Stallone. Statham. Schwarzenegger. Willis. Van Damme. Norris. Lundgren. Li. Crews. Couture. Somewhere, Steven Segal is sitting looking at his phone, still waiting for it to ring.
The Expendables 2 is a deeply, deeply stupid movie in which any problem that cannot be solved with a gun can be solved by using a bigger gun. It’s also a very smart movie, that uses the fact that you already know what the movie is going to be and delivers it.
I’m going to mostly avoid spoilers, however the movie is as predictable as the McBain films from The Simpsons. The character who, twenty minutes in, you just know is going to die at some point? Yeah, of course they die. Because it’s that kind of movie. And you know it’s going to happen pretty much the first time you see them. But that’s fine, because what The Expendables 2 is selling is predictability.
If you’ve seen the first movie, you’ve more or less seen this one. Some bad guys take over a place, and Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis and…well, lots and lots of action stars commit unspeakable acts of violence until everything is okay again.
The main difference between this one and the last is that they’ve stopped even pretending to be taking it seriously. Any of the ‘dark’ scenes are done with tongue planted so firmly in cheek that they were getting some of the biggest laughs in the audience. It’s a film in which even the vehicles appear to have tattoos with phrases like ‘Lock and Load’ on them. It’s a film in which, as seen in the trailer, two major action stars get into a small electric car and fire machine guns out of the windows. It’s a film in which Jean Claude Van Damme kicks a knife into someone.
We also get to learn a little more about some of the characters, and the same easy charm continues from the last film. The stuff we learn doesn’t really mean anything, but that’s not important.
The biggest trick they really use is to use what we know about the actors as a short-hand for character. Stallone plays Stallone. Arnie plays Arnie. Chuck Norris plays Chuck Norris, along with jokes about Chuck Norris Facts. Dolph Lundgren plays Dolph Lundgren, even to the point of making jokes about his chemical engineering qualifications.
Is it a good movie? No, not at all. It’s stilted, it’s predictable and it’s deeply stupid and bordering on sexist. But is it fun? Yes. It’s a lot of fun, in exactly the same way as the McBain movies are. Imagine a film-length version of them, except with many more film actors other than an Arnie character. Then you’ve basically got The Expendables.
Nobody is going to see this expecting it to be anything other than what it is. And in terms of delivering what you expect, it succeeds perfectly. The opening scene is more over the top than anything from the previous movie. And there’s a lot of meta-humour going on. And the violence is dealt out in an entertaining way, and the new cast members mesh well with the returning ones.
So, if you liked the first one, this is more of the same. If you didn’t, it’s silly enough that you may prefer it, but it’s probably going to annoy you in the same way.