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The Expendables 2' explodes

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Action homage/parody full of exciting excess

How many action stars can comfortably fit in a film?

Sylvester Stallone seems bound and determined to find out with 'The Expendables 2,' the second installment in Stallone's ongoing deconstruction of the 1980s action film. The first movie felt like a bit of a novelty, but for this second one to succeed, Stallone was going to have to take things to the next level.

So he did.

Stallone is back as Barney Ross, leader of a ragtag (yet curiously well-outfitted) band of mercenaries. Pretty much everyone else is back too, including Jason Statham ('Safe') as Lee Christmas, Barney's trusted lieutenant. Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren; 'Stash House'), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews; TV's 'The Newsroom') and Toll Road (Randy Couture; 'Hijacked') are all back on board as well. Yin Yang (Jet Li; 'The Sorcerer and the White Snake') is also back, though it's more of an extended cameo. There's also new team member Billy (Liam Hemsworth; 'The Hunger Games'), a kid who's just looking to make some cash and build a life with his French fiance.

I think we all know how this is going to play out.

After an absolutely ridiculous opening sequence involving the rescue of both a Chinese billionaire and fellow mercenary Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger; Governor of California), Barney is once again approached by the enigmatic Mr. Church (Bruce Willis; 'Moonrise Kingdom'). This time, Church wants Barney and his team to track down a device that contains the location of five tons of weapons grade plutonium forgotten by the Soviets after the end of the Cold War.

However, Church isn't the only one looking for that information. The sinister Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme; 'Dragon Eyes') is also after the map. He ambushes the Expendables and takes what he wants, as well as giving the team good reason to seek vengeance.

Which they do. With extreme prejudice.

Oh, and just as a by the way? Chuck Norris is in this movie as well.

What Stallone and director Simon West ('The Mechanic') have done is take the world established in the first film and escalate it drastically. 'The Expendables 2' is action-packed to a ludicrous degree. Dozens of explosions and hundreds upon hundreds of bullets are unleashed; the henchman body count is massive, but our heroes rarely receive a scratch.

What makes the movie work other than the glorious violence, of course is the sense of self-awareness inherent to the film. The dialogue is rife with snappy banter and one-liners. Chuck Norris jokes are made to Chuck Norris. Dolph Lundgren's real-life chemical engineering background is built into his character. At one point, not only does Schwarzenegger drop a couple of his own classic lines, but he and Willis even have a moment where they trade catchphrases.

'The Expendables 2' is a lot of fun to watch in no small part because everyone involved is clearly having a hell of a good time themselves. The unapologetically over-the-top nature of the film is fantastic to watch, even if you find yourself occasionally shaking your head in disbelief. Five minutes in, Stallone has already taken down a helicopter with a motorcycle at that point, you're either in or you're out.

If you're like me, you were quickly, gloriously in. What plot there is doesn't really matter. 'The Expendables 2' is sort of a proto-action movie; it has boiled the genre down to its most basic before rebuilding it in its own image. It simultaneously skewers and celebrates the clichs of the form.

It's a reflection of a reflection of a reflection. With explosions.

5 out of 5

Last modified on Thursday, 30 August 2012 09:42


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