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The Expendables 2 (2012)

Film review: The Expendables 2 (2012), directed by Simon West

expendables2Back in the summer of last year, when we saw The Expendables (2010) on DVD, I wasn’t a fan. Guys with guns, lots of shooting, dull script, yawn. And then they released another one. At the moment, I’m sort of half-hoping they’ll release a third one as well, as long as they can get hold of Clint Eastwood, Steven Seagal, Vin Diesel, Jackie Chan and … well, feel free to drop a comment on this post to suggest who else should be in it!

The Expendables, a group of mercenaries led by Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), are perhaps not so much hired by Church (Bruce Willis), but more like told to go and not fuck up another job for him. So they do. They go to retrieve something from a crashed plane in Albania and then end up in Russia trailing the baddie (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and his cronies when the baddies inevitably end up with that thing they were meant to retrieve, and there are plenty of casualties wherever they go.

Oh, and this time, they brought along a woman, Maggie (Nan Yu), on the team.

Also starring Jason Statham as Lee Christmas, Jet Li as Yin Yang, Dolph Lundgren as the surprisingly brainy Gunnar Jensen, Terry Crews as  Hale Caesar, Randy Couture as Toll Road, Scott Adkins as Hector (eh, who?), Amanda Ooms as some woman, Charisma Carpenter as the to-be-Mrs Christmas, Liam Hemsworth as cannon fodder, with Arnold Schwarzenegger as Trench and Chuck Norris as Booker. Phew! There’s so much testosterone in that cast I feel like sprouting a beard.

Somewhere in here, I think there was some sort of story. There was less of the deplorable view of women (“you don’t hit her in the face!”, thereby implying that hitting her anywhere else is perfectly acceptable), if you disregard the comments about “who wouldn’t want to marry that?” with a shot of Charisma Carpenter’s bottom. At least they had Maggie, and she got to make herself useful. Not all the time, though, and they did mainly want her to stand around and not get shot, but on the other hand, she got to cut people up to get information out of them. So yeah. That’s how she rolls. (I wonder if she’s like to join our roleplaying party. She’d fit right in …)

This time, they played a bit more with the actors’ previous film careers, like having Schwarzenegger repeat lines from The Terminator, which at one point is really horrifically terrible in an exchange with Bruce Willis. It makes you groan. By the way, is it just me, or is Stallone a better actor than Schwarzenegger anyway? Arnie just comes off as incredibly wooden. (I know, right? It’s taken me this long to realise it?)

The best part of the film has got to be when Chuck Norris is first introduced. They play – in style! – with his online image of being the hardest man ever. “People carry guns for protection – guns carry Chuck Norris for protection”, and that sort of thing. I won’t give away the line he says, because it’s actually funny, believe it or not.

Perhaps because it’s a bit more playful, and because Van Damme without those sunglasses looks a little bit like a transvestite who’s lost his wig, the film doesn’t suck balls quite as much as the first one. It’s still an all guns blazing action no-brainer lacking eyecandy … unless you count li’l Hemsworth.

If you saw what I called Hemsworth in the cast list, no, it’s not a spoiler. Not really. From the moment he opens his mouth, you know he’s the film’s redshirt. He wants this to be his final mission, because on completion, he’ll have enough money to settle down to live happily ever after with a pretty nurse he met on duty in Afghanistan. See that humongous target that just appeared? You’re gonna die, son. It’s only a question of how far into the movie you’re going to get, and in what way you’ll be taken out, but you are not surviving to the end, mark my words.

You might want to call the film a wee bit predictable …

Also, I don’t really understand why they had to kick the doors off that Smart ForTwo either. It’s a surprisingly roomy car, even if you’re big. Granted, the Squeeze and I aren’t gun-toting beefcakes, but we’re not exactly small either, and we fit into one perfectly well, thank you. It’s not a bad little car.

Mostly, this film is about guns, shooting, explosions, maiming and killing. If you like that sort of thing, this film has a good body count. If you don’t like that sort of thing, it’s not worth it. The script isn’t interesting enough, the characters are bog-standard action heroes (who aren’t interesting), and while there are some fun bits – Chuck Norris – it’s nothing really worth it. My knitting was more entertaining.

2 out of 5 disused mines, because at least it was a slight improvement over the first one.

Traxy Thornfield

A Swedish introvert in Robin Hood Country (Nottingham, UK) where she lives with a husband and two cats. She's an eager participant in tabletop and play-by-post roleplaying, woodworking, photography and European travel. Will get a novel out one of these days, if she doesn't get too distracted on the way.

2 thoughts on “The Expendables 2 (2012)

  1. I really like to read your perspective on this movie. However,while I think that you are spot on about the objective amount of plot we seem to have very different opinions about the movie. How I would describe it:
    The Expendables 2 is what you get when you collect just about all the most famous and soon-to-be-retired action hero from 80s and make a movie in the same style as the most famous movies they made earlier. Add a bunch of the most well-known one-liners and similar tropes, and the result is exactly what you would expect. If quality is defined as giving the customer exactly what it expects, then “The Expendables 2” was probably the most high quality movie of 2012.

    Now, if you like this is very much another question. Personally I watched it because it was very much what I was looking for that day and would probably give it 5 out of 5 plotless explosions. I really like the references they did to Dolph Lundgren’s chemical engineering degree.

    Lastly: The Expendables 3 is planned to launch in 2014 and feature the “next generation” of actions stars. Also, according to http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2333784/fullcredits#cast you were right about Jackie Chan and it seems like Nicolas Cage will be there as well.

    In short: The Expendables 2 is an extremely standardised action movie with every soon-to-retire action star they could get hold of, and thus approaching parody with a bare minimum of plot. Since you give it less than 5 out 5 I am surprised that you actually gave it such a high score…

    1. Ohh, so the chemical engineering degree thing was basically meta-gaming, I getcha!

      Thanks for the heads up about film #3 (Jackie Chan, cool!). I won’t look forward to that one either, but I suppose we’ll end up watching it, just like we’ve watched the other two …

      The reason for the score is that I’m not into brainless action films. I’d like there to be some sort of plot behind the gratuitous explosions, and at the very least, I would like the actors to be good at their job – acting, that is. 😉

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