For all its testosterone-fuelled carnage, I must admit I found the original Expendables a bit of a disappointment.

It took itself far too seriously, featured a copious amount of creaky dialogue and just felt an all-round missed opportunity.

Which is why I dialled down my expectations ahead of this sequel, but the good news is Expendables 2 far outstrips its predecessor – in my opinion anyways.

Yes, there is still plenty of clunky dialogue that will make your skin crawl in embarrassment, and scenes that will have you howling with laughter unintentionally (a Stallone graveside scene a real highlight) but this is bigger, better and, best of all, a lot funnier.

The plot is basic action flick fodder, with talk of plutonium, bombs and terrorists.

After a slam-bang opening that sees the Expendables saving a diplomat (as well as Schwarzenegger’s Trench), we get a hastily-put together collection of scenes that show the gang from the first flick are still well and good.

This time round they are joined by a young newcomer, played by Liam Hemsworth, providing the opportunity for Stallone’s Barney Ross to throw in a few scenes that he obviously thought carried emotional weight – but they don’t.

Things pick up after the Expendables are sent to retrieve a safe from a plane that has crashed in Eastern Europe, but they are beaten to the punch by the villainous Vilain (played with relish by Jean-Claude Van Damme).

Tragedy then strikes, leaving Ross’ motley crew to embark on a quest both for revenge and to retrieve the deadly payload.

And that is about it – but do you really need to know any more?

The action is just as overblown and over-the-top as the first film, with copious amounts of CGI blood flowing across the screen.

But what lifts this film above the first is the extended roles for Arnie and Bruce Willis, as well as the inclusion of Van Damme and Chuck Norris.

Whereas Arnold and Bruce merely appeared in a cameo scene first time round, here they have major parts to play, especially in the balls-to-the-wall climax.

Even better, none of them take things too seriously, leading to a succession of one-liners and put-downs that will have action movie junkies howling with delight.

To be fair to Stallone, he allows the other cast members their fair share of screen time so the film is peppered with welcome bits of characterisation – Terry Crews’ cooking habits or Dolph Lundgren’s increasingly desperate search for a date.

But this is all about the action, and director Simon West really delivers.

Fun, brash and very loud, Expendables 2 is manna from heaven for 80s action aficionados, and a thoroughly entertaining experience.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.