The original Expendables was a cinematic treat for those who grew up watching ’80s action icons blow away bad guys in their own franchises, and dreamt of seeing them all together in the same movie. The film was both a fan favourite and a commercial success, so it’s no surprise that a sequel was green lit shortly after its release. Of course, you can’t just keep things the same the second time around, and one of the only ways to keep things fresh in this potential franchise, is by continuously adding more action icons that may have missed the boat previously – and that’s exactly what they did with The Expendables 2.
When viewed as a sequel made for fans, The Expendables 2 delivers on pretty much every front action junkies could hope for. The explosions are big; the blood flies by the gallon; and the one-liners are abundant and awesome. There are also plenty of fresh faces that were sorely missed the first time around, and help drive the story along nicely.
Speaking of the story, it’s arguably the weakest part of the film, which may not be too surprising to some, but Sylvester Stallone has had a solid track record as of late, and even the first had a pretty solid story to go along with the constant barrage of violence. Still, while weak, it’s actually not that bad. It’s the type of story we’d expect from another sequel to Rambo, as it’s got a straightforward objective, and is almost cliché (read: easy to predict) from the very start. Now of course I don’t expect shocks, twists and turns from a film like this, but it’s incredibly clear about 10 minutes in as to what will be the catalyst that sets the team off on their quest for vengeance.
I won’t spoil it, but odds are you’ll figure it out – unless of course this is the first action movie you’ve ever seen. But even then, it’s just so cliché that even if this was the first action movie you’ve seen you’d likely guess it right off the bat as well. The thing is, it’s not a bad cliché, and it works really well with the context of what these guys do, and the burden they carry because of it. It also makes Jean-Claude Van Damme a complete badass.
Yes, one of the most obvious missing stars from the first film has finds himself in a key role this time around; however, he’s unfortunately quite underutilized. Van Damme plays Vilain (Gotta love it!), the leader of an evil group called The Sangs, who makes things personal very quickly between himself and Barney Ross (Stallone), all in the name of making money.
Now I’ve always been a fan of Van Damme, and I always thought he’d make a great villain in an action flick, so I was thrilled to learn he was playing the main bad guy in this movie; however, I just wished they used him more. He’s got an amazing introduction, which is actually one of the coolest scenes in the movie. He delivers his lines well, and looks awesome in his sunglasses and coat. He’s just a cool bad guy that you love to hate, and while you want to see him get his, you also want to see him do more badass stuff before then.
That’s not so much the case, however, as The Expendables 2 – just like the original – needs to try and make time for each of the characters to do something special at least once, which is a good thing. So Van Damme has his awesome intro, and he has a great fight in the latter half of the film; however, there isn’t much of a “presence” from him throughout that leaves the mark of an iconic/memorable bad guy.
Aside from that minor complaint, as stated above, the film really delivers in true action sequel fashion. The first film laid the groundwork for who the characters are, and why they do what they do, and this time around they more or less just do it, while leaving their personal lives at home. It works, and things stay intense throughout; though I wouldn’t mind getting back into the heads of some of them the next time around, as the relationship between Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) and Ross is a truly great one – so much so that they could make a buddy movie with just them and it’d be just as good.
As mentioned above, there’s some truly iconic one-liners said multiple times throughout, by various actors who weren’t always the originators. The first movie had that great scene between Ross, Church (Bruce Willis) and Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), which was pretty much one of the greatest scenes in an action movie ever – which ironically had no action actually happening during it. This time around, both men have more action-packed parts in the film, and the exchanges between them and other characters are truly hilarious. It’s a big high-five to fans of their films, and it comes off beautifully. Chuck Norris has a somewhat minor role in the film; though if screen time was actually timed, he may be on par with most of the rest, it just seems smaller because he wasn’t around the first time. Small as it may be, his scene is just awesome, and completely plays off the Internet legend that he has become.
The Expendables 2 is pretty much what fans of the first film were hoping it would be. Adding new stars to an already packed cast is a double-edged sword, as it’s pretty much required in order to keep things fresh, however it does water things down and keep the story from being overly strong. Still, Stallone and fellow writer Richard Wenk did a solid job finding a decent balance while still keeping everything entertaining, and director Simon West (Con Air, Tomb Raider) really keeps the action looking fresh and fun throughout.
With a third Expendables on deck, and Nic Cage already confirmed (now there’s a guy you just know will play a kickass villain), it looks like there’s plenty of more life left in this franchise for the foreseeable future. So if you missed it theatrically, or are just looking to catch it again, go grab this testosterone filled Blu-ray, sit back and enjoy the ride. Yippee ki-yay.
The film looks great for the most part; however, there are a few grainy scenes that do pull you out of the experience from time to time. While this is sometimes done on purpose, the rest of the film is so crisp and sharp looking, that these few scenes are quite noticeable; albeit not a deal-breaker in terms of purchasing or not. The sound is great, with guns, explosions and knives blasting through perfectly alongside clear dialogue and a great music mix.
Audio Commentary with Director Simon West – West is someone who knows his action, and it shows in how he put the film together. He gives a lot of insight, and those looking for a bit of a deeper look into both the making of the film, and the behind-the-camera side of it will want to check this out.
Gods of War: Assembling Earth’s Mightiest Antiheroes – This feature is 21 minutes in length and is an in-depth look at the cast and crew talking about working on the film, Sly stepping down as director this time around since the workload on the first film almost killed him, and about the fun they all had together once again.
Big Guns, Bigger Heroes: The 1980s and the Rise of the Action Film – This is a 25 minute feature that focuses on the culture climate back in the ’80s, and how North America was primed and ready for the action star to emerge. It delves into which movies broke certain stars out, and why some had such a major impact on people.
On the Assault: The real-life Weaponry of The Expendables – This is a feature that runs at 13.5 minutes in length and sees Randy Couture go to a gun shop in Vegas where he tests out some of the weapons used in the film.
Guns for Hire: The Real Expendables – This feature follows the Trojan Securities International team, who are the real life versions of the Expendables. It runs at 24 minutes in length, and is an in-depth look at the heavy training these guys go through in order to do their job.
Deleted Scenes – The scenes run less than five minutes, but there are two that I think should’ve made the cut. Both take place in the final battle, with one being Nan Yu (Maggie) taking out a group of guys with some sweet moves, and the other being Couture and Terry Crews having a brief moment to shine taking out some bad guys. I’m sure they’ll be added into the director’s cut; though I don’t think they would’ve hurt this version any had they been put in.
Gag Reel – There’s a five minute gag reel that has some funny stuff happen throughout, and shows that these guys are really having fun together, which is great to see.
Lionsgate and Millennium Films Presents The Expendables 2. Directed by: Simon West. Written by: Sylvester Stallone and Richard Wenk. Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, Scott Adkins, Amanda Ooms, Charisma Carpenter. Running time: 100 minutes. Rating: R. Released: November 20, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, Liam Hemsworth, Randy Couture, Scott Adkins, Sylvester Stallone, Terry Crews, The Expendables 2