Movie Review: The Expendables 2
By Jayson Burns
Whenever my friends and I talk about The Expendables (2010), most of our dialogue eventually resorts to miming a gun and making shooting sounds because, really, that’s what it was all about. Don’t get me wrong, there was some substance to it, but Sylvester Stallone and company made a film that was all about getting the guys (or gals) together to enjoy some fun action. All they needed to do for this year’s sequel was give their audience that same experience, and that’s exactly what they did, a few hiccups aside.
The Expendables 2 follows the mercenary group of the same name (minus the “2”) who are hired by CIA agent Mr. Church (Bruce Willis). A plane carrying the blueprints to a Cold War-era nuclear weapons depot has been shot down in Albania, and Mr. Church wants the team to go in with technical expert Maggie (Yu Nan) to retrieve it and square the debt they made with him in the previous film. The mission goes south when a criminal arms dealer named Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) gets his hands on it, and the mercenaries must track him down and stop him from selling the nukes on the black market, as well as get some payback.
This plot isn’t anything new to action movies, but it does the job in setting up the action scenes. I was also pleased to find that the mission was much more personal for the team, and the added interactions between the members helped with the impression that these men would mock each other, but also die for each other. However, there were some bumps in the story’s pacing, as a few of the characters seem to come and go as they please. At times, especially near the end, this made the mission seem far too easy for the protagonists.
As almost any action film would show, the acting in The Expendables 2 is cheesy, but forgivable. Stallone and Liam Hemsworth as newcomer Billy have some decent, genuine lines, but it’s pretty clear that the others are just there to make one-liners. Still, they all handled it well enough (Arnold Schwarzenegger can say anything and people would love it) and it’s nice to see all these action stars having fun with each other. Van Damme actually makes an interesting villain, even if his character’s motivation was flat, and is an improvement over Eric Roberts as the unintimidating “suit” in The Expendables. And Chuck Norris is just Chuck Norris, nothing more need be said.
Despite some concerns that the sequel would be toned down for a wider audience, the violence and gore rivals that of the original. Unfortunately, I had a difficult time accepting most of the computer generated effects as “real,” as if the images weren’t animated quite right with the physical set. Also, there really wasn’t any tension in the firefights, because the bad guys had worse aim than the Stormtroopers from Star Wars. The close-quarters combat, on the other hand, was very well put together and did not suffer from much shaky-cam.
The Expendables 2 may not be the most groundbreaking of action films, but Jet Li mercilessly beats a group of armed men with a pair of frying pans. If that sounds at all appealing, then this movie would make for a great time with some buddies on a Friday night.