The Expendables 2 is the kind of action film that doesn’t exist anywhere else these days. In this post-Iraq, post-Afghanistan era, it can often be seen as tasteless to show your heroes gleefully blowing away nameless soldiers and tossing out snappy one-liners after every kill. In Taken, Skyfall and the highly successful Bourne films, the protagonists are usually portrayed as reluctant merchants of death. But it’s perhaps unfair to judge Expendables 2 by these standards. When you break it down, this isn’t really an action flick: it’s a pantomime.
Much like when David Hasselhoff turns up in the Guildford Christmas production of Peter Pan to make jokes about talking cars and red Speedos, the all-star cast of Expendables 2 spend the majority of their screen time dropping in references to their most popular roles. Arnold Schwarzenegger –who is only in the film for a sum total of seven minutes—makes multiple promises of ‘being back’ and is on the receiving end of a threat from Terry Crews, who promises to ‘terminate’ him. Geriatric martial arts star Chuck Norris also seems to turn up for no discernible reason other than to revive a meme from the mid-2000s. Now before you accuse us of ragging on these movie legends, let us tell you this: we actually found it pretty enjoyable.
The plot, for what it matters, goes like this: After a mission rescuing a Chinese billionaire from some anonymous facility in Nepal, mercenaries Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture and Terry Crews get sent by Bruce Willis to go recover some mysterious object from a plane wreck. The fly in the ointment comes in the form of bad guy Jean-Claude Van Damme, who steals both this MacGuffin and the entire film from under all their noses. JCVD presence is very welcome indeed: he seems to be the only person in this film who isn’t constantly winking at the camera. As the straight-forward 80s-style movie baddie Jean Vilain (seriously, his name is essentially Johnny Villain), Van Damme’s performance quickly becomes the most memorable part of the film.
Okay: game time!
Expendables 2 Drinking Game
Drink (a shot of water*) every time:
- …one of the Expendables makes a joke which nobody laughs at, except for the other characters on-screen (When Jet Li parachutes out of a plane, Statham quips: “that’s real Chinese take-out”. Terry Crews chuckles politely)
- …someone expends all their ammunition and yells “I’m out!” If gun-battles were human dramas, then running out of ammo would be like the moment when a character reaches his lowest ebb. And the Expendables are constantly running out of ammo. Drama!
- …Someone makes reference to Dolph Lundgren’s actual back story. The giant Swede has a Masters in Chemical Engineering and was offered a Fulbright Scholarship to MIT. The rest of the Expendables have a good laugh at this. After all, who needs an education when you have high-calibre machine guns?
- …you feel sick watching the uneasy sexual chemistry between any number of the Expendables and their token female colleague (Yu Nan).
If you play by all the rules, you will be fully hydrated by the time the final credits roll*. And I think we’ve hit on the ideal way to enjoy this film: at home with your mates,
getting drunk drinking water. The action is all very serviceable indeed, so action fans will never be bored. If you can appreciate its efforts at irreverent humour, you will likely enjoy Expendables 2. If you’re an idiot and accept the super-macho b.s. at face value, you will also enjoy Expendables 2. It’s like going to a really sweaty Panto where you’re allowed to drink beer water* and swear at the stars. I can really think of no better way to spend a cold December evening.
*According to the BBC Health website, the average adult human requires two and a half litres of water a day to maintain a healthy level of hydration. If you don’t consume enough you can become dehydrated, causing symptoms such as headaches, tiredness and loss of concentration — all of which are not conducive to watching Expendables 2.