Movie review: The Expendables 2 delivers classic action movie punch

By J. Almendarez

Simon West’s “The Expendables 2” is every bit of the macho, ass kicking movie one can expect from a flick featuring some of the biggest action movie heroes of all time.

In this installment of “The Expendables,” Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his team of retired military men turned mercenaries pay a debt to Mr. Church (Bruce Willis), which they incur in the first “Expendable”s movie.

The task is seemingly simple: Retrieve merchandise from a downed plane in a relatively peaceful faraway land. But to get the merchandise, they must join forces with attractive newcomer Maggie Chan (Yu Nan), who is needed to the crack the code of a safe on the plane.

In a fashion true to late 80s and early 90s shoot ‘em up classics, nothing goes as planned. The team is bested by the Sanks, a cartel for hire headed up by Jean Vilian (Jean-Claude Van Damme).

The confrontation is the epicenter of the entire movie. Audience members moaned and wiggled in disappointment to see heroes such as Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) and Hale Ceasar (Terry Crews) bend to the will of the enemy. It’s simply not what we’d expect our saviors to do, but their motivation for literally belly crawling in front of the cartel is enough to make it work. While it was painful to watch, it was even more painful to witness a member of the crew murdered with Ross’ own knife.

This instigates the vengeful remainder of the film described by Ross in a thick voice as being, “Track ‘em. Find ‘em. Kill ‘em.”

But, what makes this film a four-star winner? Why is it any different than the latest “Mission Impossible” or comic book hero movie?

Ummm … did I mention it also features Jet Li, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dolph Lundgren?

Now, I know what the typical moviegoer is asking themselves right now: “Who cares? Those guys are struggling to relive long gone glory days in a cheesy collaboration meant to earn enough money to last them into their old age.”

Is this true? Maybe.

But that cheese never looked so good.

The movie portrays Stallone, 66, with an amazingly realistic and rugged sexiness. He has the same appeal to the viewer as he did in early films “Rambo” and “Rocky.” The same goes for all of the stars. Willis is 57 years old, but that doesn’t stop him from believably driving the getaway car. Li is 49, but it seems completely plausible that he could destroy a room full of armed villains with two cooking pans. And, let’s not forget Chuck Norris’ cameo as The Lone Wolf. The man appears in the film for literally no reason at all, but his illogical appearance is completely vindicated because he’s Chuck freaking Norris. The movie would be worth seeing solely for the opportunity to hear his godlike lips confidently deliver a Chuck Norris “fact.” Every single character in this movie boasts charisma that ranks off the charts.

The fight scene choreography is original and colorfully done. It implements not just big guns and devices that go bang, but old school fighting tools such as brass knuckles and chains.

Even the last hand-to-hand fight scene featuring Stallone and Van Damme, though incredibly predictable, prompted loud hoots and cheers from the audience.

The movie is an admittedly action/comedy flick, though.

There are gimmicky one-liners, such as, “If I don’t get this back, you’re terminated.” (Guess who that line was delivered to.) There are also several “I’ll be back” references, but that doesn’t take away from the storyline. It only adds to it because they literally creates a movie of whoop-ass based, in part, in allusions to other movies of whoop-ass. And, somehow, the silliness is not overdone.

The only part of the movie that could have been completely deleted is the character Maggie. While she does have a few opportunities to show off her combat skills, her main role is to be the poorly developed, almost love interest of Ross. It’s not that she’s a bad actress, but the movie didn’t need her, and the audience is left wondering why the heck this nobody is along for the ride with so many somebodies.

So, if you think Stallone finagling a motorcycle to take down a helicopter is cheesy, don’t see the movie. But, if you’re not bothered that 50 shots are fired at close range at your action stars without consequence, you’ll love it.

Perhaps you’ll even love it enough to get amped about “The Expendables 3,” which is rumored to be courting additional cast members Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes and Nicolas Cage. Yeah, I know.

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