The first Expendables movie from a few years back was like an action fanboy’s wetdream- it seemed just too good to be true; Stallone! Statham! Willis! Schwarzenegger! There must have been action fans giggling like hyperactive schoolgirls during the church scene with Stallone, Willis and Schwarzenegger together. That the film actually turned out okay (something of an A-Team for the Steroid Generation) was something of a surprise, and the film cleaned up at the box-office and on home video making a sequel inevitable.
Here we have more of the same, but louder, bigger, dafter, with Jean-Claude Van Damme as the ultimate Panto villain. Indeed there is a distinct smell of the Pantomime about this film (he’s going to kill him! oh no he isn’t! oh yes he is!) and taken as a dumb action romp it largely succeeds. I won’t go into the plot; with a bodycount in the hundreds, who cares about the plot? Bodyparts are flying around faster than the one-liners. With a few drinks (and I can only imagine what the drinking-games are with a film like this) this is great entertainment, with even more Willis, more Schwarzenegger, and 80’s icon Chuck Norris added to the mix too. And Van Damme does make a pretty good villain, thereby improving on the first films one major failing. About all we are missing is Dirty Harry miscounting his ammo in all of the bedlam (feeling lucky, punk? Oh no he isn’t!).
But it can also be seen that, for a film that gathers such iconic action stars of the past few decades, it doesn’t deliver anything meaningful and in that sense has to be seen, alongside the first film, as something of a missed opportunity. It could have been a serious, massive heroic film (imagine what James Cameron might have done with a cast such as this), but instead the film-makers have opted for the cartoon approach. Still, all things considered, this may have been the smart move anyway, as most of the guys are looking a bit long in the tooth nowadays and something too serious may have just came off as forced and silly. There’s only so much crashing through walls a guy due a bus-pass can get away with. At least with the approach that The Expendables films have taken, you laugh with them rather than at them. I guess that the films should be looked at as a celebration of the action stars of the past, and the movies that they made- on that count, for anyone who loved watched all those action films on VHS in the ‘eighties, the Expendables films are a blast. This second film, even on Blu-ray, even looks like you are watching an ‘eighties film on VHS- either its deliberate or this has a shocking transfer. But still, taken for what it is, its great entertainment. I’d love to see a third movie. Come on Stallone, just one more. Please?