The Expendables 2 delivers on every single insane promise you can imagine. It is loud, stupid, funny, and filled with lots of over the top action. It lets some of the world’s most famous action actors chew the same pieces of scenery. The first film did some of that, but was mostly just boring, getting caught up in a bland story. In this sequel, directed by Simon West (Con Air), there’s definitely some of that bland story, and the dialogue is much worse than that of the first film. But when that is juxtaposed with gory, boisterous action set pieces that include exploding heads, flying knives, plane crashes, boat crashes and guns of all shapes and sizes, it’s forgivable and fun.

Adding to the success is a cast that’s even better this time around, as Chuck Norris and Jean Claude Van Damme join the already awesome line-up of Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Jet Li and Randy Couture. Oh, and Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s roles are expanded this time too. West hasn’t reinvented the wheel with The Expendables 2, he’s just shined it up real nice, put spikes and skulls on it and rolled it through the mud. So far, it’s the best action film of the year.

A previous knowledge of the first film isn’t necessary to enjoy this second one. From frame one that’s obvious as we’re immediately launched into a huge action battle featuring the Expendables. No setup needed. The rest of this movie, however, does to establish some story, so after the electrifying first 15 minutes the action comes to a screeching halt. Thankfully, West pushes our patience right to the edge before turning up the action again, introducting our villain (Van Damme), a rogue hero (Norris), two of Stallone’s colleagues (Schwarzenegger and Willis) and even a female member of the team, played by Nan Yu.

But besides action that’s only matched in audacity this year by The Raid: Redemption, what really helps The Expendables 2 rise above its predecessor is Liam Hemsworth. His role as Billy the Kid, the defacto little brother of the team, humanizes not only the characters, but also the film’s mission. His performance isn’t particularly strong, but his mere presence is a nice ground wire for all the really stupid things, such as laughable references to Die Hard, Rambo, Terminator, and Chuck Norris memes. The film is totally aware that it’s there just to “give you your money’s worth.” This time around you most certainly get that, even if it’s a bad movie by all practices and standards.

Fans of ’80s action films and stars, or simply just gratuitous violence, are sure to be pleased by The Expendables 2. The nostalgia, self-awareness and energy is too fun to ignore. It’s designed to be stupid and dumb, but the fact that it has the tiniest heartbeat, too, makes it that much better.

/Film rating: 7.5 out of 10

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