Having been severely underwhelmed by the Stallone-fronted first film back in 2010, the inevitable sequel is no doubt what the original should have been. With a muscle-bound cast including Lundgren, Li, Willis, Schwarzenegger and The Stath, the ingredients from the first movie are still here, but this time instead of taking itself way too seriously, director Simon West opts for a much more fun and indeed camper action flick. And the choice is a good one, because The Expendables 2 is a much more satisfying romp than the first in every way conceivable.
Jean-Claude Van Damme plays the accentuated evil villainous role of, erm, Vilain. Visually he looks not too disimilar to Resident Evil baddie Wesker (it’s the colder than ice exterior and shades that do it), but has all the agility and compassion as Street Fighter meanie. Sure, it’s a paper thin plot, but is one that’s straightforward enough to follow so we can focus on the pure adrenaline of the action and extreme violence and ultimately enjoy it more.
Even from the offset, we see the team burst into enemy territory in a huge, supped-up, tank-like vehicles (basically an impenetrable moving killing machine), as we see Dolph Lundgren bellow, “Eat shit!”, as his heavy machine gun bullets pop enemy heads like grapes. It’s daft; it’s utterly gratuitous, but it’s how I’d hoped it would be.
The budget has been spent on the masses of explosions, destruction and gun fire, which makes the key scenes memorably epic as everyone proceeds to blow the shit out of everything and everyone. It’s also great to see Arnie step in for a more substantial role than a lame 5-second cameo and, even though his participation isn’t huge , his presence certainly is.
New faces join the good guys such as Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games), as well as a brilliantly heavy-handed addition of Chuck Norris — he’s not essential or even relevant to the plot, but IT’S CHUCK BLEEDING NORRIS! As a child of the 80s growing up with some of these action heroes, it’s really great to see them come together and practically embrace the camp, homoerotic nature they’re often associated with.
Sadly, Jet Li isn’t in it much this time, but there’s enough gun battles and fisty cuffs for no one to really notice until a sudden realisation at the end. With the lack of credibility the first Expendables had, one will understandably struggle to have any faith in this sequel (or even the third, which has since been announced). Being in the exact same boat myself, I was pleasantly surprised. Whether this was because my expectations were so low, or merely due to the fact that I was willing to embrace the machoism and reality of what this was — 80s and 90s muscular (now) middle-aged icons running round shouting, shooting and throwing punches — I’m not quite sure.
The spectacle on Blu-ray is a pleasant one, and looks tasty in HD, especially when it comes to action and explosions. It’s crystal clear and really benefits from certain action-filled shots.
The Expendables is undeniable dumb fun, but this time it knows it is. Stallone and co do exactly what they’re designed for, as they star is an enjoyable, often frivolous adventure film that is high on adrenaline and thrills and low on the boring stuff such as plot and character development.
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