Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: contains Violence
Sylvester Stallone as Barney Ross
Jason Statham as Lee Christmas
Jet Li as Yin Yang
Dolph Lundgren as Gunner Jensen
Chuck Norris as Booker
Terry Crews as Hale Caesar
Randy Couture as Toll Road
Liam Hemsworth as Billy the Kid
Scott Adkins as Hector
Yu Nan as Maggie
Jean-Claude Van Damme as Vilain
Bruce Willis as Church
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Trench
Director: Simon West
All hell breaks loose when Barney, along with his band of old-school mercenaries, sets out on a path of carnage after one of their comrades gets killed during a simple task assigned by Mr Church.
I rewatched the first Expendables and while I enjoyed it, it was worse than I remembered it being. Afterwards, I wanted to watch the sequel again because I remember it being much better. That proved to be very much the case, The Expendables 2 is a noticeable and immense improvement over the previous movie, and was fun in itself.
The plot isn’t the best, its very standard for an action movie and doesn’t really matter that much. However, the straightforward nature of the plot was for the best, and it helps that it’s at least coherent and paced well, with never a dull moment. Like its predecessor, The Expendables 2 continues to be a homage to the action movies of the past, and embraces much of its tropes. That being said, the sequel seems to serve better as that. Part of that has to do with the tone, which is way more consistent throughout. Despite many of the ridiculous moments, the first Expendables movie took itself too seriously. It would go from a goofy airplane action scene to a well written and performed but nonetheless out of place emotional monologue from Mickey Rourke. In contrast, The Expendables 2 leans more toward being an over the top blockbuster, and not taking itself too seriously. That’s not to say that there aren’t any dramatic moments, but it works with the rest of the movie much better. Much of the dialogue and humour came across as being very forced in the first movie, this again is improved in the sequel. There are some good one liners and enjoyable references. It does unfortunately has the odd situation where it can overdo it with the meta jokes. There’s particularly an exchange between Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Chuck Norris which make 3 meta jokes in the span of 20 seconds, and in those cases they could’ve dialled it done. Otherwise, it was just on the right level for me.
Much of the cast from the first movie return and are even better here, including Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham. Everyone here delivers as you’d expect, though the standout might be Dolph Lundgren. One disappointing aspect of the last movie was that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis were in just one scene (though it was one of the highlights of that movie). However, they actually play more notable parts in the movie, we even get to see them involved in the action in the third act and it was great to see. The new additions are good too; Liam Hemsworth plays a new member of the Expendables and while he feels out of place, he serves his purpose well. Nan Yu is also a good addition to the cast, playing a notable part and is alongside the Expendables for much of the film. Chuck Norris appears in a few times for a fun cameo, and it really is credit to this movie that they somehow make the tired Chuck Norris jokes actually funny here. Another aspect that was improved here was the villain. Eric Roberts was quite forgettable in the first movie, this time they got Jean-Claude Van Damme to play the villain, who’s name is literally Vilain. He feels like a worthy antagonist to the main team, and fits perfectly here.
Sylvester Stallone’s direction of the first movie was fine, but was ultimately lacking. The second movie is a noticeable improvement it with Con Air director Simon West, who does a much better job. From the opening action sequence, you can already tell the difference in the handling. The action is much better, its well shot, better edited (especially for the fight scenes), and it reduces the shaky cam. It still has the problem with the bad looking CGI blood that messily splatters everywhere, but it does look a little better than in the first movie.
I’ve been constantly stating this point throughout this whole review, but The Expendables 2 really does improve on the first movie in just about every way, and is everything that its predecessor should’ve been. The action, characters, plot, humour and more are just more finely tuned to deliver on its promise of being a throwback to the action movies of the 80s and 90s, I was consistently entertaining from beginning to end. If you are fan of those movies, The Expendables 2 is well worth checking out. You don’t even need to watch the first Expendables, just jump straight into this one.