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Film / The Expendables 2

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No school like the old school

The Expendables 2 is a 2012 American action film and the sequel to The Expendables.

Opening with a mission to rescue a Chinese diplomat and introducing the new member to the team Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth), Church confronts Barney and demands a new mission to redeem him from the issue with how he handled the job in the previous movie. They are paired with Maggie Chan (Yu Nan) to recover sensitive information regarding a secret plutonium stockpile in Eastern Europe. Their mission is upset by Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme), a terrorist for hire leading his own team including his second in command Hector (Scott Adkins). Vilain humiliates the team and leaves one of them dead, with the rest vowing revenge. They chase after Vilain to stop his plans and are joined by lone wolf ally Booker (Chuck Norris) to finish the job.

Followed by The Expendables 3.

The Expendables 2 provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion:
    • Booker's nickname is Lone Wolf, a play on his film Lone Wolf McQuade. His name itself is a reference to Good Guys Wear Black. He also mentions he was once bitten by a king cobra, and after 5 painful days, the cobra died, a reference to one of the many Chuck Norris Facts (and Norris' own favorite of the lot).
    • Jet Li gets to do his specialty One-Man Army routine armed initially with his fists, then with two frying pans, and Jean-Claude Van Damme gets to do his specialty jumping roundhouse kicks twice against Stallone.
    • Trench saying "This is embarrassing" can be in regards to Arnold Schwarzenegger ending his term as governor and resuming his career in acting to be in this movie, which could be seen as an embarrassing career move.
    • Trench announces "I'm back!". Cue briefly the Terminator's leitmotif. Additionally, he makes his Big Damn Heroes entrance in a tunnel borer similar to the ones in Total Recall (1990).
    • When Caesar is ordered to lend Trench his weapon, he tells Trench his ass is terminated should he fail to bring back the gun. During the credits, Trench is shown with the left half of his face in shadow, with a bright flash where his left eye is.
      • The Brazilian dub takes the allusion up a notch, Trench's answer is switched from "Not even in your dreams" to "Not even in the future."
    • Church and Trench have this Borrowed Catchphrase exchange:
      Trench: I'm almost out. I'll be back!
      Church: You've been back enough! I'll be back! (moves off under fire)
      Trench: Yippee-ki-yay.
      Booker drops in, guns blazing.
    • Gunnar shows that he is a chemistry engineer. Dolph Lundgren actually is one.
  • Ascended Meme: Chuck Norris' character in general. He shows up and destroys an army by himself. Lampshaded with one of the Chuck Norris Facts (the one about the King Cobra) used as a legend about the character.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: The three armored vehicles used by the team in the beginning of the movie. Part truck, part battering ram, rounded off with ironic phrases spray painted on their business ends. ("COMING SOON", "KNOCK KNOCK", "BAD ATTITUDE".) And speaking of '80s references, it's probably not a coincidence that "Bad Attitude" (B.A.) looks like something The A-Team would have built, and is driven by the black member of the team...
  • Artistic License – Nuclear Physics: Due to its instability, plutonium can be very heavy. Yet, the sangs somehow manage to carry several bags of plutonium like it's nothing. One cylinder could easily weigh 300 pounds.
  • Badass Preacher: Invoked when Christmas shows off his martial arts skills while disguised as a priest.
    Lee: By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you... Man and knife.
    (Proceeds to unload knife frenzy on some rooks...)
  • Bad Guy Bar: Barney and Lee visit one to get information.
  • Bad to the Bone: Chuck Norris' first two appearances in the film draw a Leitmotif from another, older, badass - namely, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
  • Bare-Fisted Monk: Yang/Jet Li. The film puts an emphasis on this by giving him an entire sequence where he takes out an entire squad this way. He also used a pair of frying pans.
  • Bond One-Liner: After Christmas punches The Dragon into a helicopter propeller, he sees his brass knuckles and quips "Can't beat a classic".
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Vilain captures the entire Expendables team early in the movie. He only kills the youngest and most inexperienced member of the team before they leave. Justified in that Vilain's beliefs that "Fighting men do not deserve to be killed like sheep."
  • Call-Back:
    • A good portion of the movie features dialogue specifically referencing moments in the first film, including: a direct reference to Vilena, Yang and Gunnar "I would have winned" exchange, Gunnar referring to people as "insect", and Caesar's famous AA-12 shows up in the first scene.
      Gunnar: Did you win?
      Yang: Of course I win.
    • Ross, like Tool before him, is given a chance to save women. Unlike Tool, he takes the opportunity.
  • Celebrity Paradox: "Who is next? Rambo?"
  • Cigar Chomper: Both Ross and Trench are frequently seen with a cigar.
