'Expendables 2' epitomizes dumb but fun action
The enjoyment to be derived out of a film such as "The Expendables 2" falls squarely into two camps. You will either watch the film with your brain shut off, appreciating the intense high energy action and laugh at the chemistry between the cast members or you will condemn the general stupidity of the film, as it celebrates a style of filmmaking that was generally trashy, thus making it an undeniably bad film. If you can't enjoy the stupidity of machismo driven action films, than this is by no means you're movie and I do not blame you in the slightest. However if films like "Commando" and "Judge Dredd" light up the fire of excitement for you, than "The Expendables 2" is an absolute must see.
Following the events of the previous film, Barney Ross -played by Sylvester Stallone- leads his team of mercenaries, consisting of Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Liam Hemsworth and Randy Couture on a mission assigned by secretive CIA agent Church -Bruce Willis- to retrieve a Russian mine full of plutonium before terrorist Jean Vilain -Jean-Claude Van Damme- steals it to sell to the highest bidder. They are later joined in the film by Chuck Norris and, yes, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
As expected from films of its ilk, the plot of "The Expendables 2" is thin at best. The set up for the mission exists for the sole purpose of getting a bunch of old and awesome action heroes together, as well as a few younger and up and coming actors, to shoot, stab, punch and blow their way through cannon fodder henchmen to achieve their goal. It makes no pretentions of being anything more than a dumb fun popcorn thrill ride. Fortunately, writer Stallone's passion for the production succeeds in preventing the film from being anything less.
The camaraderie between the leads is what sells many of the slower moments of "The Expendables 2." All of the little moments of banter between Statham and Stallone, the poking fun at Lundgren's intelligence and the overall feeling of brotherhood between the entire crew prevent the slower moments of the film from slowing down the pace to any unbearable levels, even if the development of the characters is rather lopsided.
"The Expendables 2's" action set pieces are where the film is undoubtedly at its most glorious. Well shot, well choreographed, well paced and always energetic, there isn't a moment during the onscreen flurry of flunky deaths that I wasn't absolutely pumped up. The significant levels of gore didn't hurt things either, providing more impact to every money shot of the film.
By all means, "The Expendabes 2" is an excellent homage to a dying breed of action films and far better than its predecessor as it stands. I only wish that the film was willing to trust its own craftsmanship a bit more because its actual sense of humor begins to borderline on being downright smug.
In an attempt to be self-aware on many occasions throughout the film, "The Expendables 2" frequently cites and pokes fun at the memes and previous filmography of many members of its cast. Sometimes it works, such as Norris' recollection of his experience surviving a king cobra bite. Unfortunately, most of it is beaten over the audience's head long after it stops being funny. I clearly see that Stallone is in the film, so why are Rambo references being forced in by the time of the third act. Furthermore, having the "I'll be back" line beaten over my head five times, I'm honestly a lot less enthusiastic about Schwarzenegger's return to film. Such complaints may seem petty but in a film that succeeding at its intent through its actions, there was no reason for it to force its connection to what it pays homage to through its words.
This is essentially an exercise in confirming the already known. If you are in the audience that "The Expendables 2" is intended for, you will have an absolute blast. Those that do not apply, this film will by no means change your mind but this is the textbook example of the weekend matinee fun that I hope to have during the summertime.
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