Article by: Coop Cooper
A.K.A. The Small Town Critic
Coming straight off of a successful mission in Asia, The Expendables mercenary team captained by Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) returns to their home base of New Orleans only to find CIA spook Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) waiting for them. Barney owes Church 5 million dollars, so the team is strong-armed into a simple hijack mission which takes a bad turn when the villainous Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) intercepts them. Out for revenge, they track Vilain to a remote area of Russia where they learn he plans to sell a massive amount of plutonium on the black market.
For mercenaries, these guys are too darned nice. Over the course of the film, they risk their lives and lose a lot to save hundreds, maybe thousands of people, without really getting paid. Big-name characters show up out of nowhere to save their rear-ends on multiple occasions. The obligatory one-liners are cheesy, the action is out of control and the entire ridiculous movie is a larf… but it has to be seen to be believed.
Stallone and Jason Statham rule the roost in this film, so they obviously get all the meaty scenes. It is also obvious the two actors have great chemistry because they have such terrific, humorous banter between them. Although Dolph Lundgren played a psychotic villain in the last film and a lunkheaded loser in this one, it’s nice to see him get more scenes than most of the characters as it made him strangely likeable and goofy. Up-and-comer British martial arts actor Scott Adkins has a minor but intense role in the film as Statham’s final nemesis.
Most of the lesser action stars get few lines. Jet Li and Liam Hemsworth get the least amount of screen time. Terry Crews and Randy Couture get the least amount of dialogue. The wonderful Charisma Carpenter is almost completely unused. What might surprise most viewers is how, despite their large presence in the trailers, three of the biggest action stars get so little to do (again). Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Chuck Norris pop in to shoot a few guns, wink at the audience then exit. I swear their agents must have had a three-way brawl just to ensure their clients got an equal amount of cameo screen time. Their characters kept saying “we are too old for this” but their attitudes seemed to suggest they were either ready for a comeback or looking forward to an eminent retirement.
The real surprise here is how easily Van Damme stole the movie right out from under all of those big names. In his heyday, he was no slouch and a personal favorite of mine but something about the guy has matured into a potential comeback kid. He turned down the first “Expendables” to do a film called “JCVD” which many thought would be an egotistic riff on his life as an actor. Instead it shocked everyone with his sincere portrayal of himself and the emotional range he possesses. Now, as a villain in this franchise, he has come full circle. Those shocked to see him as a villain may not remember that’s how he started out. He played intimidating villains in his first two major roles in “No Retreat, No Surrender” (1986) and “Black Eagle” (1988). His villainous role in this film was so much fun, I’m surprised none of the other big names fought over it. Or maybe Van Damme has become so skilled, he made it that way.
The ending gives the clear indication a third sequel is planned. While some will not return, I’m sure a few absent actions stars are being groomed to fill in. They will probably use some wrestler-actors like The Rock or John Cena. A few minor league martial arts stars like Olivier Gruner, Jeff Speakman or Don “The Dragon” Wilson are probably available, and desperate, to step in. Let’s not forget the series has yet to acquire the most obvious of the absent action stars (and now an actual law enforcement officer/blues musician/Buddhist Lama), Steven Seagal. I imagine money and ego will determine whether he joins “The Expendables” in the future.
The movie is as outrageous as the cast and only a minor technical improvement compared to the original. But you have to see it. With this cast, how can you not?
Rating: 3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars