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The Expendables 2 Review

Director: Simon West

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Nan Yu, Liam Hemsworth, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis

Running time: 102 minutes

Certificate: 15

Synopsis: When a member of his team is murdered on a routine job, Barney (Stallone) leads them into hostile territory on a mission of revenge…

Though both franchises were long thought dead, the belated ROCKY BALBOA and RAMBO both proved surprise successes. Comeback kid Sly Stallone struck the balance just right – part back to basics, part nostalgic fun, both movies proved that even after all this time, you can’t beat a good old fashioned punch up. Having apparently cracked the formula after years of misfires, Sly’s THE EXPENDABLES – stocked with muscle-bound action stars from past and present – should have also been a absolute banger of a movie. But it was no such thing; in fact, it was bloody terrible. Never one to let poor reviews stop him from churning out a sequel, Sly and his team of mercenaries are back, this time padded out with even more old school B-movie stars, looking to put right that which should never have gone wrong in the first place.

It seems that the original problem was indeed balance, or more precisely a lack of it. For THE EXPENDABLES 2, Sly and director Simon West have realized there’s no way all these stars can come together without sticking tongue into cheek with a big fuck-off shiny knife. There’s a marked change in tone this time around, and far more of the action is played for laughs. From the offset – a sprawling, OTT action sequence – there’s something almost ‘Carry On’ about the movie, underlined with terrible puns and ridiculous stunts. After the first major cameo (which takes all of five minutes), THE EXPENDALES appear to no longer be taking themselves seriously – which is just as well, because nobody else is either.

It is, however, a very muddled affair. Sly and co-writer Richard Wenk are apparently unwilling to fully commit to the self-deprecation, and for the next 30 minutes, everything gets all brooding and deep again. There are still laughs, they’re just totally unintentional, especially as Sly’s Barney and Liam Hemsworth’s goodhearted rookie Billy the Kid shoot the shit about a better life. For a while it looks worryingly like nothing has changed. Was the opening sequence just a fluke – so cheesy and outrageous it appeared as if they’d done it on purpose? After one of Barney’s team is murdered on the job (not sure why he’s so pissed about it – are they not expendable?) the soul searching reaches new levels of terrible.

Mercifully, THE EXPENDABLES’ USP – the collection of stars from years gone by – save the day in more ways than one. Long after it looks like the film is doomed to a similar fate as its predecessor, the tone flips once again, and kicks back into LAST ACTION HERO-mode. Puns, subverted catchphrases, and crowd-pleasing cameos dictate the film’s final act, and there’s no denying it’s a shit-load of fun. The cast this time around is far more engaging (as well as extended roles for Arnie and Willis, Van Damme and Norris are great additions), and even though Sly looks like a lump of elderly wax with a painted-on moustache, you can’t fault his sense of humour here. THE EXPENDABLES 2 is perhaps less of a film than merely an excuse to charge from one self-referential moment to the next and trade off former glories. But once again, Sly’s got the balance pretty much spot on – by the time the former owners of Planet Hollywood are kicking ass and taking names together, you’ll have forgotten it was very nearly the worst film of 2012.

 THE EXPENDABLES 2 arrives in UK cinemas 17th August


Tom Fordy is a writer and journalist. Originally from Bristol, he now lives in London. He is a former editor of The Hollywood News and Loaded magazine. He also contributes regularly to The Telegraph, Esquire Weekly and numerous others. Follow him @thetomfordy.



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