The Expendables 2 review

the expendables 2 reviewThere’s a burger joint in Atlanta, Georgia known as Vortex. It serves things that will kill you dead. The “Triple Coronary Bypass burger in particular is a gargantuan monument to all things unhealthy. Two half-pound sirloin patties sandwiched between three grilled cheese sandwiches instead of buns, then topped off with mayo, eight slices of cheese, ten slices of bacon, and a few fried eggs for good measure. It is bad for you. The Expendables 2 could rightly be described the exact same way. Sylvester Stallone and Vortex’s paeans to junk are both overloaded with cheese, meat, and greasiness. They also both happen to be delicious.

The Expendables 2’s secret sauce is that it knows full well that it’s bad for you, and revels in it. In 2010’s The Expendables, Sylvester Stallone’s action movie dream team suffered from a script that took itself entirely too seriously. Double crosses, drug cartels, Dolph Lundgren turning from good, to bad, then back to good — all the ingredients were there but rather than maintain a spirit of Kraft-made goodness, Stallone bogged the picture down with unearned, bizarre sentimentality. Why is there a teary-eyed soliloquy about war from a dreadlocked Mickey Rourke here? Why show me Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger only to take them away? What the hell kind of GI Joe play set is this?

Considering that The Expendables grossed $274 million worldwide, Stallone and company were under no obligation to fix the formula, but fix it they did. The Expendables 2 is 103 minutes of choreographed violence as comedy and juvenile wish-fulfilment (provided the juvenile wish was made by a 10-year-old in 1990).

the expendables 2 review

Barney Ross’ (Stallone) crew from the first movie is back and much better utilized this time out. Terry Crews’ Hale Caesar and Randy Couture’s Toll Road see their screen time expanded with more enjoyably groan-inducing one-liners; Jason Statham’s Lee Christmas receives less focus while still getting some solid knife fights in; Jet Li’s Yin Yang is only on board for the opening assault on a Nepalese militia camp, but that’s plenty of time for the 49-year-old wushu artist to hit plenty of nameless soldiers with frying pans.

Speaking of, that attack cements The Expendables 2 as the best GI Joe movie yet made. The absurdly named characters pilot custom-made vehicles with names like “Bad Attitude” and “Knock Knock” that describe what they do. I half expected Destro to pop out, but played by Joss Ackland for maximum ‘80s villain effect.

Lundgren’s Gunner Jensen especially shines, embodying the tonal shift from the first movie to now. Where he was a vicious murderer the first time out, now he’s a doofy vicious murder who snores and is, like the real Lundgren, a Fullbright scholar with a background in chemical engineering. One second he’s copying down Albert Einstein’s Unified Theory on a napkin, the next he’s blowing his nose into it. Then he’s shooting 50 people.

Rourke is the only one who’s out, replaced by Chinese star Yu Nan’s Maggie, and Liam Hemsworth’s (The Hunger Games, The Last Song) Billy the Kidd. Maggie sets The Expendables 2 easy to digest revenge plot in motion. CIA spook Church (Bruce Willis) sends the Expendables to Albania with Maggie in tow to retrieve the super secret contents of a crashed airplane. The mission goes awry when the evil, Satan-worshipping cartel, the Sangs, show up. Leader Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Vilain—yes, that’s right, the Muscles from Brussels plays a bud guy named Vilain—shows up, steals the goods, and death ensues.

the expendables 2 review 3

It’s a decisive moment. The Expendables hold a brief funeral for a fallen friend and vow revenge, pursuing the Sangs into the former-Soviet countryside for some of the ol’ ultra violence. Stallone’s unintentionally hilarious eulogy—“Why is it the ones that deserve to die that go on living?” Ugh.—threatens to plunge back into the first movie’s weird melancholy. Up to that point, it’s been scenes like having Jet Li jump out of a plain before Statham says, “That’s real Chinese take out!” Stallone and Richard Wenk’s script sticks the landing though, doubling down on schtick and saving some melodrama for big showdowns.

Director Simon West (The Mechanic, Con Air), who takes over directing duties from Stallone, does a yeoman’s job as well, setting up action scenes that are grotesquely violent while remaining intelligible. Expendables 2 rightly calls back to an era of action filmmaking where scenes weren’t diced into millisecond bits of shaky cam footage, and the flow of set piece after set piece isn’t exhausting as a result. 

