‘The Expendables 2′ Review

Published 3 years ago by , Updated November 26th, 2014 at 6:49 pm,

Sly Stallone Nun Ya Dolph Lundgren Terry Crews and Randy Couture in The Expendables 2 The Expendables 2 Review

Those hoping for a deeper, smarter, or more polished piece of action cinema: Sorry, but this franchise has pretty much established it isn’t about that. Best to look elsewhere.

The Expendables has always been an attractive prospect for action movie fans: big-name action stars of eras past (and a few of today) unite on the big screen for a movie made in the vein of ’80s and ’90s machismo flicks. With names like Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham and Jet Li headlining the marquee, the first Expendables should’ve easily lived up to its easy promise of violent fun, complete with winking allusions and resurrected one-liners.

Unfortunately, some shoddy direction (from franchise creator Sly Stallone) held The Expendables back from fulfilling its potential – which is why director Simon West (Con Air) is under even greater pressure to make The Expendables 2 live up to an even higher bar, set by the promise of even more action movie icons; bigger, bloodier tongue-in-cheek violence; more winks to the past canon of action flicks, and even smarter twists on cherished catch phrases.

Expendables 2 Review starring Sylvester Stallone Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger The Expendables 2 Review

West proves to be a much more competent and (literally) steadier hand at the helm, and as a result, Expendables 2 is visually and technically coherent enough to set the movie on the exact ground it needs to be: where its cast can dive in with both feet and enjoy playing up their images as onscreen icons of badass. Does that mean the film is a superiorly crafted piece of genre entertainment? No. It’s still an overflowing river of macho-cheese with half a plot, bad acting and some truly shoddy camera work at times – but if vintage macho-cheese is what you’re after, this movie delivers a big heaping plate of it – much more than the first film, if that can be believed – and features some iconically awesome (and hilarious) onscreen moments.

The “plot” of this second chapter involves The Expendables team (minus of few faces from the first film) being handed a job by “Church,” the CIA spook played by Bruce Willis. According to Church, Barney (Stallone) owes him for the chaos the team caused in Expendables 1, and payback is flying to some hellhole in Eastern Europe – in the company of a lady mercenary, no less – to retrieve the usual “MacGuffin” before some very bad men do.

Of course things don’t go as planned, and when a ruthless mercenary gang (led by Jean-Claude Van Damme as the eloquent and meditative “Vilain”) tangles with the Expendables, it starts a feud that Barney and Co. will see through to the bloody end.

Sylvester Stallone Jason Statham Terry Crews in Expendables 2 The Expendables 2 Review

The action in Expendables 2 is like something out of a video game, or a comedy parody of old action flicks. Our heroes fire big guns and blow bodies and property to bits, while never taking a scratch themselves. There’s carnage and mayhem from start to finish, and an elaborate opening sequence quickly establishes that this world of the Expendables is one meant to be enjoyed with a low-brow smile, instead high-brow expectations. Every cast member is given time to inflict bodily harm to faceless hordes of bad guys in his signature way, and it’s hard to imagine any action fan walking out saying, “There wasn’t enough ass-kicking in that movie.”

West still chooses to shoot a lot of the film with digital cameras (as Sly did in the previous installment), and subsequently, some of the problems of part 1 inevitably leak into part 2. There are times (particularly night scenes) where the camera is distractingly out of focus, or has the grainy, low-grade quality that can plague digital films with improper lighting; in a film that is supposed to be a throwback, one misses the look of classic film stock. However, on the whole West stages actions sequences with a much better hand, and knows creative ways of capturing the human body bending, breaking or outright exploding, making for some viscerally exciting violent imagery (definitely leave the kids at home for this one).

Stallone Schwarzenegger and Willis in Expendables 2 The Expendables 2 Review

Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis in ‘Expendables 2′

Sprung from the director’s chair, Stallone is free to play alongside his muscled comrades. The whole cast seems to truly embrace the fun this time around, leaning hard on the fantasy of being untouchable superheroes of ass-kicking, rather than the “complex and troubled” individuals the first film foolishly tried to develop them as. In fact, the heaviest “drama” only lasts a brief second before Stallone’s character is spouting lines like, “Track ‘em. Find ‘em. Kill ‘em,” which is about the extent of the “narrative” in the film. The screenplay (so to speak) hinges on such cliched and predictable plot devices that it can only be looked at as winkingly ironic (because otherwise it’s just plain bad). There are some early subplots that get forgotten along the way – but see if you can even remember them in the midst of all the mayhem.

New faces to the franchise – like Hunger Games star Liam Hemsworth as a speedy sniper, or Nan Yu as female mercenary, “Maggie” – hold their own against the veterans and manage to be some of the more interesting (meaning, actually formed) characters in the piece – which is completely necessary, as they have no action movie clout to trade on. Jean-Claude Van Damme shows off some improved acting skill (in addition to his still impressive athletic ability), managing to create a memorable and fun villain in just a few key scenes.

Jean Claude Van Damme in The Expendables 2  The Expendables 2 Review

Jean-Claude Van Damme in ‘The Expendables 2′

Action veterans like Chuck Norris and Scott Adkins join the franchise in some smaller bit roles, but manage to deliver fun or thrilling moments; a self-referential joke from Norris is alone worth the price of admission. Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger are given expanded duties in this installment, and together they manage to nearly walk off with the entire film. Seeing the pair onscreen blowing things away and snapping on each other (and Stallone) multiplies the enjoyment factor exponentially; Schwarzenegger in particular seems to be more charismatic than ever, and is a welcome return to the genre.

