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Expendables 2, The (AF)


Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Liam Hemsworth, Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Randy Couture, Nan Yu, Scott Adkins, Terry Crews, Charisma Carpenter, Nikolette Noel

Director: Simon West

Serious seekers of subtext beware!

Stallone and Company’s follow up the major movie mayhem wreaked in the first Expendables film makes no pretense at intellectual stimulus.

It’s action pure (and impure, too) and simple (and sometimes simple-minded) right from the fast and furious action opening all the way through the near non-stop blend of shooting, explosions and assorted combat to the suitable cynical ending when Schwarzenegger responds to Stallone’s description of another of the ‘mature’ stars as “That guy belongs in a museum" with the wry but accurate “We all do”.

Here, co-scripted by Stallone with Richard Wenk, revenge, spicily flavoured with humour, is the name of the game. There’s a plot, of course. When Willis recruits Stallone and his hard-assed mob and one of the crew is killed during what was expected to be a dangerous but basically straightforward assignment, Stallone and his fellow riot-raisers want payback. And, in the bloody process, they save the world as we know it from villains ready to wreak havoc to get hold of five tons of buried plutonium (notes villainous Van Damme mordantly, “Six pounds of pure plutonium is powerful enough to change the balance of the world. Imagine what five tons will do”). …

Action, not plot, is what’s important here and director Simon West delivers it excess and in rousing, riotous style right from the start. More bullets are expended than, say, television’s ‘Band of Brothers’ series, there are enough explosions to satisfy the most demanding action freak. In fact, given its broad, high octane low intellectual style, it could be argued that ‘The Expendable’s 2’ is on an intellectual level the most thrilling action cartoon ever made.

Arnie and Co make the Dirty Dozen seem clean by comparison – and a lot more fun, too.

Casting is spot on, with Statham (a former Olympic diver on the British National Team, curiously appropriate given the film’s release on the heels of the 2012 Olympic Games), Li, Lundgren (“Maniac with brains. Scary!”), Crews and Couture returning to fight again. Norris, his hair dark with age, enjoyably keeps up with the prevalent mayhem, while the original film’s cameo stars Schwarzenegger and Willis have major roles this time and first-time expendable Van Damme vigorously justifies his casting. And, for sex appeal, there’s Nan Yu (I’m combat proficient. I don’t need a babysitter”), vividly holding her own with her testosterone-charged costars.

Despite the huge body count and copious quantities of blood, the overall tone is entertainingly tongue-in-cheek (and, for what it’s worth, I didn’t notice anyone’s cheek being blown out of their cheek in the tsunami of carnage on the screen).

A second sequel seems signalled. Which is terrific news for adrenaline addicts.

Alan Frank

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Lionsgate. Technicolor/Colour by deluxe.
102 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 13 Aug 2012