package - Villain (Jean-Claude Van Damme), a ruthless arms dealer - and one of the Expendables crew is killed in action by a knife to the throat held by Villain's right-hand-man, Hector (the awesome Scott Adkins). So what does a team of old mercenaries do? "Track 'em, find 'em, kill 'em!" … with a few old friends showing up along the way to give a helping hand.
This was a great, great action movie. If movies are based solely on the amount of fun you have watching them, then The Expendables 2 is up there with the best. Don't be stupid and look for deep meaning, just giggle like a schoolgirl when Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Willis empty an entire airport with automatic weapons! Laugh as Lundgren gets drunk and tries to crack on to Nan Yu's Maggie. Fist-pump the air as Terry Crews brings out the automatic shotgun from the first film and dismembers wave after wave of bad guy. Grin from ear to ear as Jason Statham dressed as a priest declares "I now pronounce you man and knife!". Cheer as Chuck Norris appears out of the smoke and forgets how to act entirely (Arnie is a bit rusty too, but who the hell cares?). Even Nan Yu (also in Dolph Lundgren's "Diamond Dogs") gets her fair share of carnage in.
"I'll be back!", "You've been back enough! It's time for me to be back!"
If you thought the first film had a lot of back-slapping referential humour, you ain't seen nothing yet! Any time Schwarzenegger, Willis and Stallone share a scene it's just a constant stream of "Rambo", "I'll be back" and "Yippie-ki-yay" lines. You'll cringe but you'll love it at the same time. They are clearly having a whale of a time doing it and you'll have a whale of a time watching it. And you may have read it elsewhere but Chuck Norris does crack a Chuck Norris Fact joke - and it's brilliantly awful.
Van Damme is excellent as the plutonium-obsessed leader Villain who forces slaves to dig mines looking for the lost Russian chemicals of destruction. His twisted portrayal of the character gives you someone to hate and also makes you wonder why JCVD doesn't do bad-guy roles more often - he previously only seemed to do them when he appears in the movie as two characters ala Replicant. Scott Adkins' Hector is just as great as his right-hand-man, and is ruthless in carrying out orders given to him by Villain. And yes, we get to see both dudes roundhouse kicking members of Ross' team - Van Damme's still got it!
Downsides? Well Yin Yang is only in the opening scene before making a discreet exit out of the plane with a parachute over China, to which a disappointed Gunner asks "Who am I going to make fun of now?" and Yin replies "Find another minority". Toll Road, Hale Caesar and Gunner are pushed more to the background than the first movie with no real shining moments given to any of them - though Gunner does try to save the day in one instance with his degree in Chemical Engineering; a degree that Dolph Lundgren actually has! The end fights involving Adkins and JCVD could have been longer but that is really splitting hairs - they were great as they were. Any other downsides revolve around similar issues people had with the first movie; that is some of the emotional plot lines were a bit forced and didn't quite work. That issue is still apparent here when Sly talks with Hemsworth or Nan Yu but not as bad as the attempts with Mickey Rourke were in the first film.
The Expendables 2 is the cure to all the Mission Impossible 17's and Bourne Whatever's of the world. No brains, all brawn, big guns and fun dialogue. Directed this time by Simon West who has helmed Con Air and Tomb Raider, he films a frenetic action film that only resorts to shaky-cam once by my count and looks a treat, outside a few overly-dark moments including the final Stallone/JCVD fight. Another classic in Nu Image's action repository. See this now!
There are many, many glorious moments in this film but I have to give it up for the few appearances we get of Chuck Norris. Every time he appears on screen he gets his own theme song. He cracks a Chuck Norris joke, badly, and it's brilliant. And he gets one of the funniest kills in the movie where the resultant headshot is viewed through the full body security scanner at the airport. Boom!
Watched at the cinema, and worth every dollar!