As some of you may know, I’m not the world’s biggest action junkie, I like the genre and a lot of my favourite films are action but it wasn’t until this year (2012) that I got into the classics. One of the action films I checked out was The Expendables, a supposed all-out action fantasy with some of the biggest names of the genre getting together to kick ass. I enjoyed the first one but found it lacking in several areas. The sequel, still has a few problems but it’s a lot of fun and definitely better than it’s predecessor.
The plot is a typical action film, some bad guy has something dangerous and the heroes have to stop him. That’s the basic plot, ‘Stop the bad guys’, however I liked the plot more than the first film, it felt like more was at stake here rather than just some nut-ball is ruling a country badly. Here it was more or less a world-wide thing with the Plutonium – Van Damme says that 6 lbs of Plutonium can change the power balance of the world and he is collecting 5 tons of the stuff, whether that’s true or not it’s pretty bad. Add to that the whole revenge aspect and you have yourself several good reason to kick some arse.
I won’t pretend that anyone here is Oscar calibre, they all perform to their specification. Do we like the heroes? Do we hate the villains? Are they all bad-ass? It’s a checklist but everyone ticks the boxes. Stallone is leader Barney Ross, a much more sombre Barney than the last film, he’s lost people before but this one hurts him pretty badly. Statham’s Lee Christmas is still second in command and his relationship with Barney gets some good and bad moments, they work well together even if they could kill each other at times. Terry Crews and his massive weapon (not a euphemism) return to make more loud noises and Dolph Lundgren provided some surprise laughs as Gunner, the fact that he has a chemistry masters degree was funny and he had some great one liners, everyone did but Dolph had some of the best.
Randy Couture got shafted again unfortunately and Jet Li wasn’t giving much to do save for a neat Martial Arts fight with a frying pan. Yu Nan (Maggie) was pretty good, she kicked ass as much as the boys but it did feel like she popped in and out of the film. Liam Hemsworth did an actually good job with new kid on the block Billy, he had a good respecting relationship between him and Barney and constantly calling him Sir really made him feel like he was in the army, although his story about the dog could’ve been better.
Van Damme was great as the villain, you could tell he was having fun and that just made him all the more nasty given what he does in the film, he had respect for Barney which may sound cliché but it was still cool to see. Scott Adkins, had some great facial hair, I can’t really say much on him.
The three big cameos, Willis, Arnie and Norris, they were ok. Willis and Arnie did work well with Stallone but a lot of their one-liners felt forced, especially when references past films – although Arnie’s line about Rambo was pretty funny. Norris I wanted to see more of, he was the living Internet legend he was made out to be and his entrance was brilliant, the slo-mo, the western score, the sunglasses. Again the reference to his Internet jokes did feel forced but I liked the fact they added it.
In the film’s favour the brotherhood between the Expendables did feel a lot stronger, rather than just being The Sly & Stath show this one actually involved the whole group a lot more and felt more like the ensemble piece it was meant to be.
Simon West proves he’s just as good a director for this as Stallone, perhaps better because I liked this one more than the first. He keeps the action going throughout the film, only stopping every so often so we can breath but never letting it go down. From the armoured car opening which sets the tone of the film to the Village assault and the Cave attack and then the entire airport battle which is easily the highlight of the film for me, an all out war between two groups with massive guns, a small car and some awfully good (and others just awful) one-liners. This film was action packed and delivered what we were expecting, it could’ve delivered more but I’m not complaining about what we got.
There was also some good humour in the film, it was a lot funnier than I was expecting and while some of it felt forced the banter between the group all felt very natural and brotherly, like they have all been friends for a long time. Some odd but good song choices in this film as well, who thought to hear ‘It’s A Beautiful Morning’ in an action film. The songs all film quite oddly, into their scenes but it works within the comedic element this film has.
Overall, a better film than the first one with some great action sequences, odd song choices and a great relationship between the Expendables. Yes the characters could be deeper and yes the story is weak but who cares.