The Expendables 2 (2012)

Simon West

Sylvester Stallone - Barney Ross
Jason Statham - Lee Christmas
Jean-Claude Van Damme - Jean Vilain
Bruce Willis - Mr. Church
Arnold Schwarzenegger - Trench
Terry Crews - Hale Caesar
Dolph Lundgren - Gunner
Randy Couture - Toll Road
Jet Li - Yin Yang
Liam Hemsworth - Billy the Kid
Yu Nan - Maggie
Scott Adkins - Hector
Charisma Carpenter - Lacy
Chuck Norris - Booker

Genre - Action/Adventure

Running Time - 103 Minutes

Sometime after the first THE EXPENDABLES, CIA head honcho Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) [who's pissed that Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) stole his $5 million after the events of the first film] forces his way back in Barney's life and demands The Expendables to head into Albania to get some secret case from a wrecked plane. The catch is that the case is in a secret compartment triggered by a bomb and can only be stopped by a password that changes every 2 minutes. Church also orders Barney for a Chinese woman named Maggie (Yu Nan) to help him with the operation. With the hiatus of one member, Yin Yang (Jet Li), and the presence of a new one, Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth), the new Expendables and Maggie do Church's bidding.

When the case is retrieved, the group encounters a terrorist group called The Sangs, led by Jean Vilain (
Jean-Claude Van Damme) and his right hand man, Hector (Scott Adkins). Vilain manages to steal the package before killing a member of The Expendables without hesitation. Realizing that the package was a blueprint of a cave that holds enough plutonium that could create a massive bomb, Barney and the surviving Expendables decide to stop him and get revenge for killing one of their own.


- The action. Just like the first film, the action sequences and kills are just awesome in THE EXPENDABLES 2. Hell, I think they are more over-the-top here than in the first one. We get a lot of shootings. We get a lot of stabbings, all done to various body parts and performed in different ways. We get explosions. We get decapitations. It's just bad ass from beginning to end. I couldn't tell you what the body count in this film was. All I know is that a lot of people get killed here and I would have been very curious to see how they were going to turn this into a PG-13 film, like it was originally planned. I'm glad they went with an R rating because the action and the violence was off the charts.

- The cast. Just like the first film, the cast is the marketing factor here. Honestly, I think the cast here is a much stronger one, especially with expanded roles for Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger - as well as the additions of Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Scott Adkins, Yu Nam, and Liam Hemsworth. Hemsworth, especially, was quite the surprise here. In fact, I thought he was the best actor in the film, bringing a ton of humanity to his character and to the film. He definitely held his own with bigger stars like Stallone [who still plays the idealistic Barney well], Statham [still a ball to watch], and the comic duo of Willis and Schwarzenegger. Jean-Claude Van Damme was also good as the villain, although he isn't in the film as much as I would have liked. But unlike Eric Roberts and the other villains in the first one, I felt a real sense of menace from Van Damme's character. which actually helped the film's narrative. Plus, Chuck Norris is awesome as always and makes fun of himself. In fact, a lot of the actors are self-aware of their pasts here and it's great to see them being good sports about it. I loved this cast and they all played their roles well. With the rumors for who will be in THE EXPENDABLES 3 being discussed now, it looks like this may be in the HITS column again when that film is released.

- The narrative. I had issues with the plot in the original narrative, feeling that it was a bit weaker than it should have been. While the narrative does have a few issues in the sequel, I think it's a much stronger and more fun narrative overall.

It's a bit more in depth emotionally and personally, which I felt the first one lacked. I like that the presence of Mr. Church is a great reminder of the first film, and tells the audience how The Expendables stole the $5 million that belonged to Church, and how they owed him for doing that. It closes that plot hole well and leads into the sequel's main plot.

