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“The Expendables” do it better the second time around

“The Expendables 2” is a big, loud, thrilling, overblown ride that, once it really gets going, never lets up.
Despite my love of Sylvester Stallone, 80s action flicks and explosions, I was pretty underwhelmed by the first “Expendables.” The movie that promised to have all my favorite action stars fighting side by side was actually pretty dull and uninspired, and most of the stars were relegated to cameos. 
“The Expendables 2” is everything the first movie wanted to be and more. 
After a ridiculously over the top action sequence to get us reacquainted with all the characters, Barney Ross (Stallone) and his gang of muscled miscreants are called upon by Bruce Willis (honestly does his character’s name even matter?) to recover a map that leads to a huge stockpile of plutonium before the bad guys get to it. They do, and everybody goes home to live happily ever after. 
Just kidding. The evil, and boy do I meanevil, Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) shows up and steals takes the map. So it’s up to our heroes to stop him before he gets the plutonium and, I dunno, blows up the world or something.
The problem with the first “Expendables” was that the plot was almost too simple. So simple, in fact, that I don’t even remember what it was. I didn’t care about any of the characters, therefore didn’t care what they were doing. It tried to do too much, which actually accomplished very little.
Stallone hands over the directing duties for this one to Simon West, who does a much better job of reigning in all the characters and allowing each actor to have their moment. Sure, they still butcher the English language, but they’re all much more interesting this time around.
At 66 years old, Stallone is really too old to be doing movies like this, but thanks to steroids and growth hormones he still is. This might be okay if they went the Clint Eastwood route and acknowledged the fact that he’s old, but Sly is still running around like he’s Rambo. 
Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s roles are increased greatly and it really helps the film. I’d forgotten how much I missed hearing Arnold’s groan-inducing one-liners on the big screen. 
Jean-Claude Van Damme is a lot of fun as the villain. He speaks French and wears his sunglasses inside, so you know he’s the bad guy. He looks like he’s having a great time though and breaks out a few kicks just for … kicks.
I’m not ruining anything by telling you that Chuck Norris is in the movie. His cameo could have been considered one of the all-time great surprises (a la Bill Murray in Zombieland) but they put him in the trailer and on the poster. Why couldn’t they just keep it a secret?
In the end, this movie is completely ridiculous but also great fun. The hour and forty minute runtime flew by, and the packed theater seemed to be having a great time as well. 
That’s really all I ask from my action movies. I give it four chrome skulls out of five.