The first Expendables wasn’t a bad movie, I did enjoy it quite a bit, but it didn’t deliver what was expected of it. It wasn’t an all-star tribute to the action movies of old. Most of the classic actors only showed up in little cameos, while the film centered around Stallone with back up from Jason Statham and Jet Li. However, in a rare feat, the sequel improves on every single element of the original and the second Expendables is a superior film. It manages to still be a wildly enjoyable romp too.
First of all, this is an ideal team movie, much in the same way as The Avengers, every character gets to shine. Each of them gets a quip, a memorable scene and a chance to shoot lots of poor henchmen in the face. Moreover, they do show up together in many scenes and interact a lot. Properly juggling characters in the story may seem like an easy thing to do, but Hollywood films often fail to do it effectively. Just like the first part of this movie.
I won’t write about the plot. It’s secondary, or tertiary, or, to be honest, it doesn’t matter at all. Still, the story is a perfect realization of the action movie formula. The characters are given their reasons to pursue a set of goals, and the antagonists are made villainous. Jean-Claude Van Damme even gets a name Villain. Just to make sure.
Expendables II is a part of pop-culture fueled by nostalgia. If you still remember, when as a youngling you watched Chuck Norris, Sly, Arnie and Willis murdering their way out of large buildings and mighty forests, you’ll love it. I was lucky enough to watch the film in a cinema filled with liked-minded individuals, who cheered whenever Norris showed up, and clapped after a good one-liner. It was fun. It’s not like the film makes itself hard to enjoy. These guys may be old, but they still have a good amount of charisma. You’d feel like high-fiveing Sly, and hugging Dolph Lundgren. I’d punch Liam Hensworth, though, don’t like him – luckily, they do it for me. See? The movie IS a crowd pleaser!
On the technical level, the new Expendables is well-done. The music varies from highly-energetic old-school rock ‘n’ roll numbers which add a bit of a silly edge to the normal action scenes, to proud instrumental tracks signalizing emotional moments. Visually the movie is fine. Only the CGI blood looks rather fake, and the whole first scene of the movie is basically a cut-scene from a computer game. It gets better, though. Especially, of note is Simon West’s directing. He knows its important to show us everything. Dynamism doesn’t mean hiding the action behind bad shots and quick cuts. Quick shots and bad cuts are what characters do to each other, for us to see and applaud.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s still a possibility, you won’t enjoy this film. If you want serious drama, realistic action, surprising plot and emotionally-gripping scenes, better go watch something else. Here, every shot a good guy fires, gets to a target. Every shot an evil henchman fires, disappears into the wild. Just as gods of the eighties intended. Hate it or love it. I had so wide a smile I couldn’t fit into the door with it. The actors were smiling, too. Expendables II is self-aware and self-conscious – it knows exactly what it is, and why it exists. It’s not to philosophically change our moral code in order to bring forth worldwide issues of importance. Yeah, no. Pure violent entertainment, people.
To sum up, it is a bit childish, I’d say every thirteen year old boy will love it. Fortunately, I have one hidden in my heart. I keep him just for occasions like that – to enjoy myself when the nostalgic wave strikes. Stallone has a line near the end of the film when he says they all belong to the museum. Well, maybe he’s right, but it’s not really a negative quality. After all, Expendables II is keen on repeating the past glories – recapturing the lighting in the bottle. And, I would say, they did it. Mission accomplished. The movie may not be moving the genre forward, yet it serves as an ideal example of 80s action film – ridiculous, but oh, so lovely.