  • Combat Breakdown: Played straight and then inverted in the final fight between Barney and Vilain. They start out trading bullets, but then decide to put their guns away after Vilain runs out of bullets, and Vilain even throws away the knife he took from Barney so they can fight bare-handed. But as the fight progresses, Vilain gets desperate enough that he actually snatches the knife back up to defend himself, and Barney counters by grabbing a heavy chain and using it as a weapon.
  • Decapitation Presentation: At the end of the film, Barney proves to Trench and Church that he beat Vilain by holding up a bloody bag.
  • Demoted to Extra / Put on a Bus: Scheduling issues with Jet Li filming another movie resulted in his character Yin Yang not appearing beyond the opening scene.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: "You gave me a shit job, I'm gonna shoot you in the face when I see you!"
  • Dynamic Entry:
    • Trench plus a small tunnel-boring machine during the sequel.
    • And, of course, the intro, featuring KNOCK-KNOCK, a giant battering ram on a jeep.
  • Feeling Their Age: Brought up with the addition of a mid-20's team member Billy who has more enthusiasm and energy than the rest of the team combined. His older teammates are certainly not in bad shape themselves, but there is a distinct difference in their lumbering pace compared to Billy jogging up a hill.
  • Finger Gun: Exaggerated in one scene, when Barney treats his Finger Gun as if it were actually his revolver, complete with cocking the 'hammer'; subverted when all the baddies he 'fires' it at fall over dead as though he actually shot them; then double subverted when it turns out all the bullets were actually fired by Friendly Sniper Billy the Kid.
  • From Bad to Worse: The heroes get pinned down during a firefight, and Barney mentions that the only way they could win is if they have a tank. The bad guys then roll out a tank.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: While the movie offers up a lot of blood spatter, we cut away during the bit where Maggie performs some painful Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique on a Sang mook.
  • He Had a Name: this is used during the confrontation between Barney and Vilain.
  • He's Back!: Arnold Schwarzenegger, both in-story and metafictionally - this was one of his first roles, after his tenure as Governor of California ended.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Gunnar clearly has a huge crush on Maggie, but he is just too awkward and drunk around her to make any sort of sense.
  • Hollywood Density:
    • The plutonium in the second film is handled easily; one man was shown to casually carry three rather large "bars" in his hands in one scene. In reality these bars are sealed storage containers, and are usually made from thick lead-lined steel, weighing no less than 20 kilo each.
    • What actually makes them lighter than plutonium bars, because plutonium is one and half density of lead.
    • Even worse, it looks like there's just about 200 cylinders with the plutonium. So each cylinder should contain around 25kg of plutonium and the critical mass of plutonium is around 10kg for a perfect sphere. So these cylinders would be very close to it. And then the villains stack them in a regular hexagonal grid. Can you say "criticality accident"?
  • Improvised Weapon:
    • When he runs out of bullets, Yang does work with some frying pans.
    • Christmas makes use of a thurible(!) while disguised as a Catholic priest. Not to mention Ross and Caesar's use of an artillery shell as a hand thrown weapon...
  • Ironic Echo:
    • "You look nervous."
    • "Question is, will you die like a man, or a sheep?"
    • "Now, what?" First spoken by Ross right before Billy is killed... later is spoken by Vilain right before he killed by Ross.
  • It's Personal: Billy's death makes the mission to retrieve the plutonium this for the team.
    Lee: What's the plan?
    Ross: Track 'em. Find 'em. Kill 'em.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Church is not a nice guy and he and Barney do not like each other. Still, when Billy is killed he offers sympathy to Barney and decides to give him more support. He also specifically told Ross to make sure no harm comes to Maggie. It appears that he's usually only concerned about fellow CIA agents.
  • Lancer vs. Dragon: When the Expendables take on the Sangs in the airport shootout at the end, inevitably the team's Lancer, Lee, is assigned to take on the Sangs' Dragon, Hector, leading to their one-on-one showdown.
  • Lighter and Softer: Though only language-wise, a condition made by Chuck Norris before he'd join in. The final movie does have virtually no cursing, a contrast to the occasional Cluster F Bombs from the first.
  • MacGuffin: The plutonium.
  • Mexican Standoff: The Expendables get into this situation early on with Vilain and his men.
  • Mood Whiplash: Lampshaded and used in-universe. Maggie notes how the team bounces between light-hearted humor and dark nihilism concerning themselves. Barney notes that at this point they just try to keep things light for as long as they can, but they get pitch black dark when it's time to get serious.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The monstrous bad guy played by Jean-Claude Van Damme in the sequel is named Vilain. So basically "Villain" if it were pronounced with a French accent.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Ross and Vilain's fight at the end of the second film is suitably brutal.
