The Expendables series of films have always been known and meant to be a throwback to cheesy 80’s action flicks. They are especially known for their all-star cast composed of the action stars of the past and present. With very little regard for plot, you’re in for a wild ride as bullets, blood, and asskickery ensue in these movies.
At least, that’s the theory. In my review of the first Expendables movie, I criticized the liberal use of shaky cam in the film's action scenes, as well as wasted potential of such an awesome cast. It was a big disappointment for me, basically. However, I believe Expendables 2 was definitely a step in the right direction.
Once again, the movie features most of the huge cast of famous action stars from the previous movie, along with a few additions. For the most part, it was able to deliver on its promise of giving everyone their fair shakes at screen time and badass moments, which I was very thankful for. However, Expendables 2 also made some very strange and dumb decisions with some of the cast. For example, Jet Li is billed as one of the main stars of the movie, which makes sense considering he was part of the main trio in the first movie. He leaves after the first ten minutes and is never mentioned again. That is probably the most egregious example, though. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis definitely have expanded roles from the previous movie, but they only really do anything in the last fifteen minutes or so. Chuck Norris was basically a glorified cameo, with an amusing jab at his legendary Internet badassness.
I might as well end the review here, as that’s all you’re going to care about when going in to see this movie: “Does the cast get to be badass?” And the answer is yes, yes they do; more so than the first movie even. While the first Expendables featured a few self-referential jokes about the careers of some of the actors, the sequel really went balls-out with the meta-humor, this time around. The jokes came fast and hard, giving subtlety the middle finger while they were at it. And that is kind of glorious in the way of how obvious they were. They were cheesy, goofy, and stupid, but that’s exactly what the audience wants as they watch this movie. I do believe some people might get annoyed at how blatant the references and gags are, but this really isn’t a movie you need to think too hard for.
The action scenes were much better in this than the previous movie. While there are just as many cuts during them as the first movie, at least this time the camera managed to stay marginally still so you wouldn't develop a massive headache from watching the awesome unfold onscreen. And also like the first, the action was hard and brutal. Blood showers and exploding heads are everywhere. They did not shy away from showing a deadly decapitation in a fight if they can. You’re definitely going to get your fix, action-junkies.
A small thing that I really liked was that the producers actually got an old-school action hero like Van Damme as the main villain. Eric Roberts in the previous movie just didn’t do the job. You want to see a death match between two badass action stars, and it was fantastic that they were able to do this time around.
If there was any criticism I would have for this, it’d be that the film felt way too short. I was shocked how quickly 103 minutes passed. I’m not sure if it would have benefited from a longer runtime, though. In spite of the awesome opening and ending, the middle felt very meh and a tad boring; could have used some more big-names from Van Damme’s group for the Expendables to fight to boost it.
For this hot-blooded tribute to action movies, I give a:
3.5 out of 5
– Better use of its ensemble cast
– Better shot and executed action scenes
– Ridiculous and amusing meta jokes
– Arnold Schwarzenegger in general, hahaha
– Lousy explanations for having characters/actors show up only briefly
– A breezy watch that flies on by
– Lacking in a meaty second act.
Recommendation: Check It Out!
I wouldn’t say it was a “Must See!”, but The Expendables 2 was a very enjoyable action movie. I would have given this a “For Fans Only!” recommendation due to the references it makes, but I think even general audiences would be familiar with the careers big-name stars such as Schwarzenegger. Why not end your summer with a fun and bloody ride?
The Expendables 2 was produced by Nu Image and Millennium Films, and distributed by Lionsgate.