[rating=3]Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jean-Claude Van-Damme, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Liam Hemsworth, Jet Li, Chuck Norris, Nan Yu
Director(s): Simon West
Writer(s): Sylvester Stallone and Richard Wenk, screenplay, story by Wenk, Ken Kaufman and David Agosto
The recipe for The Expendables 2 was pretty simple. Take just about every famous and successful action-adventure star from the 1980s, stir into a simmering story about 5 tons of misplaced weapons grade plutonium and add lots of shooting and action. Voila! The nearly perfect popcorn flick for summer of 2012.
Oh and let’s not forget, the first major action/adventure film in history where there had to be a gerentologist on-set at all times, to care for the aging lead actors. They may be in great shape, but they’re still getting on in years.
First let’s fill in the scorecard. “Barney Ross” (Stallone), “Lee Christmas” (Statham), “Yin Yang” (Li), “Gunner Nelson” (Lundgren), “Hale Ceasar” (Crews), and “Toll Road” (Couture) are all back from the first film, joined by “Billy the Kid” (Hemsworth). “Mr. Church” (Willis) and “Trench” (Schwarzenegger) are also back, while “Booker” (Norris) and “Maggie” (Nan Yu) are new, as is lead villain “Vilain” (Van-Damme).
The film opens with Ross’ Expendables rescuing a Chinese billionaire from an exotic location where he’s being held by a bunch of bad guys. Trench is also there, as a prisoner, although he claims he was there also to rescue the hostage and that his men were about to come in and take over when Ross’ forces beat them to the punch. He “owes” one to Ross, a debt that will come due in the near future.
Afterwards, Billy admits to Ross that the life of the mercenary is not for him after all, not because he’s not good at it. He excels. But he wants to live a life where he isn’t forced to spend so much of his time away from Sophie, his girlfriend. He says he wants to finish the month out, which results in his going on the next mission, a mission that Ross did not choose.
It comes from Mr. Church and it’s one of those offers from the CIA that you can’t refuse without ending up behind bars in Gitmo. There’s a safe aboard a downed plane that crashed in “a hellhole” of a place, and it’s up to Ross and men to take in a specialist to recover what’s inside. The specialist is Maggie, and she is the only one who can open the safe, which changes its combination every 2 minutes. The addition of a “passenger” is not welcome and the requirement that she be returned without so much as a hangnail doesn’t help.
They manage to get what’s in the safe out and are “extracting” back to their aircraft when they run into Vilain and his men, who get the drop on them, and making matters worse, have captured Billy. This results in Vilain leaving with the contents of the safe, a map to five tons of weapons grade plutonium hidden in an old mine by the former Soviet Union and worth billions on the weapons market. One of Ross’ crew dies in the confrontation and from that moment forward, Ross intends to get both the plutonium, and revenge.
The action isn’t non-stop, but close. The firefights are much like those in Rambo, fast, violent, bloody and intense (Rambo was the 4th movie in that franchise). The body counts are massive and along the way Ross and company help out a village where most of the men were taken to work in the mines where the plutonium is hidden. Maggie can take care of herself, as she demonstrates. There’s an evil henchman working for Vilain that will have a climactic fight scene with Christmas, and of course Vilain will take on Ross near the end in the requisite mano a mano confrontation.
The film doesn’t take itself too seriously, and provides laughs in doing so. “Booker” is an homage to one of Chuck Norris’ first lead roles (Good Guys Wear Black) and he’s also referred to as “Lone Wolf,” an homage to Lone Wolf McQuade. There are references to the Terminator films involving Ahnold, one in particular made by Bruce Willis that’s rather clever. Good guys versus bad guys, with lots of guns, bullets, fists, feet, knives and quarts of blood being spilled.
Definitely a fun romp to enjoy.
Run Time: 1 hr., 42 mins.