Bunch of old battlers still blitzing baddies
THE EXPENDABLES 2
There are two cliches that any pop culture addicted 80s kid grew up believing to be the Truth – one, that ‘‘East’’ was where you went to learn the mystical arts of chopping someone’s head off with your little pinkie, and two, that ‘‘East’’ was where you went to find an endless supply of AK47-toting faceless gang bangers in need of immediate righteous decapitation.
So is it written in the Action Flick Bible according to Sylvester Stallone. And such does his Holiness, Saint Sly – toter of guns, deliverer of justice, rescuer of women and small fluffy animals – still believe makes for guilt-free entertainment. He’s wrong, of course. But for nostalgia’s sake, it sure feels right.
When Barney Ross (Stallone) is strong- armed into leading his boys on a ‘ secret’ mission to retrieve something ‘secret’ from China by CIA handler Mr Church ( Bruce Willis) he expects it to be a cakewalk.
Naturally it isn’t and the baby of Ross’s band of hardened mercenaries winds up dead. The machinations of shady government agencies and even more shady Eastern European warlords just got personal.
Blasting their way from Nepal, China and deepest darkest post communist Bulgaria, Ross and his team (now with token girl!) must avenge Baby Hired Killer and stop the dastardly plans of the evilest villain to ever cackle maniacally, make creepy threats and give all his plans away at the drop of a hat. Villain – yes, that really is the bad guy’s name – is played with straight faced gusto by Jean Claude Van Damme, who I’m not sure is aware the 80s are in fact over.
His body definitely isn’t, if his head-high kicks are anything to go by. It’s a pity he doesn’t get more screen time. But as ever, the star of the show is Stallone, whose idea it was to gather the craggy-faced heroes of the 80s together for one last shot at glory.
With a tried and true formula, and literally every action star of yesteryear on the bill, I defy anyone over 30 not to get a little kick out of this film. Maybe I watched Expendables 2 through the rosy tinted glasses of nostalgia – I was never a huge Stallone fan, but Arnold Schwarzenegger, who pops up as lone operative Trench, was the Top Dog in the pantheon of my youth, right up until he made Junior – or perhaps I just really like it when stuff (and people and fluffy animals on occasion) get improbably blown up, but Expendables 2 was a hoot.
It isn’t art, it isn’t even good film-making. I think director Simon West ( Con Air, Tomb Raider) needs a remedial class in ‘Where’s the focus on this thing?’ and ‘ Framing – What Not To Do.’
But there’s a genuine laugh to be had in seeing this ragtag group of old battlers blitzing a mountain of faceless baddies with just as much machismo and bravura as they did 30 years ago.
Unlike the first Expendables film the guys here seem to be enjoying the second bite of the chaos and mayhem cherry they’ve been given. The Statham/ Stallone bromance is as charmingly lame as ever, and watching Schwarzenegger and Willis’s busted up Odd Couple shtick is at times hilarious. As Barney Ross would say, it ain’t much, but it’s what we got. And I am happy for the brief trip back to my carnagecovered youth.
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Jean Claude Van Damme, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris. Screenplay by Richard Wenk, Sylvester Stallone, directed by Simon West. 142 minutes, R16 (violence). Showing at Reading Cinemas Porirua. 80’s revival: Someone call the 1980s, Jean Claude Van Damme wants his movie career back.