By MARK TURNER
If you saw THE EXPENDABLES then you have a clue as to what to expect from any sequel. Lots of explosions, plenty of gunplay and hand-to-hand combat from a group of mercenaries who also tend to have a moral backbone. The first film delivered tons of action to the point that I consider it one of the best action films ever made. It was popular enough that a sequel had to follow. So how does THE EXPENDABLES 2 stack up?
The opening sequence offers up the action quota quite well and we get to see the team in action. We also meet a new member, a sniper by the name of Bill (Liam Hemsworth). Each member is given enough screen time to earn them their paycheck and before the sequence ends, team member Yin (Jet Li) parachutes out of their plane, never to return for the rest of the film.
When they return home ready for some R & R, Barney (Sylvester Stallone) is contacted by Church (Bruce Willis). Unhappy with the outcome from the first film, he tells Barney he has another mission for the team, an easy one that will square things away between them. Mission in hand and the addition of a CIA operative Church sends along, the group sets out for a small European country to retrieve some codes locked in a safe.
The group retrieves the codes and is ready to head out when they're confronted by a problem they weren't warned about. Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and his men have the team surrounded and Bill with a gun to his head. The team can do nothing but give in and surrender the codes. Even though they've complied, Vilain kills Bill in front of them before leaving. Of course this sets the revenge ball rolling and Barney will stop at nothing until he gets the codes back and sees Vilain dead.
The premise for the film is rather simple but that's never been a problem with either film. It's a core story that surrounds itself with tons of action and special effects. That's what these films are all about. That and half a dozen hand to hand combat sequences that would result in work for half the stunt men in the world. These films are action films made for fans and for fun. And the new one delivers, for the most part.
This time around though it feels different. For one the surprise has been taken out of the equation. The first film we all wondered what it would be like to see some of the biggest names in action films from the 80s together on the screen at the same time. We got that and this time around we get it in spades. We have the members of the original cast together again and Willis and Schwarzenegger are even allowed to play with the rest this time around. Not only that, but Van Damme and Chuck Norris are tossed in as well. Norris has an especially funny part in the film. And yet it doesn't feel the same.
Perhaps it's seeing all of our heroes from the past aging just a bit before our eyes even though every one of them still seems fit and perhaps more so than when they were the hottest thing in action films. Maybe it's that the quips and witty one liners we've come to associate with them feel rather old hat here. Yes, they are cute but for me they came up too often. I'm not sure what it is but it made me feel that this film wasn't quite as good as the first one.
That being said it's still a great action film. And seeing Willis, Schwarzenegger and Stallone shooting their way through an airport, all of them in the same shot, was amazing. This is not an action film where you'll find yourself wondering how plausible the movie is or if the situations seen could really happen. This movie is a roller coaster ride that takes you up and down, tosses you around and then makes you want to go for another ride. It's a popcorn movie, plain and simple, and one to be enjoyed for just that reason.
Word is that a third film is in the works. It will be interesting to see what other action stars of the 80s are brought back for this one. Steve Seagal? Mel Gibson? Perhaps they'll choose a different route and bring in action stars of today with the hopes of making this series of films last longer with a new crew taking on bad guys. No one knows except Stallone who's been behind both films. Let's just hope it continues and only gets better with each film.
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