Sylvester Stallone has never been one to play to critics. He knows that his fans - males aged 18 to well, at least 50-something - enjoy flicks that are big dumb and fun. And with Expendables 2 he doesn’t disappoint.When Church (Bruce Willis) a sketchy CIA operative needs to safeguard some sensitive intelligence from a downed military plane, he taps Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his over-the-hill band of mercs - The Expendables - to carry out the job. Their plans are thwarted by the none-too subtlety-named Jean Vilain (Jean Claude Van Damme) and his un-merry band of bad guys, who ambush the team and steal the prize. As if Vilain’s plan to unearth a cache of hidden plutonium and sell it to the highest bidders, weren’t evil enough, his decision to mete out some battlefield punishment, can only lead to revenge, blood and a whole lot o’ pain.
It’s pretty clear from the adrenaline charged blood drenched and bullet ridden opening sequence, that Stallone and director Simon West aren’t interested in restraint. Or any real plot for that matter. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The façade of seriousness that Stallone tried to cultivate in the first movie has been stripped away. West also eschews the oh so tiresome bouncing-camera shots for some good old fashioned gritty action trotting out an army of disposable victims who die nasty and messy deaths whether at the end of a blade or as the recipient of a head shot (complete with the ubiquitous red spray). But it’s the humour and nostalgia that truly stand out.
Whether they’re stealing one another’s trademark taglines, mocking the characters they made famous (Chuck Norris referring to himself as a “Lone Wolf”) or making real life references (Stallone talking about Gunnar aka Dolph Lundgren getting a Masters degree in chemistry), tongues are firmly planted in cheek here. Indeed there are probably more laughs than the average comedy. And the veritable cornucopia of action stars - both past and present - onscreen together, is enough to warm the cockles of any action junkie’s heart. In addition to the aforementioned “actors” Jet Li is back, as are Jason Statham, Randy Couture and Terry Crews, while newby Liam Hemsworth injects a touch of youth and Nan Yu provides a little estrogen to go along with the ass kicking (which she is eminently capable of delivering, thank you very much….)The Expendables 2 delivers exactly what is expected of it: testosterone, corny jokes, old favorites and plenty of blood. So turn off your brain and pass the popcorn.