Sylvester Stallone is on a mission. Contrary to the bulging roster of superstars in The Expendables 2, matched only by Terry Crews' bulging biceps, it's not to gather every action hero of the last twenty years all in one place. Instead he seems to be aiming to recreate the glory and grit of the old school "action era", a time without CGI and green screen special effects. Let's just say that Justin Timberlake doesn't fit in the world Stallone hails from. It's a guilty pleasure world of mindless violence, nonsensical plots and random villains of random ethnicity. 2010, Stallone put together an all-star crew for what would ultimately be a disappointing effort, but with The Expendables 2 he finally gets the highly combustible formula right.
At one time it was inconceivable to picture Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Willis all in one place, so when the they barely shared any screen time before it was such a massive letdown. We see the three in action together a lot more this time around, and while almost none of it makes any sense, it's simply too awesome when all three screen legends are unloading a hail of gunfire and trading awful one-liners. These guys practically invented making bad one-liners cool, and even in their advanced age they've still got the goods.
The whole team of colorfully named soldiers are mounted up for action: Barney's right-hand man, Lee Christmas(Jason Statham), Toll Road(Randy Couture), Yin Yang(Jet Li), Gunner Jensen(Dolph Lundgren), Hale Caesar(Terry Crews), and newcomer Billy the Kid(Liam Hemsworth). With so many big personalities, and that's even without Willis and Schwarzenegger, there aren't many opportunities to shine in an ensemble like this. Still, everyone takes advantage of the few chances that arrive. Crews especially is the perfect addition to a movie like this. Out of everyone, he's probably the most imposing, yet he's also the one with the most natural comic gifts.
With Stallone thankfully stepping down as director, Simon West fills in admirably, capturing the huge, bloody violence with an experienced hand. This isn't his first time at the rodeo, having directed movies like Con Air and The Mechanic(also with Statham). The camera's a little chaotic, but staged much better than the last film where it was impossible to tell which Expendable was blowing which bad guy into smithereens. Those who came to see their favorite heroes pounding the stuffing out of somebody, or destroying whole cities under tons of hot lead, will not be disappointed. There's little time to catch your breath in between all the action scenes, most of which are simply out of this world awesome.
Not that anybody was expecting Shakespeare, but the script is pretty horrific. In case you weren't aware that Stallone and Co. are kinda getting up there in age, you'll be reminded of it ad nauseum. Schwarzenegger pops up at various points to drop a well-worn catchphrase or two, and when those run out he starts stealing Willis'. Even Chuck Norris gets in on the fun, playing into the Internet memes that have kept him relevant for years. The biggest disappointment is that the much hyped, long anticipated clash between Stallone and Van Damme is a touch underwhelming. Statham and straight-to-DVD martial artist Scott Adkins slug it out in such a grueling brawl it more than makes up the difference.
The Expendables 2 isn't going to win any awards, and it's far from perfect, but with this many stars all in one place and at the top of their game, it'll be an action movie fan's dream come true.