With all of its European intrigue, its wild shoot-outs, and its lantern-jawed fighting men, The Expendables 2 reminded me of a 1980s movie. But that movie, alas, is Top Secret.
Top Secret, an Airplane-style spoof of WW II action flicks, was only slightly wilder and more ridiculous than the sequel to Sly Stallone’s surprise 2010 blockbuster and career relaunch. The Expendables 2 features hundreds of interchangeable baddies who repeatedly pop up in front of our heroes, present their chests and heads for strafing, and fall obligingly to the ground in bloody lumps of meat. But E2 is slightly more enjoyable than the crashing, thumping mess that was the original, because it is at least aware of its own absurdity. Also it features more footage of Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, two stars who were barely in the first one and have never been guilty (as Stallone has, many times) of taking themselves too seriously. Put it this way, any movie that features these three actors standing hip to hip blasting away the scum of the earth isn’t all bad.
E2 begins with a robustly choreographed breakout/shootout/chase scene, in which Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture and Jet Li play a gang of buddy-mercenaries sent in to Nepal to rescue a hostage who is about to be tortured. It would be giving away some of the fun to say who they’re after, but as the lads ram into an enemy encampment (with a steel girder affixed to their Hummer on which the words “knock knock” are written), freely express their feelings with ammunition, and use a motorcycle to take down a helicopter (chopper beats chopper), you’ll have your action-movie quota filled and then some. For the ladies, or people not old enough to remember the Reagan years, there is also a new Expendable: 22-year-old Liam Hemsworth, one of the male leads in The Hunger Games.