September 12, 2012
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Starring Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis & Jean-Claude Van Damme • Directed by Simon West • R, 103 min.
Do you think movies are too mushy? Does romantic comedy make your eyes roll? Have you ever wondered if a motorcycle could be revved off a rooftop to blow up a helicopter, how effective a kitchen skillet would be in hand-to-hand combat, or what testosterone looks like when it’s expanded to critical movie mass?
If those questions have ever run through your head, well, friend, here’s your flick, a galloping, gung-ho guyfest about a group of muscle-bound mercenaries on a mission of international importance requiring nerves of steel, fists of iron, biceps the size of bowling balls and seemingly bottomless buckets of bullets.
Rather than simply continuing the explosively successful trajectory of its 2010 successor, “The Expendables 2” further pumps the pulpy parade of vintage ’80s and ’90s action all-stars. In addition to Sylvester Stallone, returning to center stage from the first movie, there are also appearances by Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme, kung-fu master Jet Li and even “The Terminator” himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger---who gets to say his iconic “I’ll be back” line not just once, but twice.
Rounding out the beefcake are British actor Jason Statham (also back from the first “Expendables”) and former Ultimate Fighting Championship bruiser Randy Couture. Liam Hemsworth (the younger brother of Chris, who played Thor in “The Avengers”) and Chinese actress Yu Nan are newly aboard as the group’s latest recruits.
Sent on what should be an easy-in, easy-out mission to retrieve some highly sensitive data from an airplane crash before it falls into the wrong hands, the Expendables are met with a deadly ambush, which adds a new item to their to-do list: revenge.
They’ll get to that, of course, right after saving the world.
It’s all a bunch of hyper-violent, over-the-top cheese, just like the hyper-violent, over-the-top slabs of rock-‘em, sock-‘em, blast-‘em baloney Stallone, Norris, Van Damme et al used to churn out back in the glory days of “Rambo,” “Lone Wolf McQuade” and “Delta Force.”
Those movies might not have been masterpieces, but that did quite well at the box office, thank you very much. And “The Expendables 2” has proven to be no slouch at the multiplex, either, which suggests that a lot of folks have a soft spot for seeing aging action stars back in action, or enjoy watching things blow up, or like it when really bad guys get sliced, diced, pummeled, pulverized or otherwise dispatched by really good guys.
It’s worth nothing that the credits list close to 100 stuntmen; this is a VERY active action movie. Bodies fly through the air like circus acrobats, plummet from buildings, fall, sprawl and splatter. It’s a ballet of highly coordinated, operatically orchestrated, shoot-’em-up mayhem.
Part of the movie’s high-caliber charm is that despite its ridiculously high kill count, there’s a vein of humor running throughout the script (Stallone was one of the writers). There are almost as many quips zipping around as bullets.
And everybody seems to know they’re making a movie that harkens back to the movies they used make years ago. All the big-name main actors play characters that are, like the actors playing them, well aware they’re not as young as they used to be.
At one point toward the end, Stallone’s team leader eyes a battered airplane from another era, one that’s obviously seen better days and is clearly in need of repair. “That thing belongs in a museum,” he says. Schwarzenegger gets to deliver the punch line. “We all do,” he says.
Maybe someday. But for now, “Expendables 2” is a demonstration of the action-movie mojo that this group of slightly rusty cinema commandos can still muster when duty calls.