As the summer blockbuster season draws to a close, the Ocean’s 11 of action movies is back with new stars, better action, and a lot of hilarious awkwardness.
Nearly everyone is back for this second installment of the greatest gathering of muscular grandpas of all time (I know they’re not all grandpas but some of them have to be). Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Terry Crews and Randy Couture all return as the titular mercenaries. They also have a new member, Bill the Kid (Liam Hemsworth), who functions largely as a plot device. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis also return for more screen time and a chance to join the ass-kicking.
The legend known as Jean-Claude Van Damme comes on as the villain who is aptly named Vilain. No that is not a typo, that’s really how it’s spelled. He is also a really bad guy. I’m not kidding guys; he’s so bad that he is a Satan worshipper. We are told this when he shows off his Satan goat tattoo, which his henchmen also sport.
Chuck Norris also shows up briefly as a “lone wolf” to save the day. His appearances throughout the film are unintentionally funny, mostly because of Chuck Norris’s severe lack of any acting skills. They also play the theme from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly whenever he shows up which makes no sense since he’s never had anything to do with any Sergio Leone movies.
As the movie begins, finds our heroes still in debt to Willis’s CIA operative Mr. Church, who needs them to recover something from a downed plane in Eastern Europe. He also forces one of his agents, Maggie (Nan Yu) to accompany them on the mission. They find what they’re looking for but are ambushed by Vilain and his henchmen. Things go bad and one of their number is killed. They also find out that the item they recovered has information on the location of five tons of weapons grade plutonium which Vilain plans to dig up and sell on the black market. Don’t these bad guys know that nuclear war means they won’t ever be able to enjoy that beach front property they will probably buy?
After burying their fallen comrade, The Expendables go after Vilain to stop him from selling the plutonium and to get revenge. Much badassery ensues as well as some super goofy humor.
The humor I speak of involves any scene showing the Expendables interacting and palling around. Though it feels forced and weird most of the time it’s very entertaining to watch and it’s one of the joys of the film. These guys are all legends and even if they’re not the best actors, they’re still some of my favorite people to watch in a movie.
As I just said, this film is not about the story or the acting, it’s about kicking a lot of ass and doing it with style, and director Simon West is up to the task. He’s been hit and miss in his directing efforts (Con Air, Tomb Raider, and The Mechanic) but he’s a serviceable action director and it does show here.
The action scenes are well wrought, using less quick cutting and shaky cam than in the original. Everything is shot so that it’s clear what’s happening and to whom it’s happening to. There’s a nice Jet Li fight scene, almost like a shout out to all of his kung fu movies, before he inexplicably disappears for the rest of the film (and doesn’t come back). The gunplay throughout is nice as well. There’s nothing quite like seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger blast fools away with a huge gun while driving through an airport in a Smart Car driven by Bruce Willis. It’s also a lot of fun to see them talking smack to each other.
The vehicle elements are spectacular too. The Expendables’ seaplane has been upgraded with a particularly badass peripheral. Overall the film shines whenever people are being shot or things are blowing up.
When you go to buy your ticket to see The Expendables 2, you’ll know what you’re going to get. There aren’t really any surprises and the movie doesn’t do anything new but it definitely delivers on the promise of seeing all of your favorite action heroes duke it out on screen in a badass manner. 3.5 out of 5 stars.