REVIEW: Action flick goes back to the '80s

If you’re not familiar with the Expendables concept (and seeing 2010’s The Expendables is in no way necessary to understand what’s going on in The Expendables 2) it’s kind of like a reunion tour for a who’s who of 1980s action heroes.

 This is big, dumb, action movie stars reliving their glory years from the golden age of big, dumb, action movies.

They can’t quite move like they used to,  but they can still shoot and fight and blow things up.

The Expendables franchise is Sylvester Stallone’s baby and he plays  the lead role of Barney Ross, head honcho of a rag-tag crew of muscle-bound guns for hire.

The team from the first film -  Jason Statham, Jet Li, an arthritic Dolph Lundgren,  pro-footballer-turned-actor Terry Crews and UFC fighter Randy Couture - are joined by newcomers Liam Hemsworth, as ace sniper Billy the Kid, and Nan Yu as Maggie, a Chinese high-tech expert. 

Then there’s Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chuck Norris, as rival mercenaries, and Bruce Willis, as a CIA operative. The trio wander in and out of the movie, popping up every now and then to shoot a few bad guys and snap out a wisecrack or two.

Jean-Claude Van Damme plays the chief villain, who is named, ahem, ‘‘Vilain’’.

The Expendables are sent on what should be a simple job - retrieve a secret something-or-other from a plane wreck in the Albanian mountains. 

Things go wrong, however - baddies lie in wait, the device is lost, and one of the gang gets expended. 

The crew now has a new mission - revenge. The film mixes gory violence with self-parody and heavy-handed humour. 

As Ross puts it, ‘‘We keep it light, until it’s time to go dark. Then we go pitch black.’’ 

If you don’t mind gratuitous violence -   nobody gets shot without a great splatter of gore - then the fight scenes are good fun and rely more on old-school stunt choreography than they do on CGI special effects. The film creaks when the action stops and it’s time for some weighty dialogue, but such moments are few and far between.

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