The most fun to be found in this sequel, though,  is trying to crack all the verbal and visual Easter eggs that get dropped along the way. From names, to faces, to lines of dialogue, meta references  and physical action, Expendables 2 draws a fun map of in-jokes and trivia allusions, and if you’re a buff of the genre, you’ll enjoy things on a whole other level.

If you’re not a genre buff, but want to see badass action icons blowing stuff up and beating people down (while pausing now and again to crack a joke), you’ll still have a good time with this film. Those hoping for a deeper, smarter, or more polished piece of action cinema: Sorry, but this franchise has pretty much established it isn’t about that. Best to look elsewhere.

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For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant team check out The Expendables 2 episode of the SR Underground podcast.

If you’ve seen the movie and want to discuss details about the film without worrying about spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it, please head over to our Expendables 2 Spoilers Discussion.

The Expendables 2 is rated R for strong bloody violence throughout.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

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  1. Not sure if this was mentioned by anyone but
    When Liam Hemsworth is all like “YEAH MY GIRLFRIEND IS FRENCH” or whatever i thought they would tie in some big plot twist involving Van Damme…in fact i was 100 percent sure of this the moment i heard the word ‘French’ because..it literally served no purpose in the plot other than that, Especially since..ya know…Homeboy caught a knife and delivered one of the worst said lines of this year. Regardless yeah, this flick was the dopest dope.

    • You mean “…it literally served no purpose in the plot…” other than his girlfriend is literally and simply from France? Were you thinking too much, expecting too much and disappointed by your own expectation?

  2. Shwarzennegar had the worst lines…we get it you were the terminator.

    • That’s why Bruce Willis said what he said to Arnold before he went and got the “shoe” (trying not to spoil the movie for others). ;-)

  3. The film lost me the moment the sniper took out a bunch of guys standing in a circle….with one shot.

    • It wasn’t with one shot. You could hear multiple shots, and his .50-cal auto loader reflects that. HOWEVER, the cycling rate (how fast the rifle could be fired) seems beyond reality. YET, this movie isn’t ‘Act of Valor’. SO lets be reasonable to the unreasonable. :-)

      • um… yah thanks man. I’ve shot that beast. I’m kinda hip to what it can do.

  4. Oone trait this movie shares with THE AVENGERS is its ability to laugh at itself.

    After all the sound and fury of DARK KNIGHT RISES, it’s refreshing to see action movies that don’t take themselves too seriously.
    That’s something that the actors AND their fans can enjoy.

    THIS fan surely did.

    SO looking forward to EXPENDABLES 3.

  5. Full Review : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4feQcW3a3KE

    Its one up on the original, its definitely better than that, its got some great action, it has got all the familiar faces, its has all the toppings of the blockbuster commercial film, it has even got the presence of three bigwigs Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and of course Sylvester Stallone himself. The team is back in action in this film.

    While it is great to see all of them come together in fact there are some of the best moments in the film when you actually see those three big wigs on screen together. Its quiet an awesome feeling. The first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes are probably the only big reason i would actually recommend going to see this in a theater but apart from that i am going to have to say that even though the film has a lot of one liners has attempts at comedy, has all the elements that are required in an action film without of course giving us really any substance or meat to sink our teeth into because thats not really what an action blockbuster is all about. I still feel that i can not recommend this one and can not tell you to waste your money and go and watch it in theaters. I just feel that we have seen all of this before in terms of the plot, the one liners, the attempts of comedy & the mission, its all very very tried and familiar.

    They set out on a mission, they have obstacles, ends up being about revenge, there is a female thrown into picture to join the team. There is one thing that i liked about the film was that there was a lot of laughing at oneself in which stallone did a good job yet i feel that he just underestimates an audience’s expectations. When you have bigwigs like Stallone, Bruce Willis you just expect a little more.

    I am sorry i am just going to say go and watch a video game instead or go watch Die Hard or Terminator or any of the Rocky series for now Ira Say’s “TRASH IT”.

  6. Not happy at Jet Li having such a small part.
    Would have been cooler if each guy had an evil counterpart to bang heads against, or at least one more bad a.. beside Jean and Scott.

  7. I liked the movie but I thought the girl would be a lot more “kick-ass” than she was. All bad girl face, but not enough action imo.

  8. Every school has a bully and our bully went by the rather incongruous name of Brian Willy. Every lunchtime, without fail, young master Willy would take it upon himself to rummage through my napsack. ‘Watcha got today fatty!’ he’d say with a perfunctory clip around the ear or twist of the nipple. If I was lucky he would merely ‘Crash attack’ me, a self explanatory manoeuvre. He was the bane of my young life. But one clear October morning at Newport Pagnell baths my life was about to change for the better. ‘Watch this’ echoed Brian’s voice to a group of nearby giggling girls and in he plunged. The feat? why only to swim under the ‘Wobster’(a giant-badly pumped up- inflatable sea behemoth). Nearly 4 minutes later young Brian’s limp and pallid body was being hoisted on the side of the pool. He lived but from that day on could barely count to ten, let alone steal my lunch. The film looks great by the way, I can’t wait to see it!.

  9. Crap movie…seniors that should be retired trying to do what they did when they were young enough to act in action movies. Timewaster

    • Don’t be a hater those seniors how u call them have made good movies and should be respected bad movie love it with all my favorite actors I’m a teenager that loves old seniors who do good movies

  10. This was a bad movie love it

  11. Amazing movie good good 5 star loved it loved the revie