Review: Expendables 2 / Cert: 15 / Director: Simon West / Screenplay: Richard Wenk, Sylvester Stallone / Starring: Stallone, Statham, Li, Lundgren, Norris, Van Damme, Willis, Schwarzenegger, Couture, Hemsworth (Liam), Charisma Carpenter / Release Date: Out Now
Arnold Schwarzenegger is back. Should you be in any doubt about that fact, The Expendables 2 tells you every five minutes. Yes, we heard you the first five times you said it, Arnie.
The first film, despite a world of promise and goodwill, was one of the most disappointing movies of 2010. Its much-vaunted threesome between Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis blew its load within five minutes; the trio's one scene together completely spoiled by the trailers. Thankfully, their involvement in The Expendables 2 is much more hands-on. Arnold Schwarzenegger rips the door off a Smart car. The Governator is indeed back. And by the end of the film, you'll be fed up of hearing it.
Still, Willis, Schwarzenegger and Chuck Norris's screentime amounts to little more than glorified (but very fun) cameos. The film still belongs to Sly Stallone and his crack team of veteran soldiers. When dastardly criminal Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme, geddit) steals a very dangerous nuclear Macguffin, he incurs the wrath of The Expendables. All but Mickey Rourke are back from the first film, although Jet Li disappears after a mere ten minutes.
People coming and going without warning is the most jarring aspect of the film. Were these real characters, people would be decrying the film as nonsensical. But they're not. In the context of the film, it makes perfect sense for Chuck Norris to saunter down the street (to a bit of Ennio Morricone, because of course), make a Chuck Norris joke and saunter off again. Given the size of the cast and the egos involved, it's astonishing that the film manages to give everyone a moment to shine. Once more, Terry Crews steals every scene without even really trying. Even the most expendable Expendable, Randy Coutre is fun. After the glum gunfights of the first film, everyone seems to be enjoying themselves more here. It's a shame Li isn't around for the whole shebang – his brief fight scene in the opening moments is one of the film's best. And while Dolph Lundgren is again the most interesting of the team, it's their villain who emerges the biggest success story.
Jean-Claude Van Damme is the best thing about The Expendables 2. He's revelatory as Vilain, displaying the same comic chops as in his wonderful Coors adverts. Even beyond the comedic elements, his showdown with Stallone is everything you would have hoped for from an Expendables film. Action films aren't usually within our remit, but this sequel is so silly, so gory and so fun that we couldn't help but commend it. It's essentially The Avengers anyway, remade with granddads and tramps.
The Expendables 2 is a vast improvement upon its predecessor, however flawed. It may have the worst acting of any film this year, and the plot is atrocious, but it's a lot of fun (I refer you to Schwarzenegger and the Smart car). However, if the constant puns on Arnie's comings and goings are anything to go by, it's proof that a joke can be too ironic.
There will, we're sure, be a sequel. They'll be back.
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10