“The Expendables 2”: Double the action, half as much fun


Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables was a guilty treat, the cinematic equivalent of junk food, and an enjoyable trip down memory lane for a generation of movie fans (mostly male) who were raised on cheesy 1980’s action films: the Cold War, explosions, muscles, martial arts and general mayhem.

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Directed by Stallone, it ploughed familiar Western/Action territory: the good guys travel to a fictional South American country to help downtrodden villagers in their struggle against an evil dictator (backed by an evil renegade CIA type: Eric Roberts, having much fun)

It was silly, over the top nonsense, high on testosterone, low on common sense. At least it had the guts (no pun) not to pretend it was PG rated.

There was blood, bone-crunching, knives, guns and explosions. As an action hero, even for his advanced years, Stallone is still somewhat credible. He huffs and puffs his way through the film and he should  win the AARP award for physical fitness.

He got his old restaurant-owning buddies Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis to make a cameo appearance.

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It was a huge hit, and Stallone and the boys got together again for a sequel.

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This time, they travel to Albania to help downtrodden villagers in their struggle against an evil warlord: the Muscles from Brussels himself, Jean Claude Van Damme. Fans of JCVD were happy to see him; he doesn’t do any dancing, though.

Stallone left the directing job to veteran action director Simon West (Con Air, Lara Croft). Schwarzenegger and Willis both return, as does another 80s right wing action icon: Chuck Norris (with a beard that looks painted on). Chuck even told a Chuck Norris joke.

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It’s silly and violent, there’s wisecracking galore (“I’ll be back”; “Who’s next, Rambo?”, etc.) But it really isn’t very good. Jet Li is criminally underused. No matter. It made a fortune. They’re now making a third in the series. Having mined the action heroics of Jet Li, Jason Statham, Norris, Van Damme, Arnold and Bruce, the third film will include Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, and Wesley Snipes. It won’t include Willis, however.

Question: will it include another pensioner, His Flabbiness, Steven Seagal, who still makes 1980s-type action films?

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