After the success of The Expendables in 2010, there was no doubt that there was going to be a follow up to this testosterone-filled action fest topbilled by Sylvester Stallone, supported by hard core action heroes from the last three decades. Only this time, Rocky brings in more of his friends to deliver a power punch of a cast on an all new adventure shot in various locations in Asia, US and Europe.
The Expendables 2 opens with a daring rescue of a Chinese billionaire in Vietnam, staged in style by Barney Ross (Stallone) and his crew Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Gunnar (Dolph Lundgren), Toll Road (Randy Couture), Hale Ceasar (Terry Crews) with a new addition, sniper Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth). After the successful mission, Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) enlists Barney’s services by calling him on a favor he owes many years past. The mission seemed simple –recover something from an airplane that crashed in Albania. According to Church, the item contains sensitive information “that should not fall in the wrong hands” and in order to complete the mission, the team is expanded to include Maggie (Nan Yu), a female martial arts expert whom Barney initially does not want to bring along. When something tragic happens during the mission, the routine run suddenly becomes personal. Now, the rules have changed and Barney and the gang are out for blood to get vengeance on Vilain (Jean Claude Van Damme) and his right hand man Hector (Scott Adkins, Undisputed), the men who are responsible for it.
When I learned that there was going to be a sequel to The Expendables, I was beside myself. Since the announcement, I have been excited beyond means because I simply loved the first movie. The inclusion of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis in expanded roles, and “the” Chuck Norris to the roster, I believed not only added to the awesomeness of the flick but also to the pressure on the filmmakers to maintain the balance that Sly achieved in the first movie (Stallone directed and wrote the screenplay for the first movie). Tomb Raider director Simon West had really big shoes to fill when he accepted to helm the sequel and he filled it admirably.
I must say that The Expendables 2 served up the action in heaping measures. It is every action fan’s dream to see his idols share screen time with each other and to this end, it is already a dream come true. When they kick ass side by side, that is beyond awesome. But what makes The Expendables 2 more than just a regular blockbuster action movie is that there is a genuine air of fun throughout the film. People don’t usually cheer when they watch action, but I was hooting like a lunatic and stomping my feet, pumping my fist in the air like a Jersey Shore guidette when the action broke out. And I wasn’t alone. People in the cinema seemed like they were watching a sporting event rather than a movie. Yes, the action was that cool.
The banter among the superstars also felt so natural, reaching out to the fans, seeming to include them in all the jokes and making them part of the club. The stars make fun of their celebrity and even the characters that made them famous Lone Wolf McQuade, The Terminator, Rambo. Its amazing that they were not afraid to poke fun at themselves — their ages in particular, an admirable trait and a great display of humility. Everybody became a butt of the jokes at one point in time and it was all in good fun. There was a complete balance between ass kicking and humor.
When it came to the action moments, Simon West took a page out of Stallone’s book in John Rambo and employed heavy weapons and artillery and a lot of blood to depict grittier action sequences. Hemsworth’s character was pretty reminiscent of Schoolboy in Rambo, being the young talented and charismatic kid straight out of the military. I must admit that I had some reservations about the casting before because Hemsworth seemed too green to be sharing the screen with the old guards, but to my surprise, he did pull his own weight and made his role unforgettable, one of the characters that would leave a mark on moviegoers. This was actually a good way to start his legacy in the action scene and made me see him more than just a pretty boy. I think Liam was chosen because he had expressive eyes and an innocent face, and it worked well as a contrast to the rest of the guys’ world weary appearances. Chuck Norris was awesome in the few minutes that he popped into the screen. Half the time, he and Sly were just exchanging Chuck Norris jokes but no matter what he does, or does not do, Chuck’s presence alone (at 72 years old and still doing action) is enough to make for an excellent scene.
But the best moment for me in the entire thing was when Arnie, Sly and Bruce Willis were caught in one frame. I was geeking out just with seeing The Terminator, John McClaine and John Rambo together, planning revenge. I’m having trouble choosing a second favorite sequence because the rest of the highlights were pretty spot on. Kudos to Van Damme for his villain portrayal. He really looked the part and those roundhouse kicks? Not bad for a 51 year old. He should be cast as a bad guy more often. He totally sold the part. This may be his true calling.
All in all, the Expendables 2 was just as awesome as the first one. I would not go on to say that it was better because the original movie was pretty strong. As an ensemble, the cast gelled well together to come out with an amazing performance but individually, they were given chances to stand out to make their mark too. I must commend Stallone not only for the brilliance of his idea to bring all of these action greats together but in his generosity in giving each one their particular highlights. (I liked that he seemed to be anointing Statham as the next great action hero by putting their characters on equal footing). My only complaint was that Jet Li’s exposure was limited but Bruce Willis toting a gun a la McLaine was enough to compensate.
Definitely, a must watch for any action afficionado and easily in my Top 10 best action movies of all time. (The first one is in my Top 10 too). Super super great. I can’t stop gushing so I’m ending this review now, before I geek out any farther.