In recent times the action genre seems to have been divided into two sides. On one side there are the post-Bourne, gritty and realistic thrillers, full of close camera work and serious people. The others usually consist of fighting CGI alien robots. Action blockbusters of old, however, seem to be a dying form. Full of cheesy one-liners, explosions and excessively muscle bound heroes – these types of films are all but ignored nowadays. The Expendables 2 aims to change this.
With Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Statham, Lundgren, Willis, Norris, Van Damme and a ton of other hard men, The Expendables 2 has a cast that could make even the Avengers tremble in their boots. A cast such as this puts certain expectations on a film, and The Expendables 2 does not disappoint.
The plot is about as thin as some of the actors’ hair. It revolves around excellently named bad guy Jean Vilain (played with relish by Van Damme) doing bad guy things, and the Expendables stopping him. But you don’t go to a film like this expecting detailed plot intricacies, or surprising twists, and the film is well aware of this. There’s action from the start. The opening segment includes planes, boats, hovercrafts, tanks, machines guns, bombs and everything else you can think of. The Expendables 2 does not mess around. There is less acting here than the first, and even more explosions. This is not a criticism. No one wants to see Terry Crews trying to act in a serious way. Most people want to see him walking around with a huge machine gun.
The main draw of The Expendables 2 is, of course, seeing all these action legends together on screen. In this aspect it does not disappoint either. Stallone maintains his sizable screen presence as the film’s lead, Van Damme is almost pantomime in his villainy and Dolph Lundgren is Dolph Lundgren. Schwarzenegger gets to say “I’ll be back”, and there is even a little “yippee ki-eh” for Willis. But the true star of the show is Chuck Norris. Playing a character known as Lone Wolf (a reference to his 1983 film Lone Wolf McQuade) he is introduced in a hail of bullets. Rumours of Norris insisting that there be no excessive violence or swearing in the film prove to be emphatically untrue as Norris gets as involved as everyone else, shooting from the hip and not giving a damn. He even gets to say a Chuck Norris fact, almost stealing the show from Stallone and co.
This film is lacking in many aspects. The acting leaves a lot to be desired and the plot is barely there. Side stories of mercenary rivals and love interests are soon discarded in favour of more explosions, but this does not matter. All you need to know is there is a scene where Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis and Norris walk into a room shooting guns from the hip. It is not going to win any awards, but it sure is better than your bog standard CGI affair, and a lot less serious than a Bourne rip-off. Explosive, action-packed and, more than anything else, fun, The Expendables 2 does exactly what you expect it to. The 80s action flick is back.