The poster for The Expendables 2 boasts a wealth of 1980s action stars. Indeed, if anyone didn’t make it the onto the poster, it meant that they were probably already in and were killed off in The Expendables. So there is Arnold Schwarzenegger with Bruce Willis and Van Damme - or should we reverse those names in order of importance? As with so many of the great action films from the 1980s, ‘plot’ isn’t as important as large set pieces. The Expendables 2 knows its target audience and genre and racks up the explosives and kill count even before an opening credits have started. Stallone’s Barney is still the calm leader of the group with The Stath as his wisecracking right-hand man.
The Expendables find themselves once again beholden to less than upstanding CIA agent Church (Bruce Willis). Church offers them an ‘easy’ job that would make these musclebound renegades ‘even’ with the powers that be. With Jet Li in the film just enough to fulfil his contract and barely enough to warrant his presence on the poster – though with arguable the best fight of the entire film – Asia is represented by Nan Yu as Maggie. With revenge upper most on The Expendables' minds due to the devil-goat tattooed baddie Van Damme (the brilliantly named Jean Vilain) and something ‘that we don’t want falling into the wrong hands’ away the Expendables go into action.
The many writers of The Expendables 2 (including Stallone) are fully self-aware regarding the dialogue they have produced. There are (literally) killer one liners and a barrage of references to 1980 character icons with some even delivering these references themselves. Everyone keeps a straight face but the audience is meant to be very much in on the joke and one would be hard pressed not to laugh along to the cringeworthy puns and barely concealed straight winks to camera.
If anyone found themselves labouring with the clarity of The Dark Knight Rises’ Bane’s pronunciation, The Expendables 2 has a cast of confirmed mumblers without any having the excuse of wearing a mask.
The kill count in The Expendables 2 is astronomical and becomes gratuitous to an uncomfortable degree. Somehow someone who has just blown the heads off of multiple people can be a ‘good guy’ and blowing up an entire camp full of people ‘to send a message’ is considered the act of a ‘hero.’ Except for a handful of fights by Jet Li and Jason Statham, it is a pity that The Expendables 2 relies so heavily on gun power and not hand to hand fights - especially with the well known Mixed Martial Arts talents of Randy Couture in play. Also, the costume designer has dressed all of the Expendables as if they are members of a very fit and aging boy band. They are always co-ordinated within an inch of their knives (pun intended). The inexplicable costume changes make it look like a boy-band music video at times.
But why quibble? This is The Expendables 2 or ‘Every 1980s Action Film All Rolled into One excluding Steven Seagal!’ Turn your brain to the ‘Off’ position and just enjoy.