a review by Ken Vasquez
Sylvester Stallone leads an all star cast of legendary action heroes as well as some relatively newcomers in the explosive action packed sequel 'THE EXPENDABLES 2'.
The first one was an action movie fan's epic dream come true and this sequel, in my very own opinion, is every bit the bad ass that the previous film was.
Stallone comes back to the role of mercenary Barney Ross who's hired along with his loyal team mates to recover a device from an airplane crash in eastern Europe. When the assignment turns sour Ross and the gang must shoot, blast and obliterate their way to the bad guys and get some well deserved payback.
Action movie director Simon West (Con Air, The General's Daughter, Tomb Raider) takes the helm and makes this a sequel worthy of the original's praise. Stallone and co-writer Richard Wenk (16 Blocks, The Mechanic) manage to expand upon the characters and elements established in the previous film all the while introducing some really cool and new stuff. If anyone knows this genre as well as Stallone is Simon West and the guy is proficient at making it all look good.
I loved the first one, I really freakin did, but if there was something that irked me a few times in the original was the dark photography in indoor shots and fast cut aways. West frames every action sequence with detail allowing the audience to appreciate it before blowing it to fiery bits. The opening is among the most jarring and slamming in recent years.
Action and excitement may be this film's forte but it's the outstanding cast that makes it what it truly is, a tribute to old school action adventure movies. Stallone's role of Barney Ross remains the honor bound soldier of fortune that he was in the last film but a lot more heart and sensitivity makes the character even more appealing. Make no mistake, Stallone is still a tough guy all the way through. Jason Statham may not be an 80s action icon like some of the other cast members but he does kick ass and brings his trademark charm and wry humor. It's refreshing to see Dolph Lundgren's role of Gunnar Jensen elaborated upon to the point that Dolph's very own real life educational background is incorporated into it. Lundgren is the reason I watch these movies to be honest.
Bruce Willis reprises his role of shadowy government agent Mr Church but unlike the first one he takes on a more action laden capacity this time. The man has not lost his touch at all in the last 25 years and this movie is a walk in the park for him. What can be said about Arnold Shwarzenegger that we don't already know. Sure, the Conan and Terminator we all know and loved is gone but he still has presence and stature. Not limited by a walk in cameo like before, Arnold shoots plenty of bad guys while delivering semi corny yet funny one liners.
"The Muscle From Brussels", Jean Claude Van Damme, makes his return to the big screen as the sadistic and murderously evil leader of a fanatical terrorist organization. I admit being happy to see Van Damme back where he belongs, at the cinemas doing what he does best, instead of straight to DVDs. Van Damme may look slightly unrecognizable, maybe due to a face lift or two, but the man still knows how to deliver his famous and redundant martial art kicks. He needs to play the baddie more often.
What's 'THE EXPENDABLES 2' without a cameo by yet another well known action hero? 'The Lone Wolf" himself, Chuck Norris, makes a brief but memorable appearance as one man field operative Booker. The years and extensive Karate lessons have been kind to Norris who doesn't look like the 70 year old that he is. And although his character is mainly around to provide exposition his participation does satisfy fans' expectations for this cameo. Is truly a shame that Norris and Van Damme did not share a VS battle.
Terry Crews brings much needed humor and "Po, po, po, power" to his part of Hale Caesar, while mixed martial arts expert Randy Couture returns as the ever sarcastic and knowledgeable Toll Round. Jet Li shoots, kicks and punches like a pro despite his brief stint in the film. His back and forth with Dolph Lundgren is affectionately funny. Liam Hemsworth, younger brother of 'THOR' leading man Chris Hemsworth, plays Bill The Kid, the newest member of the team and a former soldier who seeks more out of life. Chinese actress Nan Yu (Speed Racer) plays Maggie, a CIA agent embedded into the team, while amazingly gifted British martial artist Scott Adkins (The Bourne Ultimatum, Ninja, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) plays Van Damme's second in command, Hector.
Non stop action featuring some genre super stars with both a modern and throwback style makes 'THE EXPENDABLES 2' a tour de force of a film. And with rumors of a possible third entry with apparent cameos by Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford, and TWO female knock offs, is only a matter of time until the boys are back in town and on a mission.