Conclusion

Like all decadent meals though, you start to feel a little sick by the end. The last 20 minutes of the movie is, to put it mildly, overindulgent with Schwarzenegger, Willis, and Chuck Norris joining the Expendables for an Albanian airport shootout. The burger would be bad enough for you with just buns, but the Triple Bypass needs those grilled cheese sandwiches to make it extra special. Expendables 2’s equivalent is Schwarzenegger and Willis driving a doorless smartcar through an airport quoting Terminator and Die Hard lines at one another.

That’s fine though. Nothing wrong with a little overindulgence. The Expendables 2 is gluttonous, yes, but that’s the point. Few movies are as honest about their hedonism, and in that regard alone, Stallone’s follow up is a success.

Movies & TV

New 'Mandalorian' photo links series to Boba Fett and 'Star Wars Holiday Special'

Jon Favreau's live-action Star Wars series planned for Disney's streaming video service will be titled The Mandalorian. The series will be one of the most expensive television shows ever made. Here's everything we know about it so far.
Movies & TV

'Avengers 4' directors signal the end of reshoots with mysterious photo

The events of Avengers: Infinity War changed the Marvel Cinematic Universe in some big ways and left fans wondering how its heroes can possibly recover. Here's everything we know about Avengers 4, the sequel to Infinity War.
Movies & TV

Celebrate the 25th anniversary of ‘The X-Files’ with the show’s 10 best episodes

The X-Files premiered 25 years ago, so here are the 10 best episodes of the award-winning sci-fi series. From alien-abduction drama to hilarious satires, these are the best episodes from all 11 seasons of the hit series.
Movies & TV

'Spider-Man: Far From Home' photos and video reveal Spidey's new costume

Despite some mystery surrounding Spider-Man's future after the events of Avengers: Infinity War, Spider-Man: Far From Home swings into theaters in July 2019. Here's everything we know about the movie so far.
Movies & TV

Latest 'Daredevil' season 3 preview puts the spotlight on Wilson Fisk

Season 3 of Daredevil will premiere October 19 on Netflix, so here is everything we know about the next set of adventures featuring Marvel Comics' man without fear before the third season's debut.
Home Theater

Put your home theater to the test with these spectacular Blu-ray releases

What's the point of having all of that awesome home theater gear if you can't breed a little jealousy in your friends and family? We've put together this list of fantastic Blu-rays that have the goods to drop a few jaws.
Movies & TV

Peter Dinklage gets cryptic about two 'Game of Thrones' characters' fates

With the eighth and final season looming, Game of Thrones fever has officially become a pandemic. Our list of all the relevant news and rumors will help make the wait more bearable -- if you don't mind spoilers.
Movies & TV

Never miss a moment of the NBA season with our streaming guide

The NBA season is in full swing, and if you want to watch games online, you've got plenty of options. Here's our guide to the best ways to watch NBA games online, as well as some additional resources.
Home Theater

Cutting the cord? Let us help you find the best service for live TV streaming

There's a long list of live TV streaming services available to help you cut the cord and replace your traditional TV subscription. Each is different in important ways, and this guide will help you find the best one for you.
Home Theater

What’s new on Amazon Prime Video (November 2018)

Amazon Prime Video adds new titles each month that are available for free to all Prime members. Check out our list to find all the content hitting Amazon Prime Video in October and November 2018, from new original series to classic films.
Home Theater

From game consoles to 4K UHD spinners, these are the best Blu-ray players

Streaming may be popular, but the disc isn't dead yet! To get the very best picture and sound quality from your system, you need to be watching Blu-ray or 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. Here are the best Blu-ray players you can buy right now.
Home Theater

What’s new on Hulu and what’s leaving in November 2018

Our complete list of what's new on Hulu for November 2018, our personal favorites, and which titles will be removed will help you catch up on all the site has to offer -- and ensure you don't miss any titles heading into the streaming…
Movies & TV

Deepfake A.I. puts a young Harrison Ford into ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’

A video created using the A.I.-driven Deepfake image-synthesis technique offers a look at what Solo: A Star Wars Story would have looked like with a young Harrison Ford in the lead role.
Movies & TV

MoviePass saga: Parent company investigated for allegedly misleading investors

Troubled subscription-based movie service MoviePass is making headlines on a daily basis lately, and not in a good way. Here's a timeline of events for the company once described as Netflix for movie theaters.