This one I recommend.

Barney Ross with Maggie.

Kickass; such a major improvement

As some of you might know, I did not like the first Expendables film, reasons including unbalanced screentime for the ensemble cast, too little Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, tiresome action, too serious of a tone and mainly the fact that it didn’t quite achieve in capturing that 80’s action feel. This film fixes all of that in the most fantastic way!

The Expendables 2 is by far one of the greatest sequel improvements I’ve seen in a franchise. It is right up there with The A-Team as one of the most fun, insane and wicked action films in recent years. Not only do we get to see more of Willis and Schwarzenegger, but they also bring in some people we missed from the first installment – Jean-Claude Van Damme and even Chuck Norris! What I’m saying is that this is the film that the first Expendables wishes it was!

Sylvester Stallone plays Barney Ross, leader of The Expendables, who is given a new mission by CIA Agent Church (Willis), to obtain a powerful device from a plane wreck before a villain named Vilain (Van Damme) gets it first and gets to use it for his own evil intentions. I really love how they named his character. Church also puts a surprisingly badass and smart young lady named Maggie (Yu Nan) under Ross’ wing.

Ross brings Maggie and his mercenaries – Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunnar (Dolph Lundgren), Toll Road (Randy Couture), Hale Ceasar (Terry Crews) and newbie Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) – along to Albania and attempt to get a hold of the device, but Vilain shows up, obtains the device himself and kills Billy in the process. The film’s traget audience probably won’t miss “that guy from The Hunger Games“, but it’s still a sad enough moment. Ross, of course, decides that the time has come to find Vilain and take him down, but not without the help of Church, Trench (Schwarzenegger) and, oh my God, Chuck Norris!

Jet Li isn’t in this one so much, though. He goes home to Asia around the prologue of the film. But guess what? That doesn’t matter, because even he gets a memorable scene in this film – he beats up a bunch of goons in the opening, using frying pans.

Left to right: Li, Couture, Statham, Hemsworth, Crews, Stallone, Arnold, Lundgren, JCVD, Norris and Willis.

That’s something I love about this film. They finally give all the characters a decent amount of focus and/or golden moments during what time they’re given. Lundgren gets some funny lines; ditto Crews and Couture; Willis and Schwarzenegger are still not in the movie that much but watching the two of them kick ass together in the climax – frickin’ priceless! As for Chuck Norris’ scenes, I at first did not think that they would do his reputation justice. They did, trust me! I’m not largely familiar with Norris’ body of work, but I’ve been on the Internet enough to know that when he shows up, it’s a pretty big deal. It’s not easy to be Christian and badass at the same time.

Some of the people missing from Barney’s crew right now is Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Wesley Snipes and Samuel L. Jackson. I’m not gonna get all preachy and up-my-own-ass with accusations of racism, but I will say that it would be fun to see more black action icons than Terry Crews, whom I’ve never even reconginzed as an action hero.

As much as I liked this film, there are still some annoyances. The special effects, especially on the spurts of blood (my brother can do better in After Effects), looks distractingly bad at times and I wasn’t all that entertained by the character of Maggie. Also the cinematography is not always good. Still, it hardly matters when almost everything else – character interactions, music, tone, cheese-factor, action – is so improved over the first one. It might be because Stallone had to much work on his hands the first time and was in need of more competent directing, hence why Simon West took over for the sequel.

Is it great? Maybe not. Hell, it may not even technically be a good movie at all, but it isn’t meant to be. It is meant to be the most insane, cheesy and deliberately campy action adventure imaginable. It achieves what I think the first film failed to do totally and I remember looking forward to that one when it came out, adding to my disappointment. Hence why I’m so delighted that The Expendables 2 gave me what I always wanted. Is it fair to go as far as to call this The Avengers of action films? It’s pretty close, sez I.

4.5/5 whatever

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