If ever there was a franchise that knew exactly what it was - and what its core demo wanted - it's these films. The first Expendables was an incoherent mess; a sometimes fun one, but a mess nonetheless. Instead of pulling treble duty again (starring, producing, directing) Stallone co-writes and reprises the lead role as the chief of a ramshackle group of mercenaries, and leaves Con Air director Simon West calling the shots. The resulting film is better whilst simultaneously more ridiculous than the last one. Hey like I said, they know what the people want...
Added to the mix of returnees this time is Liam Hemsworth's sniper, while Chuck Norris' 'Lone Wolf' turns up sporadically to clip vast amounts of bad guys and give a thumbs up - I'm not joking. Arnie and Bruce also pop up, but it's very clear that they only gave their old buddy Sly a few days on set, as they almost as quickly f**k off. The plot is one tainted with revenge as Sly, Statham and their merry mercenaries, track down Van Damme's spin-kicking evil bastard after he kills one of the gang. There's something in there about plutonium and stuff, but I was distracted by all the bullets and explosions... sorry.
Let's say you're a big fan of the Bourne series (not Legacy, obviously) for more than just the hand-to-hand combat scenes; then chances are you'll hate Expendables 2. It borders on parody on more than one occasion, but like that drunk Uncle at a party who people stop laughing with and begin laughing at, why would you point it out when everyone seems to be having a good time?
Stallone was the catalyst for putting this cast together, and he gets the best scenes in this sequel too - or the ones where someone is actually required to act. Hemsworth is surprisingly strong, and Crews and Lundgrenamusing. Randy Couture is wasted, though. For those that aren't familiar with the world of Mixed Martial Arts, Couture is a UFC hall of famer having held titles at Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight; he's not just the toughest guy in this cast, but one of the toughest on the planet - yet for the majority of this film he's wallpaper and never really gets a chance to have a scuffle. Chuck Norris is beginning to look his age and is there for more comedic effect than action, but it's good to see the combat legend has a sense of humour.
Really what it should be. An ultraviolent, narratively nonsensical bit of craic.