Instead of a pension, the 66-year-old Sylvester Stallone has discovered a better way to reward the action-film icons of yesteryear: Give them a franchise! The sequel gets even closer to his steroidal ’80s-movie ideal than the original 2010 commando-genre reboot, as Stallone heads a team of mercenaries that includes shoot-’em-up stars of the past (Dolph Lundgren), present (Jason Statham) and possibly future (Liam Hemsworth). Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Van Damme plays a villainous character named Vilain, a mumbling gang leader out to steal six tons of plutonium. Only the crew known as the Expendables, with a geriatric assist from happy-to-be-there heroes Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Chuck Norris, can stop him.
These vein popping he-men proceed to blast away evildoers with howitzer-level firepower, bad puns and homoerotic stare-downs—in short, the holy trinity of Reagan-era cheese. Thankfully, The Expendables 2 also inherits the physicality of that bygone decade’s fight scenes, as director Simon West stages battles with clarity and blunt impact. The highlight is a bruising pas de deux between Statham and direct-to-video star Scott Adkins, a sequence that channels yesteryear’s testosteronized cinema instead of exhuming it. You can only hope the inevitable third entry will use that as a model.
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