The Expendables 2 (15) 102 mins ***
If you think about it – which wasn’t strictly necessary – 2010’s The Expendables was the bloke equivalent of New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day: one of those multi-star packages Hollywood now thinks is offering VFM, it dispatched three decades’ worth of action beefcake on a mission familiar from countless straight-to-video titles. This marginally improved sequel sees a personnel shuffle: with Mickey Rourke deemed truly expendable, and Jet Li doing the minimum required for his paycheque, in come feisty female Yu Nan and Famous Belgian Jean-Claude van Damme, rescued from beer-ad hell as the lizardy Eurovillain hindering Sly’s heroes in their attempts to retrieve something-or-other from the wreckage of a downed plane.
The script remains a liability, lurching between plot strands and locations – airport hangars! Balkan plutonium mines! – pulled from the same mothballs as the leading men. Yet Con Air’s Simon West has upped the action, directing with a straightfacedness you’ll either warm to or giggle over, and likely enjoy some way: the high-slash-lowpoint may be Liam Hemsworth’s mid-air lost dog monologue, though Stallone’s moving elegy to a fallen comrade (“TRACK ‘UM, FIND ‘UM, KILL ‘UM”) runs it close. By no conventional definition a good movie, it’s nevertheless weirdly robust: however inclined one might be to point and laugh, E2 soldiers on regardless.
The Expendables 2 is in cinemas nationwide.