E is for… The Expendables 2
The Expendables 2 is everything I’d expected from The Expendables except it truly delivered; it was over-the-top action, hilarious in-jokey one-liners, and cameo after cameo. It’s a lot of fun, easily rewatchable, and definitely one “for the history books” (or a museum).
The Expendables 2, directed by Simon West, stars Sylvester Stallone as Barney Ross, leader of a group of mercenaries who right wrongs by committing other (even similar) crimes. His team consists of Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Gunner (Dolph Lundgren), Toll Roll (Randy Couture), Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth), and Yin Yang (Jet Li). Along the way they acquire tech expert Maggie (Nan Yu), and find themselves working with Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Church (Bruce Willis), and Booker (Chuck Norris).
The film opens with the Expendables on a mission to rescue a rich Chinese businessman, which they do by caravanning into the Nepalese camp where he’s being held and kill everyone, pretty much. Also being held captive is Trench, another mercenary, who’d been trying to rescue the businessman as well. After the successful mission the group celebrates, and Billy informs Barney that he’ll finish out the month before retiring to be with his girlfriend. CIA agent Church ambushes Barney and tells him to either pay him the debt owed to him (five million dollars), or go to jail, or complete a mission for him to retrieve a stolen case from a crashed plane in Albania.
Barney chooses the mission.
Church sends tech expert Maggie with the Expendables, much to Barney’s chagrin as he doesn’t want to have to “babysit” the “woman.” She does, however, prove she’s competent and can take care of herself by retrieving the case from the plane. Unfortunately, Billy managed to get captured by villain Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme), and after Maggie sacrifices the case Vilain kills Billy anyway. The Expendables pursue Vilain and his men, both to get back the case and avenge Billy’s death.
They eventually learn that Vilain is in charge of an army called the Sangs, and that the Sangs have imprisoned the region’s men and forced them into slavery in a nearby mine housing plutonium left over from the Cold War. The case held blueprints with the exact location of the plutonium, and now that Vilain knows where it is, he can ramp up the digging and also enslave the region’s women and children.
In a fabricated city used as a Cold War training camp, the Expendables are pinned down by the Sangs, only to be rescued by Booker, an old comrade of Barney’s who hunts the Sangs full time. He’s invited to join the Expendables, but Booker explains he always works alone. He does, however, point them in the direction of one of the villages overtaken by the Sangs. The Expendables meet the women there, and the women explain what Vilain is doing in the mine and what he has done to their families.
The Expendables infiltrate the mine by crashing their plane into it, but that doesn’t really seem to do much other than get them and all the slaves trapped after Vilain blows up the mine. Gunner tries to make a bomb but it’s a dud, and everyone seems resigned to dying in the mine. However, a digging machine rumbles its way through the debris. It’s Trench! Trench and Church are working together to help the Expendables kill Vilain and take back the plutonium.
The climax of the film takes place at an airport, where the Sangs and the Expendables engage in an epic gunfight while Barney hunts down Vilain. The two leaders face off one on one while the Expendables slaughter the Sangs. Ultimately Barney prevails, and he, Trench, and Church discuss the mission, the future, and themselves. This final scene is memorable not just for the quippy one liners, but also for the multiple shots of three action greats together at once.
The film ends with a care package being sent to Billy’s girlfriend, and the Expendables traveling together on a new mission while toasting their late team member.
Just thinking of the three greats on screen together is making me smile.
On to the criteria!
A is for… Accents
It would almost be faster to note who doesn’t speak with an accent or noticeable speech pattern.
Statham is of course British.
Li is Chinese.
Schwarzenegger is Austrian.
Stallone is Stallone.
Van Damme is the “Muscles from Brussels.”
Yu is also Chinese.
I’m also going to throw in that Hemsworth is Australian, but plays an American so he hides his native accent.
B is for… Bad Guys
Vilain runs the Sangs, and is trying to find the five tons of weapons grade plutonium hidden in a mine by the Russians during the Cold War. He enslaves the region’s men and forces them to dig in the mine, and is ready to move onto the women and children by the time the Expendables catch up with him. He explains to his second in command, Hector (Scott Adkins), that the plutonium is worth four million dollars a kilo.
Booker describes the Sangs as a robbery, kidnapping, and assassinations cartel for hire.
C is for… Chases
The Nepalese gang chases after the Expendables in the opening, after they’ve rescued the Chinese businessman.
The Expendables can be seen as chasing Vilain, but they’re really more following him to try to find the mine.
D is for… Damsels
Maggie Chang is a technology and martial arts expert Church sends to Barney so she can crack the code on the safe holding the case. She also reveals herself to be a language expert, history expert, and torture expert. She is very much not a “damsel in distress.”
