The Expendables 2: Film Review
The Expendables 2: Film Review
Capping off the summer box office with explosive action, The Expendables 2 offers the sendoff adrenaline junkies are seeking before the more sedate pace of fall releases. As he proved with the original installment, Sylvester Stallone grasps the action-oriented DNA of the films’ badass cast of reprobate mercenaries with an intuition derived from dozens of genre roles.
Without any similar competition among this week’s openers, The Expendables 2 should fare extremely well against remaining holdovers, although exceeding The Expendables’ $274 million in worldwide box office might be a stretch.
Without wasting any time on setup, the sequel finds Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his team of hard-bitten mercenaries on a clandestine mission to Nepal to extract a kidnapped Chinese billionaire, where they discover that someone has gotten there before them – Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), another operative for their contractor, Mr. Church (Bruce Willis). Freeing Trench and the billionaire from their captors, the team returns to the States, where Church confronts Barney with an unpleasant reminder: The Expendables’ leader owes Church $5 million in confiscated cash from a previous job, but is prepared to make a deal if Ross takes on a new assignment.
The catch is that Barney will need to place Church’s operative on his team, Chinese tech expert Maggie (Yu Nan). Since the Expendables are an all-male crew, the addition of a woman almost immediately throws group dynamics out of kilter. Their assignment is to retrieve an undisclosed item from a high-tech electronic safe aboard a downed plane that’s crashed in Albania. Although new team member and Afghanistan vet Billy (Liam Hemsworth), an expert sniper, reluctantly tells Barney that this is his last outing, the rest of the Expendables relish another mission, including second in command Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) and team members Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), Toll Road (Randy Couture) and Hale Caesar (Terry Crews).
As soon as Maggie has decoded the safe aboard the crashed plane and extracted the contents, the Expendables are ambushed by an Eastern European crime cartel led by the sadistic Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme), who forces Barney to turn over the device from the safe and then kills a key team member. Maggie later reveals that the item stolen by Vilain is a miniature computer containing the location of a five-ton cache of plutonium that the Russians stashed in an abandoned mine during the Cold War.
Motivated as much by revenge as their realigned mission to prevent Vilain from selling the weapons-grade nuclear material to a list of willing buyers, the Expendables take off in pursuit of their adversaries, with Barney’s directive uppermost in their minds: “track them, find them, kill them.”
While most of the 2010 film’s action transpired in Latin America, Expendables 2 relocates to Bulgaria, which offers appropriately expansive vistas and credible locations for the Eastern European settings. Taking over directing duties from Stallone, Simon West preserves the hardboiled action and wisecracking cast dynamics of the original, channeling some of the B-movie tonal elements he may have picked up directing Con Air. Managing the complexity of stunts, aircraft and vehicle pileups, and frequent shootouts that comprise the majority of the running time is a major challenge that West executes with élan, even adding unexpected grace notes to some otherwise routine scenes. Abetted by cinematographer and action-adventure specialist Shelly Johnson, camera placement and movement are spot-on and the action choreography never disappoints. Numerous gunfights, combat set pieces and fight scenes are muscularly staged and skillfully supported by Todd E. Miller’s editing, although the sheer sound volume grows repetitive and wearying.