Tuesday 14 August 2012

The Expendables 2 review

The Expendables 2 (15/R, 102 mins)
Director: Simon West
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

The proposed joy of mindless action-fest The Expendables from a couple of years ago was its bringing together of a marquee list of action legends old and new, from Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lungdren, to Jet Li and Jason Statham.

And yet it didn’t quite deliver on that promise, since it was never quite as silly as it needed to be and, since pretty much all of them made it to the end, they weren’t even that expendable.

Everyone is back (although some barely), plus a couple of new faces for this second go around, which begins with a rescue. The identity of who they're rescuing is cute, one of a lot of nice winking touches that make this a bit of silly fun for an audience in the mood rather than one looking for great cinema. This involves wholesale massacre of an entire encampment of goons, and sets the scene for an astronomical body count to come.

Their mission proper comes when the shady Church (Bruce Willis), who reckons Stallone owes him for a previous transgression, gives him a job to pay the debt which involves retrieving the contents of a safe.

But the contents are stolen by Jean-Claude Van Damme, who’s actually fairly decent value as a bad guy, leaving the Expendable team to slaughter their way through Albania, in what appears to be WWII judging by the sets and costumes, to find their way to Van Damme.

It all makes for a shameless 80s throwback where the object of the exercise is to blow things up often enough and loudly enough that no one notices the otherwise crippling flaws and gaping plot holes.

It’s spectacularly bloody, and delivers exactly what you might expect, no more, no less, and on those terms it almost succeeds, though it’s put together with no great precision or imagination. For all its ensemble appearance, it’s still largely the Stallone and Statham show. Li disappears completely after the opening salvo, and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Willis don’t exactly figure highly, though there is much more of them than there was first time around.

Banter-wise, it’s a dead zone, which might not matter so much if there wasn’t so dang much of it. But it’s so ridiculously cheesy that still there are lines or the appearance of an iconic face to make you smile, even if more often than not you’re laughing at it and not with it.

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