Movie review: The Expendables 2

“The Expendables 2” is the rare sequel that improves upon the (admittedly low) bar set by the original, a more fully realized piece of ’80s throwback schlock that would make Golan-Globus proud.

Of course, we here at WWJCVD Do? are somewhat biased, but the biggest improvement from the first film is the absolutely fantastic performance from patron saint Jean-Claude Van Damme as the absurdly named villain Jean Vilain (insert rim shot). From his initial appearance to his bitter end, Van Damme energizes the proceedings with a casual menace and a cool demeanor that is often lacking from his too-eager-to-please co-stars.

I’ve got to admit, I giggled like a schoolgirl the first time JCVD appeared. I’ve been saying for years that he would make a great bad guy, and here’s hoping someone else takes note and keeps the man on the big screen.

As far as our heroes go, the old gang is up to the same tricks, with an opening scene showing them delivering mercenary justice in Nepal with a new face on the team – rookie Billy (Liam Hemsworth), whose name might as well be “Dead Meat” given the way the film goes through great pains to establish that he will be killed to cap off the first act.

Leader Barney (Stallone) gets another mission from the duplicitous Church (Bruce Willis) – retrieve a case from an airplane crash that contains key information to … something secret, and bring along operative Maggie (Nan Yu) to help with the case. (I guess Maggie’s role is to fill the Asian Expendable slot, since Jet Li parachutes out of the film in the first 15 minutes, never to be seen again.)

When one of the crew is killed (I’ll let you guess who it is) and the case (which contains a map to Russian plutonium) is stolen, the guys go on a mission of revenge across eastern Europe. Back for more mayhem are Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews and Randy Couture, and each get a nice little line or minor subplot for their trouble. 

The middle section of the film tends to drag a bit, as the Expendables help a local village that has been hit particularly hard by Vilian’s scheme, leaving them with no men. I didn’t pay my hard-earned money to sit around and watch the gang kibbitz with the locals.

Fortunately, things pick up during the finale, given the sequel rule of thumb of bigger and better. The real draw is seeing Willis and Ahnuld get more screen time, and the arrival of Chuck Norris, who appears to have spent his time off from “Walker, Texas Ranger” carefully dipping his face in wax.

The first film featured several major hand-to-hand combat battles, but the sequels eschews fists for guns, a disappointing change. Still, we get a nice brawl between Statham and fellow Brit badass Scott Adkins, and the climatic throwdown between Stallone and Van Damme, complete with JCVD’s trademark spinning kicks, is a good one. Director Simon West steps in for Stallone and adds a little more polish to the sequel, a plus given the fact that Stallone shot the first film so haphazardly, one could not tell what was happening on the screen.

All parties involved seem to realize they aren’t making “Citizen Kane” here, what with the exploding bodies and nods to the stars’ other films. It would have been nicer to see them play it a little bit more straight – I think you can make a brutal action film without the wink-wink element – but I can appreciate the levity.

“The Expendables 2” is the film I was hoping the original would be. While not without flaws, this is the starting point from which the inevitable sequels should build off – and next time, please get Steven Seagal involved.


~ by Elliott on August 19, 2012.

One Response to “Movie review: The Expendables 2”

  1. Thanks for the JVCD heavy review (go figure), Elliott! I told a coworker from DISH that I was going to see this movie and he said he wanted to go but he had yet to see the first film. So on Saturday, before we headed off to see the Expendables 2, we sat down, ate some pizza, drank some beer and streamed the first Expendables from After he got all caught up we headed out to the theater and watched the sequel. The Expendables 2 was great fun but I agree that they could have gone without so much of the fan service. We all know where these guys came from and we don’t need reminders that come with each and every one liner. The CGI needed a lot of work as well.

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