The Expendables II

WRITTEN BY: Richard Wenk, Sylvester Stallone
STARRING: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Liam Hemsworth
RATING: 3.5 stars

The Expendables II is more like a spoof film and Hollywood's favourite action stars are playing caricatures of themselves. It is unashamedly full of lame one-liners, mass shootings, buildings and cars getting blown up in fantastical style and the bad guys dying in gruesome ways with lots of blood spilled. Never mind the fact that the plot is ridiculous – you're not really going to watch this film for the story. Unlike the original film, which took itself a little more seriously, the sequel is just plain fun. Everything from the explosions to the muscles are bigger.

The film begins with Church (Bruce Willis) calling on Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his team to collect the contents of a safe from a plane crash. But, the team is ambushed by a crew led by Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) who kills one of the expendables team members during his escape. Ross wants revenge and Church off his back, so the team goes after Vilain to make sure a large amount of weapons-grade plutonium does not fall into the wrong hands. When Stallone says the plan is to “Track 'em, find 'em, kill 'em”, you know he means it.

What makes the film so much fun is that it is a continuous flow of winks, nudges, quips and cameos. I could see most of them coming from a mile away and yet, I still had a chuckle and applauded with the rest of the audience during some of the best moments, like the reference to the Chuck Norris meme craze. However, some film references were taken too far and did not even make sense. I won't spoil any of them for you, suffice to say, you'll probably roll your eyes at a few of the one-liners related to Terminator and Die Hard.

Of all the action heroes in this film, Van Damme is probably my least favourite historically, but he is the perfect villain in The Expendables II and shows he can still do his famous round-house kick. It's a shame he didn't get to go up against Jet Li or Jason Statham, but he does have a great climactic fight scene with Stallone, who also packs a mean punch. Statham is his usual sexy, charismatic self, which will please women who may get dragged to see the film by their boyfriends/husbands, while Liam Hemsworth provides the eye candy for younger girls.

Then there is Dolph Lundgren who continues playing the mad scientist brute (his character is a chemical engineer in a nod to his real life degree). Norris' introduction as Booker is also fantastic and there are more than a few “lone ranger” references. Willis and Schwarzenegger, who have always been my favourite action heroes, get bigger roles in this film and fight alongside each other with Stallone in a scene that makes you want to cheer at finally seeing them all kicking arse together.

Unfortunately, the film lacks character development so the only reason you care about the heroes is because you like the actors. That's not really the making of a good film, but even that can be overlooked when you get wrapped up in the excitement of the fight scenes that include decapitations, blood, guts and explosions. A third film has already been planned and I can't wait to see who else they bring into the franchise.