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The Warsaw Voice » World of Movies » September 28, 2012
Film review
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The Expendables 2
September 28, 2012   
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The original “Expendables,” i.e. Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Dolph Lundgren, supported by the slightly younger Jet Li and Jason Statham, were a box-office smash in 2010, earning just under $275 million on a budget of $80 million. The lack of anything approaching an intelligent script proved to be no obstacle. The welter of bullets, explosions, knives whirling through the air, and skillfully choreographed fighting was just unstoppable.

That these cinematic action heroes from the days of VHS cassettes would one day make a triumphant return was not all that hard to predict. The only man of little faith was Jean-Claude Van Damme, who turned down a role in the film. Rumor has it that the Muscles from Brussels quickly came to regret his decision and spent the next few months relentlessly pestering the producers until he eventually wore them down and landed the role as the main baddie in The Expendables 2.

Mickey Rourke is the only one of the rest of the original cast absent from the follow-up, although the film is hardly the worse for that. Chuck Norris has stepped into the breach and shows no restraint in sending himself up, even going so far as repeating jokes that have been doing the rounds on the web for years. It should go without saying that three “expendables” can prove to be more than a match for half a battalion in between their soliloquizing. Willis and Schwarzenegger show a similar bent for satirizing themselves by stealing the best known lines from earlier films, e.g. “I’ll be back” (the Terminator series) and “Yippee-ki yay” (the Die Hard series).

The plot can be summed up in a couple of sentences. After yet another successful mission (this time freeing a Chinese millionaire from a gang of terrorists somewhere in Nepal), Barney Ross (Stallone) and his team are made an offer they cannot refuse by Mr. Church (Willis). Church is exceptionally dissatisfied with the contract they carried out at his behest and which made up the story of The Expendables. This time, they are to find a crashed plane somewhere in Europe. On board is a secret safe containing an electronic map revealing the location of a Soviet mine where 5 tons of plutonium—refined and ready to go into a nuclear warhead—have been stashed. All does not proceed according to plan. A group of criminals led by Jean Vilain (Van Damme) make off with the map after killing one of the group. The rest of the film is about the payback.

This time round, Stallone vacates the director’s chair for Simon West (Con Air, Tomb Raider), although he did help write the script. The latter makes even less sense than in the first installment. Any semblance of logic is conspicuously absent but would in any case be wasted on the category of cinemagoer whose sensibilities the producers had in mind. But films like this—witness the Rambo series, Commando, Universal Soldier and Cobra—have been blowing away audiences all over the world for decades. They have made bucketloads of money and won a legion of diehard fans. In fact, the stars of The Expendables 2 owe them their stardom. The scoffers could do worse than mull over the words of the great Russian writer Gogol who wrote in The Government Inspector: “What are you laughing at? You are laughing at yourselves.”
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