Christmas has his girl Lucy (Charisma Carpenter) that he plans to marry, even though Barney tells him she’s going to cheat on him.
Billy has his girlfriend Sophia.
The women in the village Booker leads them to are doing what they can to protect their families–they engage the Expendables in gunfire as soon as their truck stops, even though the women can’t hit anything. They have their sons locked away so they’re harder to find. They team up with these strange men (possibly because they have a woman with them) and fight the next round of Sangs that infiltrates their village.
E is for… Explosions
At the Nepalese camp the gas pumps are ignited.
There’s of course a rocket launcher.
An explosion is used to break into the room housing the businessman and Trench.
Barney’s plane has torpedoes, used twice to blow up bridges.
F is for… Flashbacks
There’s expository dialogue from Billy to explain his time in the army, but no actual flashbacks.
G is for… Guns
Check out the complete (and long) list at the IMFDB
The vehicles in the Expendables’ caravan are mounted with a ton of guns and other weapons.
The opening scene is a bloodbath as the Expendables mow down just about everybody.
Another shootout occurs in the simulated American town on the abandoned Russian base.
The women in the village have a lot of guns, but don’t know how to use them.
A massive shootout occurs at the airport during the climax; it basically rains bullets the entire duration of the scene.
H is for… Helicopters
The Nepalese villains have a military helicopter.
Vilain has a chopper, of course.
Church (or the CIA) has one at the airport.
During Statham’s fight with Hector, the viewer is just waiting for Hector’s head to connect with the blades on the rear rotor.
I is for… Improvisation
Yang throws his gun at the thugs in the camp. He then uses frying pans he finds as clubs.
Caesar shoots out the legs on a water tank to create a “wet wall.”
Christmas, dressed as a priest, uses his thurible as a club.
To infiltrate the mine, Barney crashes his plane through its doorway.
Gunner tries to make a bomb by scraping phosphorus from the rock in the mine. It doesn’t work.
Barney uses a chain as a weapon in his fight with Vilain.
J is for Jumping Through Solid Objects
Yang knocks a thug through a glass wall that seemed to be there solely for that purpose.
Trucks are driven through the glass windows at the airport.
Various villains are thrown through windows at the airport.
K is for… Kill Count
All of them. They kill all the bad guys. If the bad guys aren’t killed, they’re severely hurt. Booker even says he’s leaving the area because they “killed all [his] business.”
L is for… Limitations
The Expendables are hindered by their lack of knowledge about their adversary until Booker fills them in.
They also have to react as they go, rather than form solid plans.
M is for… Motivation
Church tells Barney to either get him the case from the safe or he’ll be put in Gitmo.
Once the case is stolen by Vilain and Billy is killed, Barney et al want to intercept Vilain from getting the plutonium, and also get revenge for Billy’s needless death. Eventually they want to save the villagers as well.
Vilain is in it for…wait for it…the money!! Four million a kilo for the plutonium!
N is for… Negotiation
Barney can either work for Church or go to Gitmo.
If Maggie gets hurt, Church will ensure the Expendables are never seen again.
Vilain will kill Billy if he doesn’t get the case. Unfortunately, he kills Billy anyway.
O is for… One Liners
Barney: What are you doing here?
Trench: Saving this Chinese billionaire.
Barney: So are we.
Trench: Then we have a scheduling problem, don’t we.
Caesar, to Trench: If I don’t get this back, your ass is terminated.
Gunner: Did you win?
Yang: Of course I win.
Caesar: I got your gang bang right here!
Barney: You missed!
Christmas, half incredulous: You’re aiming!
Barney: Kid’s amazing.
Christmas: Really? So am I. You’re just used to me.
Gunner: Then who am I supposed to pick on?
Yang: You will find another minority.
Barney: Take off, Rover.
Vilain: I’m impressed. Very good use of intelligence.
Christmas: What’s the plan?
Barney: Track him, find him, kill him.
Christmas: What’s she going to do, give them a pedicure?
Christmas: Can you hold them off?
Barney: Maybe with a tank. Oh shit.
Barney: They have a tank.
Barney: I’m still alive.
Christmas: That’s a matter of opinion.
Booker: I’ve mellowed.
Barney, looking at the bodies: Not that much.
Villager: Who you are?
Barney: We’re Americans.
Christmas, disgusted: Since when?
Barney: Please. Your ego is like the size of a dinosaur. Huge.
Christmas: I now pronounce you man and knife.
Barney: Rest in pieces.
Christmas: You got any ideas that won’t get us killed?
Christmas: You’re going to need a new plane.
