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‘Expendables 2’ a cheesy good time

Article Published: Aug. 22, 2012 | Modified: Aug. 24, 2012
‘Expendables 2’ a cheesy good time

From left, Nan Yu, Terry Crews, Sylvester Stallon, Randy Couture and Dolph Lundgren star in
‘The Expendables 2.’

I’ll be honest.

Part of the allure of “The Expendables 2” is seeing a cigar-chomping Arnold Schwarzenegger blast things with a shotgun. It’s his first full role since his stint as the “Governator” was terminated, and it’s good to have him back.

It’s sentiment that’s not missed by star and co-writer Sylvester Stallone, whose objective from the get-go was to celebrate – and recreate – an action film of the ’80s and ’90s, complete with all the to-hell-with-PG-13 trappings that set yesterday’s actioners apart from today’s mostly watered down, safely marketable CGI fests.

Stunts, pyrotechnics, cheesy one-liners have largely been replaced in modern cinema by computer-generated effects and gritty versions of comic-book characters. But were these classic action flicks quality? Well, some more than others, but most of them share something that stretches the definition – fun.

“The Expendables 2” does just that. Bigger, louder and dumber usually don’t spell “improvement,” but the sequel – steeped in nostalgia from popcorn cinema of yore – benefits from all of the above, for better and worse, as well as from a new director in Simon West (2011’s “The Mechanic”), who keeps the high-octane proceedings moving at a brisk, fittingly explosive pace.

Stallone (“First Blood”) returns as mercenary leader Barney Ross, who, with his ragtag team of violent expendables – Lee Christmas (Jason Statham, “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren, “I Come in Peace”), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews, “Idiocracy”), Toll Road (Randy Couture, “Redbelt”), Yin Yang (Jet Li, “Hero”) and newcomers Bill the Kid (Liam Hemsworth, “The Hunger Games”) and Maggie Chang (Nan Yu, “Speed Racer”) – is forced into a mission by CIA agent Church (Bruce Willis, “Die Hard”).

They’re sent to Eastern Europe to recover a mysterious package from a downed aircraft, only to be intercepted by – wait for it – a villain called Vilain, played by Jean-Claude Van Damme (“Kickboxer”), who murders one of the team members and makes off with the loot.

Infuriated and hungry for revenge, Ross and company pursue Vilain, leaving gore and destruction in their wake, and learn that their missing package is, in fact, a map of an abandoned, Cold War-era plutonium stash, buried somewhere in a mine. Vilain and his henchmen have been kidnapping villagers and forcing them to dig, killing those who tire and replacing their stock with women and children.

They’re a cruel and formidable force, but, fortunately, Ross gets a little help from his friends – Arnold Schwarzenegger (“Total Recall”) returning as rival mercenary Trent, Chuck Norris (“Lone Wolf McQuade”) in a cameo as, go figure, a lone-wolf mercenary called Booker, and even Willis’ Church diving into the fray.

At this point, “Expendables 2” could have easily teetered over the brink of narrative chaos, but director West keeps things in check with a tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating and self-referential approach that reminds viewers what they’re watching. Groans are induced when the characters start sharing each other’s catchphrases, but then again, would you have expected to hear Arnold utter Willis’ “Yippee-ki-yay?”

When all these characters converge in the climactic, blood-drenched and carnage-enriched shoot ’em up, it’s pure frantic fun.

The cast performs as you’d expect, with the most marked improvement award going to Lundgren, who delivers a fair share of laughs in this go-around. It’s worth noting, as a fun piece of a trivia, that Lundgren holds a master’s degree in chemical engineering and was a Fulbright scholar at MIT – both of which are referenced in the movie.

“The Expendables 2” is a cheese fest, sure, but, cheese isn’t always a bad thing – it just depends on the meal.

“The Expendables 2,” rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 16-B or visit

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