  • No Kill like Overkill: That last Mook in village fight who was unfortunate enough to run into the entire team.
  • Obviously Evil: Van Damme's character’s last name is "Vilain", which is basically the word "villain" with a Francophone accent. He is in fact a villain with a Francophone accent. Even Ross seems shocked at the idea. As if it weren't enough, Vilain used a satanic pentagram with goat horns as his gang's symbol!
  • Off with His Head!: Billy's headshots disintegrates heads in the beginning of the movie, then Christmas does this to Hector via helicoptdr blades, and ultimately Ross does it to Vilain.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: After Vilain taunts him that he didn't care for the guy who pushed The Expendables towards him, Barney stabs him in the chest while saying "His name was Billy".
  • Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: Vilain manages to get the drop on Barney and his crew in the sequel, and after a lengthy standoff, Barney agrees to drop their weapons and hand over the device. Vilain then expresses his respect for Barney and leads his men away. Then he kills Billy as an afterthought to remind Barney that "respect must be earned."
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The Expendables after Vilain kills Billy.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Jet Li was involved with filming another movie in China and had scheduling conflicts for this movie. As a result, his character Yin Yang only appeared in the introduction of the movie. Due to Jet Li's limited availability, parts of the film's shooting sets had to be shipped to Hong Kong so they could film Li's footage.
  • Red Right Hand: Vilain and his Dragon both have big neck pentacle tattoos with a goat (which, as Vilain helpfully reminds us, is Satan's pet).
  • Red Shirt: The interviews and promotional material of the film made it clear that the plot would revolve around the team avenging the death of, "one of their own." Looking at the cast, it was the guys from the first film and Thor's little brother. No points for guessing who gets the axe.
  • Remember When You Blew Up a Sun?: Mr. Church recaps the team's exploits in the original movie while talking to Barney.
  • Retirony: Billy talks about how he's going to retire at the end of the month, he doesn't even make it to the end of the next day.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Billy the Kid is brutally tortured and killed right in front of his crew by Vilain.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Yin Yang drops out early in the film to deliver a Chinese national, though, in his words, there's a fifty-fifty chance he might make the separation from the team permanent.
  • Self-Deprecation: At the very end of the movie, when Church gives Barney an An-2 biplane:
    Barney: That thing belongs in a museum!
    Trench: We all do.
  • Sequel Escalation: Even more old action stars, explosions, gunshots... plus, instead of a Damsel in Distress, the Token Female is now an Action Girl!
  • Shout-Out:
    • When Caesar reluctantly hands his gun over to Trench (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) near the start of the film.
      Caesar: If you lose this gun, your ass is terminated.
    • The final fight scene between Barney and Vilain is a homage to the final duel between Cobretti and the Night Slasher in Cobra, right down to the Chain Pain combat sequence.
  • Sinister Shades: In part 2, Vilain spends pretty much the entire movie wearing sunglasses, even when underground in a mine. He only takes them off when he's preparing to face Ross in a hand to hand combat fight to the death.
  • Stupid Surrender: The Expendables find themselves in a Mexican Standoff with Vilain and his goons early in the movie. Rather than try to negotiate their way out or simply start shooting and hope for the best, they surrender because Vilain has captured one of their teammates and they are concerned he will be killed. This ignores the obvious fact that once they put their weapons down, there is nothing stopping Vilain from killing the captive anyway, which is exactly what happens. Fortunately for the team, Vilain displays Bond Villain Stupidity by letting the rest of them walk away.
  • Tranquil Fury: Ross while taking out Vilain.
  • Truth in Television: As outlandish as the movie is, any soldier (camper, hunter, etc.) will tell you the difficulties choosing between combat rations and freshly cooked food. As seen in the training town scene, rations are lightweight but not so appetizing. Fresh food is a great morale booster but you can guarantee getting interrupted while you make it.
  • Water Tower Down: In the Action Prologue, the Expendable team noticed a wave of enemy reinforcements coming at them while being pinned down by enemy soldiers. Hale Caesar takes care of that by blasting down a water tower, unleashing a tidal wave that wipes out a dozen or so of the mooks.
  • Worthy Opponent: Jean Vilain considers Barney one of these. Unlike many examples of this trope, however, that doesn't mean he is nice to Barney, and he kills Billy just to remind Barney that "respect must be earned."