Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, Scott Adkins, Nan Yu, Amanda Ooms, Charisma Carpenter, Nikolette Noel
Written by: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Wenk, based on a story by David Agosto, Ken Kaufman, Richard Wenk
Directed by: Simon West
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence throughout
Running Time: 103
Date: 08/08/2012

The Expendables 2 (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Simon West replaces Sylvester Stallone at the helm of the Expendables franchise, although Stallone still co-wrote the screenplay. Whatever the dynamic of this new combination, it magically fixed most of the problems of the first movie. This sequel is less cruel and vicious than the last time out, and now concentrates more on explosive, cartoony violence. Improbably, given West's grim track record, the action is much clearer and more effective.

After an explosive "teaser" to kick things off, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his team of "Expendables" (Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, and Liam Hemsworth) are called in to pay off a debt; their mission is to retrieve some classified information from a safe in the wreckage of a downed plane. Martial artist Maggie (Nan Yu) comes along to help. Unfortunately, the sinister Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) steals the intel -- the secret location of a store of plutonium -- and puts it to use. Worse, he also kills one of Barney's team members. So the team vows revenge, hopefully saving the world at the same time. Jet Li, Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger join the fun from time to time.

Characters are given more time to interact and banter, which seems impossible given that there are even more characters this time around. Stallone and West give the team plenty of downtime between shootouts to talk about things like last meals. Strangely, the soundtrack is peppered with rather gentle, old pop tunes ("Groovin'," "Crystal Blue Persuasion," etc.), which works wonderfully with the movie's flow. Some silly jokes turn up from time to time, and Stallone still has nothing to say about the action genre in general, but The Expendables 2 is still a great deal of fun.
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