Did you know Chuck Norris’ tears cure cancer? Too bad he’s never cried.
Did you know Chuck Norris’ tears cure cancer? Too bad he’s never cried.

When The Expendables was released a couple of years ago, I proclaimed my unabashed addiction for all things Sylvester Stallone, even when they are bad (as was that movie). I shouted to the movie gods that I wanted a sequel and I wanted that sequel to be better than the sloppy first offering.

Not only do we get the sequel … IT HAS CHUCK NORRIS!!!

The Expendables 2 learns a lot from the mistakes of the first installment, while capitalizing on the ideas that should’ve made the first installment good fun. It gathers up a bunch of old goons, gives them big guns, and tells them to shoot things. And, this time out, they do it better and with much aplomb.

It’s obvious before the opening title credit, in a sequence where many a man is shredded via gunfire from aging American action superstars, that The Expendables 2 is going to get things right and deliver the crazy-gory goods.

Much of the credit must go to newly anointed Simon West, who replaces Stallone in the director’s chair. West made the ridiculously enjoyable Con Air, which combined stellar action with funny, dumb dialogue to much success. Unlike Stallone’s effort with the first movie, Expendables 2 gets real laughs from its boneheaded dialogue rather than groans.

The action involves some nonsense where Church (Willis) angrily orders Ross (Stallone) and his men to retrieve something from a plane wreck. That something turns out to be a computer containing information about bomb materials that could knock the world on its ass. On top of these secrets falling into the wrong hands, one of the Expendables is viciously murdered right before their eyes, which kick-starts a nice revenge subplot.

The action, in the hands of West, plays much better. Stallone’s effort featured slapdash editing that made the action hard to follow, while this installment’s set pieces get you pumped. And the fake-looking cartoon gore from the first has graduated to better-looking cartoon gore in the second.

The script calls for a reduction in emphasis on the Jason Statham character—hooray!—while giving bigger parts to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. They are still bit players, but they do more here than the funny cameo in part one. There’s also the aforementioned Norris, known as a “lone wolf,” a nice nod to his unintentionally hilarious 1984 effort, Lone Wolf McQuade.

Other new additions include Liam Hemsworth as a sniper, a young handsome gun clearly added for the ladies (the woman I attended a screening with was very happy with the sight of this gentleman). Nan Yu tags along as the first woman to join the Expendables on a mission, and she kicks ass with the best of them. Most notably, Jean-Claude Van Damme, who passed on the first movie, turns up as a sunglasses-wearing bad guy.

Van Damme, as the quite obviously named Vilain, is the one stealing lots of uranium and killing Expendable guys. Of course, he and Stallone have an epic smackdown near film’s end that calls for Van Damme to do some rather impressive high kicking. The man still gets lots of air.

If box office returns warrant a third chapter, rumor has it that Nicolas Cage is already signed up for it, with Harrison Ford and Clint Eastwood being offered gigs. Even if Expendables 2 comes up a little short at the theaters, I have a feeling a second sequel will get a green light if Ford or Eastwood sign on. Getting either of those guys would mean coming up with big bank, because they don’t come cheap. As for Cage, they probably lured him in with a toy duck and a box of crackers.

Whether or not they continue the franchise, at least it can be said that one of these Expendables things worked. Things blow up real good this time out—real good.

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