There were probably a lot of folks back in 2010 who thought that The Expendables was nothing more than a gimmick wrought by a bunch of has-beens and never-wases to rope in a quick pay day to shore up their retirement accounts. These are the kinds of people who actually believe what they read on Rotten Tomatoesor who swear that they’ve always hated Titanic, even though they wept tears of joy when it won those fifty-five Oscars. Well, over $100 million later, the movie critic proletariat were shocked and appalled to discover that The Expendables 2 (rated R) was on its way in 2012.
If you didn’t see the first installment, don’t worry. While there are references to the prior film, it’s nothing that is going to restrict your enjoyment of the sequel, I promise. Expendables 2 revolves around Barney Ross’s (Stallone) team of jolly mercenaries being (again) recruited by Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) for a mission of world-shaking importance. When the mission goes awry, they find themselves pitted against the evil Vilain (Jean-Claude van Damme) and about three million of his minions. Stuff then proceeds to get blowed up real good.
That last sentence pretty much encapsulates the whole show, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The standard action disclaimer applies in that the whole point is to show good guys at war with bad guys. This is strained a bit in Expendables 2, though. While the first one had a definite subtext about the life of a soldier and the moral quandary faced in battle, the sequel is basically a satire. Mickey Rourke, who single-handedly provided the plot depth previously, does not return for Part 2. This is a shame, but thankfully, the new tone is set early. The viewer quickly discovers that there is nothing to take seriously here and that any attempt to push outside of that box will be futile. This wasn’t bad, so much as jarring. In this case, the director (Simon West- Tomb Raider, Con Air) didn’t permit any sort of solemnity or otherwise contrary narratives to muddy the waters. If you’re going to make a movie like this, West understands that it helps to go all-out and be unapologetic about it.
The cast is the same and playing the same guys as before. Nothing new there, although it was a pleasant surprise to see some more time for Willis and Schwartzenegger. As anyone would know from the previews, there’s also Chuck Norris. My fellow crowd-mates gave Norris’s key scene a standing ovation. You probably will, too. They should probably make a Walker, Texas Ranger-ish television spin-off just based on this character. Van Damme also deserves praise for hamming it up as the villain Vilain. Get it? Villain/Vilain? Real subtle humor there, Stallone. Anyway, van Damme takes the arrogant, pompous shtick and turns the volume up to eleven. In any other movie, we be talking about how cheesy he is. For The Expendables 2, he blends right in.
If you’re looking for Catholic elements, take your search elsewhere. That’s not how this version of The Expendables rolls. As I mentioned above, the deeper plot points of the original have been discarded in favor of a more comical approach that doesn’t really leave room for much else. You do see a village of Eastern Orthodox (or Catholic? Tough to tell) Christians who are being oppressed by the bad guys and dealing with it, but that’s about it.
The content is predictable. No sexual situations, though there is a good bit of innuendo. There is some crude language but no blasphemy and no f-bombs. Of course, there is a ton of violence. Way more than even the first movie, I think. This is quite an accomplishment. There’s also a scene where a bunch of bad guys are killed in a church that is highly inappropriate but framed as necessary given the context. Just my opinion, but I wasn’t a fan.
Taken as it is, Expendables 2 is a good movie that uses violence to mock violence. Despite what you’ve heard, it isn’t standard action fare. It leans far too much on comedy and over-the-top antics to be considered as such. While I didn’t approve of the aforementioned church scene, it didn’t spoil the film. This is the kind of movie that doesn’t pretend to be anything more than it is, so you’re free to enjoy it as mindless entertainment. Rourke is missed, but the awesomeness of Chuck Norris and van Damme fill the gap well, albeit in a different fashion.
Review by Throwback