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If action, action and more action is what you crave in a film, then The Expendables 2 shall not disappoint. In fact, it’s so action-packed that there was little room for much else. It seems that Sylvester Stallone was so preoccupied with spraying bullets left, right and centre that he only had a little time to jot down a screenplay on the back of his hand. If the pack of A-list action heroes – which also includes, Jason Statham, Jet Li and Terry Crews, with appearances from Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger – aren’t ploughing planes through buildings or catapulting motorcycles into helicopters, they’re blurting out mildly amusing puns or engaging in an embarrassing form of ‘banter’ with one another designed to make the gang of mass murderers feel slightly cuddlier.
The opening scene is pleasingly reminiscent to that of Team America: World Police thanks to a spectacular fourteen-minute irreverent assault on a military base in some middle-eastern looking country (naturally) in order to re-kidnap a Chinese billionaire. Like all the action scenes in the film, it provides exhilarating, ridiculously violent eye-candy crammed with more testosterone than King Leonidas riding a rocket-propelled dinosaur into the sun. The only times when focus is taken off the action is for one of the cast to make either a sarcastic comment or an eye-rollingly embarrassing pun: (“Rest… in pieces”) These are obviously intended to be charmingly grinworthy but are sometimes so obvious that you can’t help but pull a face as if Stallone was playing the role with his pants around his ankles.
The rest of the dialogue also leaves something to be desired. Attempts to demonstrate the lad-ish, passive-aggressive friendships within the group appear forced and unnatural. This is the film’s biggest downfall as these are the scenes where we should be learning to empathise with the characters so that the action scenes feel all the more intense; something which was achieved in the prequel quite well. Instead, we’re presented with a few awkward, blatantly artificial exchanges between characters which do nothing for their likeability and feel about as plausible as the plotline itself.
There are without a doubt some fun moments, particularly Schwarzenegger’s performance in which he makes so many Terminator references that he might as well be winking at the camera every time he opens his mouth; and, of course, the almost mystical appearance of Chuck Norris will please fans of internet humour to no end. One of The Expendables 2‘s biggest appeals is its star-spangled cast, whose individual touches blush the entire film. But having an A-list cast never makes up for a bad screenplay, and if it wasn’t for the line-up it would most likely be forgotten just like the B-movies that it makes homage to.
Like its predecessor, The Expendables 2 is a dumb frolic through the last 30 years of action movies, for better or for worse. As far as functionality goes, it ticks all the boxes for the genre and if you’re a die-hard fan (harhar) of traditional action movies, you’ll hopefully be so mesmerised by the milky way of a cast and the insane amount of flying bullets, knives, etc that you may not be affected its flaws. However, if none of the above appeals to you I wouldn’t expect to be converted by this one.