The Expendables 2 (2012) Film Review, a movie directed by Simon West and starring Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, Terry Crews, Scott Adkins, and Novak Djokovic.
The Expendables 2, in a literal sense, is a sequel. With that being said, sequels generally get a bad rap (read: suck), and while the original installment was a pleasant surprise, I don’t blame anyone for thinking that a follow-up might be a little bit of a stretch. For a movie franchise (can we call it that?) who’s premise is essentially based on a certain level of camp and self-awareness, the acting is solid, the story is engaging, and if it weren’t for the fact that everyone in the movie already has a reputation, we might be talking about their brand new ones. The Expendables 2 might be a sequel, but it is most definitely not second class.
Okay, so it probably sounds like I’m on someone’s payroll. Honestly though, this was not a movie I expected to like because generally action films are not in my wheelhouse. Don’t get me wrong, I like explosions as much as the next guy, but there are only so many incomprehensible plots and quite frankly – embarrassing performances one can take. Most of the time it’s a genre with too much bark, and not enough bite. With this film, it seems as though there was a genuine effort to avoid these pitfalls, and as a result the audience is rewarded handsomely.
Granted, the central storyline is nothing to write home about. However, the script manages to lay it out in a way that keeps you actually rooting for the characters (rather than laughing at their lines), keeps the action exciting instead of laughable. lays it out in a way that is exciting to watch and keeps you hooked. After a quick glance at his previous films, one would surmise that director Simon West does not have a stellar track record. Here he performs admirably. Even though all of the leads are professionals, it takes skill to manage big personalities, and it is a challenge he succeeds at by giving them proper space to move within the context of a hour and a half film.
Something that I really appreciated about the movie, and where West’s skills really showed up, were the “bromantic” moments. Scenes that had the potential to sag down into a pit of cheese, usually in an attempt to add emotional context to a manly mouthful of steak and testosterone; not here. The scenes are treated with maturity, and they succeed in actually getting the audience to care about the characters, rather than chuckle, rolling their eyes, and reminding themselves that this is the sequel to The Expendables after all.
Which brings me to another interesting point. After reactions to the original film, a laugh here, an “it was actually pretty good there”, it is particularly noteworthy that this movie still works even without the sort of gimmick that drove the original. It’s almost as if we are desensitized to the idea that a movie like this could work, and we are able to watch this film on its own merits rather than the second in a series of jokes.
Speaking of desensitization, there is a good deal of violence in this film. The viewer has to wonder if it is really even being glorified, when there is just so much of it. It’s as if instead of fade outs or cuts, they used human bodies being shoved aside as transition wipes. It fits though, and it is the balance between the goofiness of over-violence with the subtle realization of it that allows The Expendables 2 to toe-the-line, and actually come out as an enjoyable film.
I really enjoyed this movie, and I would recommend it as a perfect way to end summer with a “bang” (or two) before school starts up again. It’s not classic cinema but something tells me Stallone and company wouldn’t have it any other way. Less tongue-in-cheek, more finger on double-barreled shotgun trigger, The Expendables 2 is all the meat without the cheese normally found in action films, and undoubtedly a good time.