MPAA Rating: PG-13
Length: 103 minutes
Now out on DVD
Sponsored article by:New York Film Academy
Appropriate for ages 14 and up. The movie’s very premise means that there’s more violence than you can shake an AK47 at, but presented as an over-the-top parody of 80s and 90s action movies. As such, it’s all just cheesy fun but the relentlessness and a few scenes which border on brutal would render Expendables 2 unsuitable for a teen too young to distinguish between satire and realism. There are ten instances of the S-word and a few minor curses*, but a bigger consideration may be the presentation of smoking and drinking as an thing all the ‘tough guys’ do.
An arguable improvement over its predecessor, The Expendables 2 is a mindlessly fun explosion-fest which achieves everything it tries to be. It doesn’t deliver any surprises, but anyone looking for a nuanced action movie will have already passed the franchise up.
The original Expendables was borne out of a great concept, but poorly exercised in a way that only Hollywood could pull off. After all, given that its premise – reuniting every classic action movie actor available to make a super action movie – is about as mindless as it gets, it’s pretty surprising that the movie turned out to be a rather lifeless romp.
Talking about the plot of either film is somewhat of a pointless exercise, since the storyline behind both is simply a vehicle to cram as many explosions into an hour and a half as physically possible. Just imagine putting every action movie released during nineties into a blender, and what you see in your mind’s eye is The Expendables. It’s a movie made inexcusably for action movie fans, featuring action movie stars and even co-written and directed by one of the action godfathers himself (Sylvester Stallone).
The Expendables 2 is more of the same. The only notable differences are a $20 million budget increase over the original’s $80m, and Sly Stallone’s fairly hammy directing has been taken over by Simon West (Tomb Raider, The Mechanic). Both the greater budget and greater directing pay off; Expendables 2 is a much bigger-feeling movie than its predecessor and a lot of the humor lines – while still a bit groan-worthy – are delivered with way more nuance. All in all, the latest outing feels more like a love letter to action movies of yesteryear rather than a crass parody, even if there’s so many times you can hear the line ‘I’ll be back’ before it gets old.
Also improving on the original film are the cast additions. Stallone, Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren all make a comeback (as well as Arnold Schwarznegger thankfully playing more than a cameo part this time round), joined by action legend Jean Claude Van Damme and the formidable Chuck Norris. As far as line-ups get, it’s a fine ensemble. The only notable actor missing between the movies is Micky Rourke, whose acting was so poignant in the first film that it drew negativity from some critics who felt it was out-of-place alongside some of the sillier pieces of dialogue.
And silly it most definitely is. The Expendables 2 has some big, dumb, yet incredibly fun set pieces and the pacing is a lot tighter this time around – not so many gun fights and explosions that the whole experience is rendered bland, but just enough to keep you eagerly awaiting the next huge blow-out. The only issue here comes down the third act which, if we ignore the fact that the whole plot is tenuous anyway, feels very rushed. The final fight between the evil Jean Claude Van Damme and… well, we won’t say who… is a great one but even Van Damme himself was reportedly disappointed with the lack of screen time it received.
In a nutshell, The Expendibles 2 is unashamedly lowest-common-demoninator fun, but at the very least it tries to do it with gusto and for the most part hits the spot. It will never be shown in film schools as a master class example of cinematography, and in a way, it doesn’t matter. Everything which you need to know about this movie can be gleaned from a five-second glance at the DVD box, and that alone will neatly divide separate those who understandably have no desire to see it whatsoever and those that wouldn’t dream of missing such a stellar line-up doing what they do best…
… and that’s blowing stuff up.
* Interestingly enough, it was Norris who demanded a massive toning down on the script’s language before he would agree to the