Make no mistake; The Expendables 2 is a terrible film. With careless plotting, a lazy reliance on cliché and one of the worst sound mixes of any mainstream release in history it’s a slap in the face to the Cahiers du Cinema set.
But if you’re willing to overlook all that, it’s kind of OK. (Small spoiler ahead.)
The Expendables 2 really is a bunch of old guys you like trotting out their catchphrases while they run through the plot of a particularly violent videogame. Students of my oeuvre might remember me saying this of Expendables 1
‘Every scene culminates in some sort of fight. Every single shot, in fact, has a fight in it. Sometimes the fights are interrupted so that another fight can take place in the middle. Then it’s back to the fighting.’
According to some preliminary figures I just received from Bleeding Cool Labs The Expendables 2 has just over 117% more fighting than that.
In the first 30 seconds, there’s enough gun porn in The Expendables 2 to last the average Call Of Duty fanatic a lifetime. It starts with a genuinely puny villain motorcade before The Expendables show up and show everyone how it’s done with some badass vehicle stencilling and some really nice MacGyvered battering rams.
And it carries on like that for quite some time.
Jet Li, after being somewhat underused in the first Expendables movie, gets a chance to really show what he can do in the first ten minutes of this one. But don’t get used to him. He doesn’t stick around.
What you do get instead of Jet is badass aeroplanes, badass motorbikes and even badass pens. The core mission that these guys are sent on makes no military sense whatsoever, but narrative logic is not exactly the point of The Expendables 2. They’re here to be badass. And boy, do they do that.
As an aside, the only thing less logical than the Expendables’ mission plan is the villains’ one. There’s a small amount of extreme weapons retail but it’s mostly freewheeling villainy that only serves to earn them an unmanageable number of enemies.
The dialogue scenes are at best dispensable. Most of them resemble a mumbling competition between Mount Rushmore and Easter Island. But if you want to see fist-sized holes blown through a seemingly inexhaustible supply of faceless goons, get yourself to an Expendables 2 screening, stat.
No action movie trope remains unused. If a character says they’re going to retire from the mercenary business to raise bunny rabbits or stick insects or whatever, you know how they’re ending up. If there’s a fight near a rotating helicopter blade, there’s only one possible outcome.
Every scene involving Chuck Norris involves a Chuck Norris joke. Every second of Sylvester Stallone’s generous allocation of screen time is a skit about age, or violence, or both. Only Bruce Willis seems to be entirely in on the joke that these 1980s action heroes have had their day.
On the upside, the promised action scenes between the headline stars actually happen this time. There really is an extended shootout involving Sly, Bruce, Arnie, Van Damme and a strangely inconsistent quantity of squib-loaded extras. And Jason Statham gets to do all that gruff, high-kicking nonsense that us Jason Statham fans love him for.
Oh, and the seaplane that we all liked so much last time is upgraded to the tune of a man-sized trapdoor, and an artillery piece that laughs in the face of Newtonian physics.
Anyone who shells out for a ticket expecting Citizen Kane is some kind of fool but if you’re in the market for about an hour and a half of untrammelled macho bullshit and a bunch of stuff blowing up, The Expendables 2 is for you.