The Expendables 2 (2012)
After viewing The Expendables 2, I read back through my notes. They ran as follows: People were shot. Stuff exploded. Quips were made. Amusing. And that is pretty much all you need to know, because if you watch this movie expecting anything more, then you'll be disappointed (and possibly a fool). So, Barney Ross (Stallone) and co are back and this time they have a better (by genre standards) script which is a little more equitable with the screen time (Terry Crews and Randy Couture fans take note). Gallows humour and self-referential one-liners abound, and the plot is rife with over the top situations and features an absurdly named villain (Jean-Claude Van Damme). Mickey Rourke is replaced by Chinese star Yu Nan’s Maggie, and Liam Hemsworth. Oh, and there's lots of mayhem. The movie has the trademark high body count.
Director Simon West provides the audience with a suitable homage to eighties action movies, that is a slicker, more robust and at ease with itself that its predecessor. He does not quite reach the heights of his Magnum Opus, Con-Air, but The Expendables 2 is a worthy genre piece. Furthermore, he presents the action is a way that is discernible to the viewer and fun. We are not subjected to a lot of shaky cam, lightning edited bilge, but actually get to see the carnage in all its glory (although a lot of that is CGI bullet hits). The physical stunts are top notch and the fights extremely well-choreographed.
The plot is standard with the team sent to collect the content of a crashed military airplane. Of course, it's not as easy as that, with other parties showing an interest in its plutonium cargo. The subsequent clash between groups results in the death of one of the team, making matters personal. You don't have to be a genius to figure out what happens next. Not only are we treated to one hundred minutes of old school action, but also a who's who of eighties action heroes. Furthermore, they are all happy to send themselves up. It's all a lot better this time round because the production team know what works and what doesn't. Dolph Lundgren steals the show with his banter and casual asides. It is this shift in tone that improves this outing over the first.
Not everything succeeds as well as it could, though. The climatic shootout is not as strong a set piece as some of the proceeding sequences and somehow, I expected the arrival of Schwarzenegger, Willis, and Chuck Norris to have a little more impact. That's not to say it's not good. I was just expected something more bombastic. Two of the three have been out of the acting game for a while (at the time of filming), so I guess we should cut them some slack. It is also curious to note that although the film has a lot of violence, the use of profanity is quite restrained. It is present but tends use a lot of milder terms. A concession of some kind perhaps? It certainly does not spoil The Expendables 2. I picked up on it just because bad language is so prevalent in this genre.
The Expendables 2 manages to find the right balance between loud action, tongue in-cheek humour and respect for the genre. It is also a most welcome change to modern PG-13 rated action movies that want to be hard hitting and tough but cannot countenance depicting violence for fear of tipping over into a higher rating. It is the honesty of The Expendables 2 that is one of its strongest assets, along with the fact that it does exactly what it sets out to do. That and of course Schwarzenegger and Willis in a Smart Car, shooting the crap out of things. When you add on top of that Chuck Norris quoting his own "facts" then you are in action movie hog heaven.