Bunch of old bat­tlers still blitz­ing bad­dies



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.

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