If 2010's "The Expendables" wasn't a case of passing the torch from one generation of action stars to another, well, "Expendables 2" makes a greater case of filling the bill.
Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone, who also co-wrote the screenplay) has reassembled his team to take on a mission in Nepal at the start of the film, and end up rescuing Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who admits that "this is embarrassing", in that he needed saving. There are plenty of in-jokes among Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and other vets during the course of the movie. The biggest mystery might be in the relative absence of Jet Li, who is MIA after the opening mission, during which he does a pretty good imitation of Jackie Chan, using pots & pans as weapons to dispatch the bad guys. He's not heard from the rest of the way without explanation.
Meanwhile, in the course of the two years between films, the team has added a relative youngster, Billy (Liam Hemsworth, "The Last Song"), an ex-Army sniper. A mission goes awry, and Billy is whacked by a smug little weasel, played by Jean Claude Van Damme. Oh, it gets better. Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) has sent Barney and his merry band on this mission to protect a supply of plutonium from falling into the wrong hands. No need to waste time trying to guess where the bad guys have gone. Rather than retreat and plot strategy, Ross decides to "track them, find them, and kill them" ASAP. Nice. Li's absence is covered by newcomer Yu Wan as a female agent assigned to the team by Church. I guess that's so Jason Statham doesn't get all the kung fu scenes for himself. Whatever.
And, then, there's Chuck Norris (ex-Walker, Texas Ranger), who we find is pretty proficient with a gun and does his share of splattering the goons instead of kicking them all over the joint. Heck, there's more splatter in this film than in the first one, and that's in just the first half hour! As if that wasn't enough, after being called out by Ross about not having the guts to do the dirty work himself, Church takes to the field, along with Trench, for an all-star finale. The sight of Willis, Schwarzenegger, & Norris, lined up in a row, guns blazing, is a treat for 80's fanboys.
Van Damme is so natural as a villain, you wonder why he didn't do this often enough in his prime. Yes, the door apparently is open for a 3rd film, which probably will come in 2014 or so.
Meanwhile, Stallone will be seen next in "Bullet to the Head", out in December. Schwarzenegger's next film is "The Last Stand", out next year, in which he plays a rural sheriff (!), with the predictable one-liners. Terry Crews reportedly has been in talks with WWE about some project, but is back doing Old Spice ads as well. As for other trailers, fresh looks at "End of Watch" & "Dredd" (both out later this month) & "Frankenweenie" are mixed with the following:
"Resident Evil: Retribution" (also later this month). I haven't bothered with any of the earlier films in this series.
"Jack Reacher" (December): Tom Cruise as a lone wolf vigilante. Well, after 4 "Mission: Impossible" movies in 16 years, I guess he thinks he's got this action hero thing down......!
"The Possession", the #1 movie in the country last week.
"The Man With The Iron Fists": Produced by Quentin Tarantino, co-written by Eli Roth ("Hostel") & Wu Tang Clan's RZA, directed by RZA, with the Clan and Kanye West on the soundtrack. Former WWE star Dave Bautista (Batista) makes his major feature film debut (his formal debut was in the direct to video "Scorpion King 3"). I guess this is to keep the Tarantino fans happy 'til "Django Unchained" comes out later this winter.
Speaking of soundtracks, the retro sound in "Expendables 2", featuring Rare Earth ("I Just Want to Celebrate" plays over the closing credits) and the Rascals, among others, kicks tail. Has to be a must-buy CD.
Now, here's a trailer for "The Expendables 2":
It seems the original plot was meant to address what had happened to Mickey Rourke's character, Tool, from the first film, then changed. Hmmmmmmm. Maybe that's being saved for the 3rd film......!