Gunner, after his bomb is a dud: The phosphorus must have been wet.
Christmas: Yeah, right.
Caesar: Or you suck.
Gunner: There is that.
Maggie: Don’t cry, Gunner.
Barney: You almost had an idea.
Trench, breaking through the rock wall: I’m back!
Trench: I’m almost out. I’ll be back.
Church: You’ve been back enough. I’ll be back.
Trench, after seeing Booker: Who’s next? Rambo?
Trench: My shoe is bigger than this car.
Vilain: I’m out of bullets.
Barney: That’s your problem.
Barney: That thing belongs in a museum.
Trench: We all do.
P is for… Profession
The Expendables as a group are hired mercenaries who have special ops or military training.
Billy was a sniper in the Army.
Christmas is the knife expert.
Gunner has a Master’s in chemical engineering.
Caesar is the gun expert.
Toll Road is the demolition expert.
Q is for… Quagmire
Everyone gets trapped in the mine, with no food or water, and no way to get out.
R is for… Reality, or the Suspension of Disbelief
They actually acknowledge running out of bullets, and not necessarily just for moving the plot.
The rest of it is a bit extreme, but not in a ludicrous way.
S is for… Sidekicks
Everyone on the team is each other’s sidekicks.
Ultimately Booker, Trench, and Church become sidekicks.
T is for… Technology
Despite Barney flying a 60-year-old plane, the film features an extremely high-tech safe that has a combination that changes every 120 seconds. If the correct code isn’t put in, it explodes.
Vilain uses a remote detonator on his bombs in the mine.
U is for… Unexpected Romance
Gunner clearly fancies Maggie, but she wants nothing to do with any of the guys. The only exception is some weird tension between her and Barney.
V is for… Vehicles as Weapons
There are a lot of vehicles in this movie. There are tanks, electric bicycles, trucks, jet skis, pontoon boats, airplanes, motorcycles, trams, and helicopters. Most of those are within the first ten minutes.
The Expendables’ vehicles are loaded with guns, battering rams, anything to make them beyond just a means of transportation. One even has a cow catcher to push obstacles out of the way.
When unsure of how to defeat a Nepalese helicopter, Barney throws a motorcycle into it.
W is for… Winning
With Trench’s help, the Expendables successfully free the miners. They then chase after Vilain to the airport, where with Church’s, Booker’s, and Trench’s help, they slay every single last Sang. Barney follows Vilain and engages him in a one on one fight that Vilain insists be done without weapons. Finally using chains, Barney strangles Vilain and stabs him with the knife Vilain had taken from him.
X is for… X-Rays, or Maybe You Should See A Doctor
Barney is roughed up a little bit, to the point where Christmas tells him he should learn how to fight, but everyone else gets off entirely unscathed.
Y is for… Yesterday’s Problem Becomes Today’s Problem
Barney stole five million dollars from Church, which is why he’s on this mission at all. If Vilain hadn’t killed Billy, the Expendables might have spared his life, even considering his other atrocities.
Z is for… Zone, in the
Any time the Expendables are spraying bullets at a group of men, they are in their respective zones.
In Summation and Other Thoughts
The Expendables 2 certainly picks up where the first film left off in terms of cameos, one liners, and action, and overall it’s just plain fun. I’d’ve liked the final fight between Barney and Vilain to be longer, but I’ll take what I can get.
The shot of the caravan of vehicles coming over the ridge and down into the Nepalese camp was weirdly reminiscent of Mad Max: Fury Road, with weaponized vehicles traversing the sand.
The film is really bloody, like surprisingly so, but I read that the blood was added in post, which is disappointing. The “R” rating exists for a reason, so why not use it? I know, I know, they want the revenue from teenagers, but still. The nostalgia trip involved in this film is over the heads of most teens, and is more so for the target audience.
I kept thinking I should know the guy who plays Vilain’s second in command Hector, but I have no idea who he is. It would have been funnier to me personally to cast Robert Davi or Andrew Divoff.
The Chuck Norris cameo, complete with the theme from The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, is pure gold, omg. Completely epic.
When Trench rips the door off of the smart car, I can’t help but think of John Matrix ripping out the car seat in Commando. Tell me that part doesn’t crack you up in that film.
It’s disappointing that Bruce Willis demanded so much money to appear in The Expendables 3. The series is partially a celebration of his work, and seeing him here is just a reminder that he needlessly priced himself out of the sequel, and for what? What did he gain other than a smear on his reputation?
I wish The Expendabelles would get out of development hell, but it doesn’t seem as if that film is being produced any time soon.
I guess we’ll also see if there’s a fourth Expendables movie made. Seems to be in limbo as well.