Clocking in at a lean, mean 102 minutes, The Expendables 2 puts right everything that the first film got so very, very wrong.
From a pre-credit sequence that sees our band of rugged, aged mercenaries rescue a Chinese billionaire from some bad guys in Nepal to the main action that sees them kicking major butt (and expending a lot of ammunition) in Albania, this is an action films that knows what it's doing, and just goes for broke.
Stallone doesn't direct this time, simply starring and co-writing, which makes for a big improvement; Sly can focus solely on his acting, which leads to a much more relaxed performance. In fact, this time round, everybody seems to be more relaxed and having more fun. Well, those who decide to hang around – Jet Li jumps ship (or should that be plane?) when he parachutes the rescued Chinese businessman home after the pre-credit sequence. And Charisma Carpenter, who had just two scenes in the first film as Statham's girlfriend, has just the one here.
But forget about who's not in the film. What we do get here is more action, more fights, more blood, more guns, more exploding heads, more laughs and more of Arnie and Bruce, who trade witty repartee and catchphrases like they've been doing it for most of their careers.
Joining the gang is Van Damme, this time playing the villain of the piece. Cleverly named Jean Vilain and dressed like the Terminator, JCVD and his team of baddies are after a secret stash of plutionium hidden in a mine in the Gasak mountains of Albania. And with the help of the gorgeous Maggie Chan (Yu), Stallone and the boys have to stop them. And, after Vilain kills one of Sly's team, it becomes a bit more personal. As he says when asked what their plan is: "Track' em, find 'em, kill 'em."
Thus the scene is set for a massive showdown featuring a who's who of the great 80s action flicks. Chuck Norris shows up, Arnie steals every scene he's in, and we get to witness what happens when Rocky himself takes on The Muscles From Brussells. It's big, loud, very silly fun ... and very, very violent. Forget the naysayers and go along to see The Expendables 2 – it's sheer balls-to-the-wall entertainment.