Going into The Expendables 2 I was worried, the first, Stallone directed, effort had entirely failed to live up to itself and so I wasn’t expecting anything at from the sequel.
From the off though it seems new director, Simon West, gets this particular brand of action movie much better than his star.
While Stallone’s films, generally, are much more serious, Rocky is more a drama with boxing and Rambo (4) is certainly no romp The Expendable was a slow and plodding attempt at making a “superteam” action movie – here though West removes any sense of seriousness or pretension by going all out from the off with one of the most fun and over the top action set pieces I have seen in a long while to open The Expendables 2.
From there, other than a couple of basic exposition scenes, the action is pretty much non-stop as our team head to Eastern Europe (the Central American rogue state for a new generation it would seem) and get on the tail of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s splendidly named Jean Vilain.
While Stallone still seems to be doing his best to play this one totally straight thankfully Statham, Lundgren, Schwarzenegger, Norris and Willis at least know what level this is on so their one-liners (and in the case of Lundgren his whole character), while a bit forced, still raise a smile and some other sections which certainly bring home the straight to DVD feel that action movies of this nature need.
That is another interesting thing about this film, you could make it with Steven Seagal replacing the whole team and it would be a straight to DVD basic affair, but here, with this level of productions and these names it is elevated to something much more the sum of its basic parts.
As we head towards the end of the film it becomes clear that the climax is going to be two-fold.
First we have the young bucks, Statham and Villain’s right hand man Hector (Scott Adkins) facing off in a stormer of a fight ending with a great gag and then we get Stallone vs Van Damme…
This could have been a disaster, the boxer going up against the kickboxer, but they use this to their advantage and it ends up being a great fight combining some great ‘realistic’ elements with some spot on prop-gags and really does bring the story to a satisfying climax.
And so, despite a pedestrian story, names and faces many of whom should be far to old to be doing this sort of thing and a fairly messy attempt to get as many big names of action cinema into one movie as possible what we end up with is a great, entertaining nearly two hours which rushes by at break neck pace.
If only all films that focus on big explosions and fights got it as spot on as this one!