Somewhere in Nepal, the authorities are preparing to torture a hostage they have captured in this remote town. What they are not counting on is the rumble of engines from over the crest of the nearby hills, followed swiftly by the appearance of a convoy of trucks bristling with weaponry as The Expendables move into action, blasting away at any soldiers who happen to get in their way with bullets and bombs. On finding the hostage, their leader Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) blows away the would-be torturers and whips off the hood on the victim to reveal one of the men who would ordinarily be giving him assignments...
"How embarrassing!" quoth he, he being Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of the many well-kent and well-weathered faces making an appearance in this, the follow-up to the Stallone-led action nostalgia fest The Expendables from a couple of years before. But was it embarrassing to watch a bunch of old guys relive their glory days for the entertainment of their fans? Well, yes and no, for just as in the first instalment there were a host of moments to make you think they were trying that bit too hard, as if attempting to hide the fact they were out of breath never mind over the hill, yet somehow with all the forced one-liners and "We're all in this together" camaraderie this went through the lame barrier and emerged on the other side.
It didn't emerge entirely unscathed, and it was notable the youngest Expendable (Liam Hemsworth) was the one who suffered the most punishment as if to say, hey kid, you just haven't earned the respect the rest of us have. If that sounded arrogant, remember we were not exactly dealing with shrinking violets here, and few in the audience had shown up to watch the oldies be upstaged. Where first time around the plot had been needlessly complicated, in this case it was assembled to wheel on those stars to essentially perform their party pieces in easily digestible chunks of violence and wry gags, or as close to wry as these guys could get. You wanted Chuck Norris? You got him, for about ten minutes all told.
But he did get to tell a Chuck Norris meme joke, although not the one about him having another fist under his beard, which would have been funnier than the one he does end up telling. Anyway, as for that plot, once we had a mini-mission out of the way in the opening quarter of an hour - seeing off Jet Li in the process, he doesn't get killed, he was simply busy on another movie - Bruce Willis appears and tells Sly he owes him a favour. No, not an extended cameo like Chuck, though he gets one nonetheless, but an excursion to Albania to prevent a map of the location to a plutonium mine from falling into the wrong hands, those wrong hands belonging to Jean-Claude Van Damme as a villain. Oh, sorry, as Vilain, one of the laziest names in action movie history.
Unless Stallone was being post-modern or ironic or whatever. Anyway, the fans knew what this meant, that's right, sooner or later both action legends were going head to head before the end credits rolled. Though those credits turned out to be about ten minutes long as if this was a Fred Olen Ray movie or something, look at the running time and be aware the story was pretty much over by the one hour twenty-five minute mark and ponder if you were getting value for money: they cut out a Novak Djokovic cameo, too. Once a revenge motive is established for the narrative, it reverted to that old faithful, the Seven Samurai save the villagers drama as those poor Eastern Europeans have been forced to work in the mine, meaning our men (and token woman, Yu Nan) must save them. Worth noting was the sense of humour here was no improvement, but was so ridiculous in its references that you had to laugh if you were any kind of fan: watch Dolph Lundgren for a truly weird performance. Again, nothing great, but you had to credit them with staying power. Music by Brian Tyler.