Now he's back and redeemed. Maybe that was just a superficial gaping chest wound he had.
Simon West has taken over the director's chair from Stallone. He's somehow managed to amp up the violence, a pretty mean feat.
The Expendables 2 is a cascade of explosions and blood splatter. Bad guys are decapitated, eviscerated, and vaporized. The plot is basically the same as in the first film. The guys put down a viciously repressive military junta halfway around the world, and then, on their second mission, things get personal.
The bonus in this film is the parade of aging action-film guest stars who join in the festivities. It's like a bath of stale testosterone as these Hollywood tough guys from the '80s swap references to their most famous movie lines. Their individual entrances are the primary pleasure of The Expendables 2, so let's not spoil the fun.
Even the villain is a former matinee muscle man. It's Jean-Claude Van Damme. The film makes a fetish of high-ordnance weapons, but Stallone's Barney Ross still favors the old rock-'em-sock-'em style. His final bare-knuckle showdown with Van Damme is a furious battle of the body doubles.
With this film, the Expendables franchise (can I really be saying this?) finds its formula and takes on unavoidable momentum. Nice to know America's action stars, no matter how old they get, will never lack for gainful employment.
The Expendables 2 ** (out of four stars)
Directed by Simon West, with Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Nan Yu, Liam Hemsworth, Terry Crews, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Randy Couture, Chuck Norris, and Jet Li. Distributed by Lionsgate.
Running time: 102 minutes.
Parent's guide: R (vulgar language, heavy violence, gore)
Playing at: area theaters