As with its predecessor, I spent the entire of Expendables II laughing my ass off. I find it hard to not enjoy so much onscreen bombast and audacity, and Expendables II somehow outdoes its predecessor in both. But perhaps one of the most striking things about this film is how it manages to improve so much on the first; something that shouldn't be possible when it comes to a mindless, dumb, perpetual brawl. Let's be clear. Many people had a lot to dislike about the first film, including those who enjoy their Reaganesque explodathons. They felt Jet Li got a raw deal, and that the characters were too interchangeable. Deaths weren't memorable enough, and that the action could be bigger. Surprisingly, the writers seem to have heard the criticism, because The Expendables II goes out of its way to resolve all those issues. Jet Li gets his action scene, and in fact so does everyone. The finale is impressive enough, in terms of how they managed to get so many big names on screen (more than you've ever seen before). As for the action, that's been improved too in terms of scale, tension, and variety. You see fist fights, knife fights, gun fights, kung fu, planes, boats, cars, tanks, and none stop explosions. It has everything. That said, there were a couple of things I raised an eyebrow at. The otherwise excellent opening battle is set in Nepal of all places (No, Nepal does not have warlords). Then there are all the awkward catchphrases and cheesy pop culture references which crop up throughout. Finally there is a new character called Billy, a fresh faced youngster who sticks out like a saw thumb amongst all the beefy codgers. He's there as an obligatory nod to Afghanistan. I won't tell you what happens to him, but I'll give you a clue: one of the first things he mentions is how he is only a few weeks away from retirement. Cute. The people who liked the first Expendables don't need my recommendation. They're probably already watching it right now. As for the people who found themselves disappointed by the first film, I suggest you still give this one a chance. This one is bigger, better, and everything a good sequel should be. If nothing else, watch it to see Willis, Schwarzenegger, and Stallone finally go back to back in battle.
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