Sylvester Stallone’s character is asked what the plan of attack is against the man responsible for the execution of a fellow “Expendable.” His directive, like the movie itself, is simple.
“Track him. Find him. Kill him.”
That mission – seeking revenge for a fallen comrade – is played to great fun in the action-packed throwback “The Expendables 2.”
Considering the success of its predecessor, it’s no wonder most of the original’s cast returned for more mayhem and violence. Both movies rely on an elemental conceit: bringing a team of well-known action stars together to kick butt onscreen. And this time, a few new stars join the fight including the tough-as-nails Chuck Norris and the undervalued Jean-Claude Van Damme. Liam Hemsworth, who starred in “The Hunger Games” earlier this year, also joins the cast.
As the story begins, the team of highly-trained operatives is sent on a mission to rescue one of their associates. From the first moments of the uneven script, we can see how intense and self-referential the violence is going to be.
Eventually, a mission from the authoritative Church (Bruce Willis) sends the crew and a new ally named Maggie (Nan Yu) to recover some files from a downed airplane. Their task is interrupted when the psychotic villain–appropriately named Vilain (Van Damme)–steals the files and murders an innocent in cold blood.
The story then becomes a revenge tale as Barney (Sylvester Stallone), the leader of the group, decides to seek vengeance against the cold-hearted Vilain.
Unlike other action films, “The Expendables 2” embraces its basic and–at times–ridiculous premise. The film appreciates the fact it was made for moviegoers looking for a certain brand of action movie- a movie that blatantly copies some of the action films of the past.
Fans looking to see their favorite action stars from the ’80s and ’90s work together on the big screen will not be disappointed, especially during the exciting and bloody climax where these stars get to show off their talent for destruction.
Where the movie lacks is in its inability to overcome the shortcomings of its premise. The movie is great when the mega-stars are carrying machine guns, and it also works with its subtle and not-so-subtle nods to some of the biggest films of these star’s careers. But the movie never adds a level of intelligence or depth to the story that would leave audiences intrigued when the action slows down.
For those looking for a great action film or a thoughtful one, “The Expendables 2” is not for them. Fans of these major action stars should rejoice, however, in seeing some of their favorites back on screen showing their appreciation for the personas that made them so alluring and exciting to begin with.
“The Expendables 2” may not be for everyone, but it knows its core audience and offers fans what they have been craving. Those who miss those ’80’s action films will find it more than enough to keep coming back for more.