Watched Aug 20, 2012
There's an expression my grandad used to use: "Tripe!" If he'd seen The Expendables 2, that is the word he would have used to describe it. Because that's what it is. Utter, pure, OTT, enjoyable tripe. It doesn't try to be anything more, and it doesn't try to be anything less. It's admirable that it is the film it wants to be, even if that film isn't particularly excellent.
If you thought the first one was a little ludricrous, then that isn't a patch on this. This is pure, non-stop carnage with a body count that must be into the thousands. The opener is a blow-out of gunfire and pyro-technics, with our ageing heroes storming into a Nepalese militia base to retrieve a Chinese billionaire. Funnily enough, Arnie happens to be there too, and just nicks off and never offers help to escape from the enemy-infested territory. Once out, Jet Li makes a quick exit, and he's missed, his fight with a few goons in the opening ten minutes being a highlight (he beats a man in the face so hard that he kind-of caves his head in). The first fifteen minutes is spectacularly dumb, heavy artillery cannons and machine guns never running out of ammo and every single bullet hitting it's target. Sly gets shot twice, and he's completely fine afterwards!
And it's this type of ridiculousness that carries on for the rest of the movie, and thankfully it doesn't wear off. A fight inside a church (a swinging urn is used as a lethal weapon), a brutal, out-numbering gunning down of a single baddie ("REST IN PIECES!") and Chuck Norris' entrance are tongue-in-cheek enough to keep the joke going, and it's only a couple of misjudged threats that spoil it (Jason Statham 'jokes on' with Sly by saying "Next time I see you, I'm gonna shoot you IN THE FACE!") The running joke about stupidity is what makes this watchable, because, otherwise, it's mega, uber, atomic crap. Pretty much every actor is wooden here, even Chuck Norris struggling to get a little bit sincere when he's told about a team member's death (although, it is said that Chuck Norris never cries, so it would make sense).
Thank goodness then for Jean Claude Van Damme. As the villain of the piece, he relishes the chance to be the baddie, moving slowly and taking his time to do anything (unless he's killing someone) and he's by far the best character.
But unfortunately, this is all about the Expendables, that good old motley crew we've seen in action before, but minus Mickey Rourke and plus an Asian safe-cracker (leading to many sexist jokes and comments which she deflects because she's 'such a bad-ass') Between the action, the dialogue follows a formula: one character says something 'clever' or macho + another character retorts and makes the first character look like a fool = everyone fake-laughs raucously. The formula becomes repetitive, but it works most of the time.
Now, for the major gripe. When sequels are meant to be darker, this doesn't mean to physically shroud the film in darkness. At least the original was more colourful and vivid; this is just GREY. It's as if Eastern Europe is in mono-chrome, and colour hasn't been invented yet. Simon West needs to sort out his colour palette if he's to return to this series, because to have another Expendables movie in cloud-cover would be interminable.
All in all though, this is a better film that the original; funnier, more action-packed and crazier. It also does what the original failed to do...create an insane tribute to the 80s and have the balls to just run with it. Bravo!
P.S. Bring Norris back for the threequel...please...wow, he was funny...