I think it was great to make THE EXPENDABLES 2 a more personal vendetta for the group, rather than a random mission they had to complete for cash or some sort of other prize. When one of their own is killed right in front of them by Jean Vilain, it sets up the rest of the film really well and you caught up in their revenge plot. This allows the characters to interact as humans rather than stereotypes, and gives them a real reason to find the villain and hurt him. In fact, while the characters aren't the deepest and are still fairly stereotypical [which isn't a bad thing], they are easier to like in this film. Barney is fleshed out a bit more, being a sort of mentor to Billy the Kid, and a potential love interest to Maggie - who he pushes away so he won't hurt her due to his reputation. Christmas is more involved with Lacy, and is given more of the sidekick role this time around. Gunner, still a loose cannon, is a lot funnier than time around [Dolph Lundgren is great in the role]. Also, a lot of Lundgren's personal history is used for the character, which is great and gives Gunner character. Caesar and Road are still bantering buddies. Maggie gives the group some much needed estrogen, while still being able to keep up with the men with ease. Billy the Kid, the newest member, is probably the deepest character due to monologues about his time in Afghanistan, wanting to quit the team to be with his girlfriend, and being a young soldier that the other Expendables respect and are in awe of. The group feels like a family this time around, and you really get that they all care about each other. While you do get that in the first one, it's much more evident here.

It also helps that Jean Vilain [the bad guy's name is VI-LAIN - how funny is that?] is more charismatic and interesting of a villain than Munroe was. He's vicious, intelligent, and can kick people's asses without much help. He's a more active foe, which keeps The Expendables on their toes. When Vilain kills a member of The Expendables, it makes his confrontation with Barney a much stronger and emotional one, building up to it and leaving you satisfied at the end.

I also loved the references from past action films. Chuck Norris' Booker is obviously a nod to 1978's GOOD GUYS WEAR BLACK. His nickname, Lone Wolf, is also a nod to 1983's LONE WOLF MCQUADE. Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger trading quips, by using each other's catchphrases, was great. There's a whole bunch of them you need to catch, and they'll all put a smile on your face. It makes the sequel self-aware of itself and a lot more fun to watch. It's obvious this is meant to be a popcorn flick to bring nostalgia to long-time action fans while still pleasing current fans. It's what THE EXPENDABLES should have been - cheesy without being stupid, silly, self-aware, and fun while still telling a good story with cool characters. The stars seemed to have aligned more this time around.

- The direction. CON AIR director, Simon West, takes over for Sylvester Stallone for the sequel. I think this was the right move. The visuals are less shaky and the editing is a lot better. The action scenes are edited well, as you can actually see what's going on. The editing also keeps these scenes tense and exciting. I thought the use of the soundtrack and the cinematography was good. The pacing was excellent, as I couldn't believe the film ended as soon as it did - and it's 103 minutes. It honestly felt shorter than the first film. THE EXPENDABLES 2 doesn't hide its silly tone and the flow is great. A definite improvement over the original in every way.

- Plot holes and barely there plots. THE EXPENDABLES 2 is not perfect, as certain things aren't developed enough and there are plot holes. The Lee Christmas and Lacy subplot doesn't get enough time to really develop much, as we see Lacy for only one scene [Charisma Carpenter deserves a bigger role]. We see the other characters goof on Christmas for his devotion for Lacy, especially when he talks sweetly to her on the phone. But overall, it could have been left out and nothing would have really changed.

I also felt the Stallone-Van Damme fight was way too short, as this is a dream fight for many of us 80s peeps that grew up with these two. It was good for what it was. However, it was a bit one-sided and I expected more choreography out of it. I will somewhat still satisfied by the scene, but it should have felt more epic. This was probably my biggest peeve with the sequel.

There are also action moments that reveal several plot holes that sort of nagged at me at times until I was distracted with some visual candy. And some of the characters get the shaft again, due to the large amount of actors in the film. But at least the script was tighter this time around and a lot of the flaws were hardly noticeable due to the fun and enjoyment the film provides as a whole.

THE EXPENDABLES 2 is a great improvement over the first film. The direction is more solid, the narrative is more interesting, the cast is bigger and better, and the action is a lot more violent and fun. It does have its issues, but for the most part, you won't really care because you'll be entertained from beginning to end. It's just an old fashioned action film that brings back the 80s and 90s to the present day that will keep a smile on your face. Definitely worth watching at a movie theater for that big screen awesomeness THE EXPENDABLES 2 sweats out of its pores. Bring on THE EXPENDABLES 3!

3.5 Howls Outta 4


  1. Wow dude, great to hear its bigger better badder! Looking forward to seeing it this coming thursday!

  2. Great review.

    This was even better than the 1st one!

    It was awesome to see Sly, Arnie and Bruce shooting at the baddies towards the end.

    Also Van Damme was great..."Let's wrap this up"


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