The problem with Expendables 2 is that there was an Expendables 1. Even for a brain-bypass B-movie, its predecessor was a lumpen thing that took itself far too seriously and didn't have enough fun with its old boys' reunion of 80s action stars.
In that earlier chapter, Bruce Willis and Arnie barely figured in a film where Sly Stallone was mercenary squad leader Barney Ross as well as being director and delivering lacklustre action that couldn't distract from a very silly story set down South America way.
This time Willis and Schwarzenegger are more prominent. With Willis as the shadowy CIA guy and Schwarzenegger as another ageing soldier of fortune, the pair help give this the funnybone that part one couldn't find.
Stallone might still be on script duties, but this is directed by action-seasoned Simon West (Con Air, Lara: Croft Tomb Raider) who gives this second mission a bit more bang for its buck as it heads to Bulgaria via the backroads of Albania after an early stop-off in Nepal.
Other improvements? Jean-Claude Van Damme's vaguely Eastern European terrorist is a very boo/hiss-worthy villain as he goes about a fiendish plutonium plan with due ruthlessness; new gal Yu Nan effectively replaces a jettisoned Jet Li as the squad's Asian rep; and just when you thought the movie had quite enough blasters from the past, up pops Chuck Norris to quadruple the body count.
Of course, it's ropey in all sorts of ways - its madly exciting opening sequence involves busting someone out of a "Nepal" where frankly nothing or no one looks Nepalese. And when Barney's team head to Albania, they go dressed in clobber that looks like French Resistance hand-me-downs because it's like, Europe.
Funnily enough, the squad soon end up in a supposed abandoned former Eastern Bloc military base with mocked-up American city streets - just like a film backlot - for one of the film's many splatter-happy firefights where, curiously the Euro-baddies' aim is just as off as the Nepalese baddies' was earlier.
Adding to the entertainment factor is that many of Stallone's serious lines - well the ones that can still be made out after the verbal mangling - are just beautifully stupid. His eulogy over a fallen comrade is this film's greatest unintended rolling-in-the-aisle moment.
Thankfully there are also jokes that were jokes all along, predictably many based on some very familiar catchphrases from those action movie good old days. They help make Expendables 2 far more fun than first time round, and just as dumb.
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Director: Simon West
Rating: R16 graphic violence
Running Time: 102 minutes
Verdict: Just as dumb but far more fun
- TimeOutBy Russell Baillie @RBaillieNZH Email Russell