The Expendables 2

Director: Simon West

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lungdren, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jean Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris.

Written by: Slyvester Stallone, (also story) Richard Wenk, (story) Ken Kaufman, David Agosto and (based on the characters created) David Callaham.

Running Time: 102 mins

Cert: 15

Release date: 16th August 2012

As a rule of thumb, it is always good to go into a movie with low expectations. That way you are never disappointed. Sometimes that is hard especially when you are really looking forward to seeing it. I have had high expectations this year about certain films and have been bitterly disappointed (Prometheus, anyone?). So to say I went into The Expendables 2 with the lowest expectations you could have of a movie meant that it couldn’t get any lower even if it tried. However, I came out thinking to myself, I may have sat through this year’s biggest guilty pleasure.

Barney Ross and his gang of mercenaries have been hired for what should have been an easy job, going into Albania where a plane has crashed and retrieving the contents of a safe. The team soon find that it’s not so easy when they come across the evil Jean Vilain, who takes the item, a map showing here hidden Russian plutonium can be found. Reeked with vengeance, Ross and his gang decide to head into territory that is completely hostile and with the odds stacked against them to seek their revenge.

Okay, so here we are, two years since the first Expendables film, which, for me had quite high expectations. Sylvester Stallone has assembled a who’s who of 80s action movies with a nod to the 90s from Jason Statham and Jet Li. The film was a massive disappointment as it took itself way too seriously and was just an opportunity to be incredibly violent. Stallone, this time, has taken a step back, let Simon West, the man responsible for the enormously fun Con Air, take control and so we have a much more controlled movie that really doesn’t take itself seriously at all. Plus thrown in some absolute gems to excite fans of nonsense action movies.

Stallone and Statham are still bantering and the bromance between them is getting stronger although this is no longer a focal point. Dolph Lungdren, who last time wasn’t given enough, this time has a larger chunk of the pie, making his character more comical. Jet Li disappears after 10 minutes, never to return and his presence is missed (not sure why he escaped this time). However, Arnold Schwarzenegger, no longer on governor duties, and Bruce Willis are given much more to do after their far too brief appearance in the first film. Arnie is even given a gun, which is always good news for fans and, more importantly, banter. The final scene has Stallone and his fellow Planet Hollywood pals shooting all hell out of everything and for some reason, everything is right in the universe.

Jean-Claude Van Damme gets to chew the scenery as the baddie, the hilariously named Jean Vilain (in case we didn’t know he was bad!). Sporting dark glasses through most of the movie, including wearing them in a cave!, Van Damme still has it and gets to throw some moves around.

The biggest coup for me was the inclusion of Chuck Norris. Never the biggest action star around, Norris has become something of a cult figure in the States and here he proves why. Not arriving till half way through the film, it takes on a whole new level when he appears and for some reason his brief moments just made me smile. No idea why. I guess it’s because while everyone is being mucho with deep gravelly voices, here comes Mr Normal. Fingers crossed he will return in the already planned Expendables 3.

The action is incredibly violent, as you would expect. The first ten minutes, a pre-credit rescue mission, is exhausting as we are thrown deep into the action. It does linger a bit too long on a so-called romance between Stallone and new member, tough female Maggie, played by Nan Yu, but then more bullets, more bodies exploding and more cheesy one-liners, usually mixing up famous catchphrases from the famous cast (Arnie telling everyone “I’m back!).

Yes, the plot reads more like a rejected James Bond script (who steals plutonium anymore) and some of the dialogue is woeful to say the least but this is a film that realises its utter nonsense and just wants to entertain. In a year where the Summer blockbusters haven’t really been up to scratch, this is a trip back to when we had real film stars shooting the bejeezus out of anything and everything. What I would say is a true popcorn movie. Completely disposable yet oodles of fun.

I didn’t expect to like this at all. It is terrible in every degree but once in a while, bad is definitely good and this is good…in a very bad way. Guilty pleasure of the year? Could be the guilty pleasure of all time…unless they can better it with part 3.

4/5

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