Barney and his crew are back and after their exploits in the first film, Mr. Church feels they owe him and has come to collect via a mission. When this mission goes sour and they lose one of their own, Barney becomes dead set on revenge.
Say what you will about THE EXPENDABLES, but I loved it. No, it wasn't a symphony of well orchestrated music by any stretch of the imagination, nor did some aspects of it make sense, but it was a no holds barred, no remorse, ass kicking hell of a good time. The action genre needed this film to kick start the apocalypse and I was looking forward to the "boom". This new installment is no exception, aside from a bigger budget, bigger cast and bigger set of cojones. This fact is immediately noticeable as the boys open up with a full blown assault on some baddies, racking up a body count for the books I'm sure. I had a wide smile on my face when they smoke cleared and dude the bad guys were interrogating was revealed (he had a bag over his head up to this point).
As far as muscle goes I dug the addition of Liam Hemsworth and although many gave his "speech" flack because of the dog mention, I didn't mind it and felt it went hand in hand with his character. I liked the father/son bond he and Sly shared, and it nearly made me tear up a couple times in light of Sly's real life loss he suffered here not long ago. I wasn't at all happy with Jet Li's early exit of the film, I guess it made sense in context of the mission, but I didn't care for it--no Li is no good. Dolph hams it up here something awful, to the point of him almost coming off as goofy, but he's a welcome addition to the team. I can't say the same for Randy Couture who I still feel doesn't belong. Terry Crews gets a line here and there but is sorely underused, whereas Sly and Christmas still have the chemistry of life long friends and are truly the heart of the team.
Bruce Willis doesn't come off as strong this time as he did last time, but Church doesn't overstay his welcome here. I loved the way Chuck Norris was introduced and used, they were going for tongue in cheek and it played out marvelously (the cobra bit was priceless). I wish I could say the same for Arney, but I can't. Congress put some noticeable miles on the guy, and as much as he still is a hero of mine, he felt and looked off. I knew he'd be saying "I'm back" from the trailers, but seriously people, once was enough, the third time was like Freddy Krueger nails on a chalkboard which is anything but funny. Nan Yu added some much needed estrogen to the scene, but it's painfully obvious that this was indeed her main reason for being on board. "Needed" is not an adjective I'd use to describe her presence. And what the hell happened to Mickey Rourke?
The real show stopper here was on the Vilain side, with Jean-Claude Van Damme's return to the big screen. I'm a Van Damme fan through and through. When I was growing up in his prime, I would cut out the coming attraction picture of his movie from the paper and tape it to the fridge in anticipation for the weekend. It's been far too long since Van Damme's been on the big screen and I sincerely hope Hollywood feels the same. I'm not fond of the lame "name game" they had going on with his character, but his badassery was writing loads of checks that were all good in my book. The showdown between him and Sly was both worthy of praise and admission. Scott Adkins (one of my absolute favorite martial artists--and one of the deadly dudes on the planet) was also a welcome addition to the mix. I loved the instant rivalry between him and Christmas, I only wish their end battle had been as exciting as Sly's. I get it of course, you can't have their fight outshine the final one but it still felt rushed and not nearly as satisfying.
THE EXPENDABLES 2 does exactly what it sets out to do, capitalize on a dying genre with loads of action, muscle and testosterone. No complains there. I will say this about the violence though, those rumors about it being shot in PG-13 and R seem to have credence as the blood was obviously CGI added after the fact and a lack of language implies that perhaps Chuck Norris got his way after all. Does this hurt the overall experience, not really, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't noticeable. My biggest complaint is that this would've been such a bigger and badder concept a decade ago when these guys' prowess was more visceral. The debate of why this never happened would take us years to tackle, but the action junky in me who loves these guys can't help but pose the question (with a tear in my eye). That said, this flick does the first one justice, does the characters justice and gives the fans exactly what we wanted to see. At the end of the day, you can't ask for much more from Hollywood. EXPENDABLES 3? Yes, please.