Okay, I'll cut right to it—I enjoyed the hell out of this movie!
If you're looking for intricate plotting, concrete logic, or richly layered characterizations … well, you might want to check somewhere else. However, if you're interested in a testosterone-laced dose of gritty, kick-ass, "tough guy" action like they used to make back in the day—then this should be right up your alley.
And best of all it's done with real live stuntmen using squibs and pyro and spring-loaded vehicle flips that you can follow with the naked eye, rather than sequences presented in a showy CGI blur that leaves you wondering "what the hell just happened?" even after the action has slowed.
No, wait a minute … I guess that's the second best part.
The best has got to be, hands down, the cast: Stallone, Statham, Lundgren, Li, Van Damme, and—in lesser roles, but much more substantial ones than in the first Expendables—Schwarzenegger and Willis; plus, this time around, Mr. Chuck Norris. These are some of the main names who put their stamp on the past wave of tough guy actioners and, although they're each considerably longer in the tooth, they still damn well know how to bring it. Plus, it should be noted, they are capably aided by newer comers: Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, and Nan Yu.
The Expendables 2 is basically told in two chapters. The opening segment is a rousing rescue by the Expendables team of billionaire a Chinese businessman being held for ransom in Nepal. They accomplish their objective with lots of shooting, smashing, crashing, and a good deal of hand-to-hand fighting. In addition to extracting the businessman they also rescue a fellow mercenary, Stallone's old rival Schwarzenegger (playing a character named Trench). And you just know we haven't seen the last of him.
Following quickly on the heels of the Nepal mission, the Expendables team is coerced (by Bruce Willis, reprising his role as the mysterious "Mr. Church") into taking another job, this one in Albania, to recover a critical piece of hardware from a plane that has crashed in remote mountains. They are forced to take a female operative along with them who is specially trained in defusing an explosive device that will go off unless it is handled in precisely the correct way.
Initially, this mission is also a success. But before the team can withdraw with their prize, they are ambushed by a gang of international thugs/arms dealers (led by Jean Claude Van Damme) who seizes it from them and in the process brutally kill the Expendables' youngest member (Hemsworth).
Now the mission becomes not only retrieving the stolen hardware (an electronic map to a huge cache of weapons-grade plutonium left buried in an abandoned mine by the former Soviet Union) but also exacting revenge for their fallen comrade. When asked what they are going to do, Stallone's answer (in that guttural growl that only Stallone can manage) is: "Track 'em … Find 'em … Kill 'em!"
God, I love retribution stories!
It should go without saying that, before all is said and done, the team succeeds in doing what Stallone so succinctly defined. In this final phase, everybody shows up to help get the job done. Schwarzenegger and Willis are in the thick of the big final conflict at a metropolitan airport. Norris, who showed up earlier in a critical sequence, also returns, despite his oft-stated status of being a "Lone Wolf" (a nod toward Lone Wolf McQuade, one of his most popular prior films).
Overall, despite the graphic violence and high body count, there is a somewhat lighter feel to this movie as opposed to the darker, more intense tone of its predecessor. This is mostly due to all the tough guy banter salted throughout the film. It contains plenty of good lines, but the best and most humorous ones involve Schwarzenegger and Willis. The screenwriters overdo it just a tad with all the "I'll be back" references given Arnie, but most of them still rate a chuckle or at least a wry smile. The best exchange came at a point during the massive shoot-out in the airport … ARNIE: "I'm running out of ammunition. I'll be back." … WILLIS: "You're always back. Let me be the one who comes back this time." … ARNIE: "All right then. Yippi-ki-yay."
After which, I couldn't help noticing, Arnie manages to fire off about a thousand more rounds before Bruce returns. When he does, he arrives in some kind pint-sized car. Arnie has to rip off the door in order to fit in … ARNIE: "I have a shoe bigger than this car." … BRUCE (ripping off his own door so he can extend his shooting arm): "Never mind, just shoot something!"
But there are some intense moments, too. The big retribution I spoke of before? It comes at the conclusion of a great fight sequence between Stallone and Van Damme. I won't spoil it by relating too much, but let me just say that the pay-off is very satisfying.
I'll close the same way I started … I enjoyed the hell out of this movie!
Persevere --- WD