Let's get one thing straight: Expendables 2 is not a good film. It offers two hours of terrible dialogue, wooden acting and forced cameos. But it's a hell of a lot of fun and the best bad film that you will see all year.
Thankfully, the sequel fixes the mistakes of its disappointing predecessor, which made the crucial error of taking itself too seriously. But Sylvester Stallone has wisely vacated the director's chair for Simon West, director of the ever-enjoyable Con Air, who knows exactly how to approach this type of film. Namely, make the most of the famous faces and low expectations and just have some fun!
And West succeeds. In fact, the first ten minutes of Expendables 2 offers more cheese, more silliness and more ridiculous action than was found in the entirety of its predecessor. Audiences can leave their brains at the door and enjoy Jet Li dispatching henchmen with cooking utensils, Jason Statham disguised as a kick-ass monk, Sly facing off against Jean-Claude Van Damme and Arnold Schwarzenegger ripping the door off a Smart Car. West knows how to deliver action, as do his veteran cast.
Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your sense of humour), the cast cannot deliver dialogue, nor can Stallone write it. The dialogue is comprised of tough guy talk ('Track 'em, find 'em, kill 'em!'), bad puns ('Rest in pieces!'), worse puns ('I now pronounce you man... and knife!') catchphrases ('Yippee ki yay!'), laziness ('You have an ego the size of a dinosaur'), nonsense ('You've been back enough, I'll be back!'), racism (the Chinese woman's favourite meal happens to be crispy aromatic duck) and lifeless banter ('If you need me, call me, or I'll kill you').
The acting is as bad as the dialogue but you knew that already. The only cast member in danger of doing any acting is Liam Hemsworth but they kill him off nice and early to keep the plot moving. On the other side of the acting spectrum is Yu Nan, as newly-appointed technical expert Maggie Chan, who is just plain terrible. Presumably, she was cast to make everyone else look good and anyone who can make Dolph Lundgren look like Marlon Brando is a very rare find indeed.
Naturally, Expendable 2's biggest draw is its wish-fulfilment casting. Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis are both back with thankfully more screen time and Jean-Claude Van Damme is a welcome addition to the cast as the new villain. He can still pull off those flying kicks. Best of all, Chuck Norris pops up in the most insanely crowd-pleasing cameo ever seen on the big screen. Norris rocks up in a baseball cap, dispatches an army single-handedly, tells an actual Chuck Norris joke (!) and then saunters off into the sunset.
Predictably, Sly isn't done yet. Expendables 3 is due to start filming later this year. Sly has been talking big about rounding off the trilogy and shifting the genre to keep audiences engaged, bless him. But over-thinking it would be a mistake. As ever, the credits will be the biggest draw. And with Sly already approaching Steven Seagal, Wesley Snipes, Nicholas Cage, Harrison Ford, Clint Eastwood and Jean-Claude Van Damme (who would play the twin brother of his character in this film!), the box office looks set to be bigger than ever.
In the meantime, Expendables 2 offers enough adrenaline-pumping action and laughable lines to keep you sufficiently entertained until their next outing.
And just to reiterate: Expendables 2 is a bad film. But that doesn't stop it being bad-ass.