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The Expendables 2 - Review

The Expendables 2

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

THE creators of The Expendables 2 have promised a sequel that is bigger, badder and better than the first star-studded outing. Well, two out of three isn’t bad.

Directed by Simon West, the film is certainly bigger on action and badder in terms of violence (with bodies regularly being shredded by bullets) but it’s not necessarily better. And while certainly fun, it should feel a little less disposable than it ultimately does.

The plot, for one, is very basic, while attempts to broaden the characters and get heavy in places come off as laughable – and not necessarily deliberately so.

The film is at its best when allowing the camaraderie that clearly exists between the ageing action heroes to flow freely, or during one or two of the action sequences that mostly deliver what fans of the stars have paid to see.

The plot this time kicks into gear once Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) is approached by the mysterious Church (Bruce Willis) to undertake a seemingly routine mission in Eastern Europe with the help of his usual crew (Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture and new boy Liam Hemsworth).

But once there, they run into the comically named bad guy Jean Vilain (Jean Claude Van Damme), who kills one of their own and runs off with the means necessary to find a stash of weapons-grade plutonium.

Hence, with revenge foremost in mind, the Expendables set about tracking Vilain’s troops, finding them and killing them. And in doing so, they also enlist the help of a few extra hands – most notably in the form of Church, Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Booker (Chuck Norris).

Highlights this time around include an early rescue sequence that contains one kick-ass display from Jet Li, an OTT entrance by Norris set to the tunes of classic Ennio Morricone, Willis and Schwarzenegger laying one-liner strewn waste to an airport full of bad guys and the final confrontation between both Statham and Scott Adkins and Stallone and Van Damme.

In between, there’s also plenty of mirth to be found in the witty banter that exists between the cast members, as well as the self-referential in-jokes that fly almost as fast as the bullets.

But as enjoyable as all this undoubtedly is for action fans, there’s also a nagging sense that the film doesn’t quite realise its potential. Van Damme, for instance, is under-used, while the film as a whole could have benefited from a little more depth. What little there is of it feels half-hearted and generates unnecessary sniggers.

Tonally, too, the film is all over the place, flying between comic book action and laughter one minute, to graphic violence (a la Rambo) the next. The 15 certificate seems overly generous.

If, however, you put the negatives aside and take The Expendables for what it is, then you’re sure to be mostly satisfied. It’s a blast but one that panders more to the average work of the stars involved, rather than any of the classics that helped to get them where they are in the first place.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 102mins
UK Release Date: August 16, 2012